Kia's new, first-class lounge seats might just be the way to make a minivan more appealing.
Offered on the redesigned 2015 Sedona minivan, the comfortable, Nappa leather-swathed seats have pop-out foot rests and winged headrests, similar to first-class seats on airplanes. The beckoning lounge seats are in the second row of the van and come with more than 41 inches of legroom — as much as some vehicles provide front-seat passengers.
But the seats are just part of a long list of updates. Stretching nearly 17 feet in length, the 2015 Sedona is longer and roomier than its predecessor, has more features and ritzier materials and includes a more powerful V-6.
The Sedona bested segment sales leaders, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, in the just-released Initial Quality Study from longtime quality benchmark firm J.D. Power and Associates. It also earned 5 of out of 5 stars in frontal and side crash testing by the federal government.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 Sedona is just $26,995 with 276-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. That's $2,860 less than the $29,855 starting retail price for a 2015 Odyssey with 248-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic.
However, every 2015 Odyssey comes standard with privacy glass on the rear windows, power-adjustable front seats, seven-speaker audio system and a rearview camera, which is a major aid when backing up a minivan. The base Sedona doesn't include these items, meaning shoppers must move up to the 2015 Sedona LX, which has a starting retail price of $29,195, to get most of those features.
The test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Kia Sedona Limited, which is the priciest, starting at more than $40,000 with destination charge; it's the only one with the lounge seats.
Power from the new, 3.3-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection V-6 came on strong, even though the van weighed more than 4,600 pounds. Torque peaks at a healthy 248 foot-pounds at 5,200 rpm.
The downside was the fuel economy, which stayed around 19 miles per gallon in combined city and highway travel even when the van only carried the driver. The mileage was on par with the U.S. government's fuel economy rating. The result: The test Sedona could go 400 miles on a single tank of regular gasoline. The 21.1-gallon gas tank is slightly larger than that of the Odyssey, Sienna and Dodge Grand Caravan.
Upgrades inside the Sedona Limited were evident. Interior plastics had a quality look, and the seats had precise contrasting stitching that looked like it came out of a luxury sedan. Other luxury touches included an all-around-the-vehicle camera view, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats and heated second-row seats. Power-sliding side doors offered wide entryways, and the liftgate was power operated, too.
There was one hitch, though, with the lounge seats on the test vehicle. It took considerable force to put the manually operated footrests back up against the lower front of the seats.
Twelve cupholders, a deep and useful center console between the front seats and a two-part glovebox that included a chilled area for juices and sodas were among the amenities. But Kia doesn't offer a rear entertainment system or vehicle WiFi hotspot like that on some other vehicles.
Kia now has many of the latest safety features, including lane departure warning and forward collision warning; both are options on the Limited model only.
The test Sedona absorbed road bumps well, and a turning circle of 36.8 feet made U-turns easier than anticipated. But the tall heaviness of the vehicle was noticeable in curves and turns. Wind noise was audible at highway speeds, and even noise from passing semis could be heard inside the Sedona, prompting some passengers to check if a window was open.
Always a seven-passenger van, the Sedona offers a choice of eight-passenger seating for 2015. Cargo space is increased to 142 cubic feet but still falls short of the 150 cubic feet in the Sienna and 148.5 cubic feet in the Odyssey. Towing capacity tops out at 3,500 pounds.