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Kia gives the Sedona minivan an upgrade

September 23, 2005|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

In its brief North American history, Kia has created a line of value-laden products that are as well-built as they are sensibly priced. The second-generation Sedona minivan merely underscores that success.

The completely new 2006 Sedona replaces a model that had been available only since 2002. In that brief period, it had managed to become Kia's best-selling vehicle, an impressive feat for a company perceived as primarily an economy-car builder.

The original Sedona was a pretty decent first-time effort, with an abundance of standard content and space-for-all seating. Although burdened with a pudgy 4,700-pound curb weight (offset by a class-leading government crash-test rating), the Sedona generated respectable sales numbers as well as considerable respect among minivan afficionados.

This time around, the ante has been upped. The latest Sedona's appearance, while not exactly earth shattering, has been smoothed out and modernized.

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Dimensionally, the Sedona has grown by nearly 8 inches in length. There's also a 4.3-inch extension in wheelbase and a few inches of extra width have been dialed in. The resulting 15 percent increase in cabin room will be most welcome by shoppers searching for extra people comfort as well as for additional load capacity.

As for weight, Kia won't yet reveal final numbers, but, despite the Sedona's extra size, the company insists the new model is "significantly lighter."

Visually, unless you're an expert at minivan spotting, you'd be hard pressed to pick out the Sedona from the current crop of very-similar-looking minivans from Dodge, Toyota and Ford. That's probably OK with Kia. Other manufacturers that have attempted to stray off the accepted design path have been met with little success and usually wind up right back where they began.

Open either of the Sedona's front, or side-sliding doors and you're struck by the inviting interior along with a dashboard that has a very up-market style. The dials are easy to see and read while the ventilation/audio-system control stack also houses the shifter, which provides extra storage space between the front seats.

To maximize cargo capacity, the Sedona's second-row seats can be flip-folded and the third-row 60/40 split-bench can be tucked flat into the floor.

These features are pretty much standard tricks of the minivan trade, but what is unique are the Sedona's six air bags - front-impact, side-impact and side-curtain protection - that are standard on all models. Additional built-in safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and tire-pressure monitoring, while stability and traction control are optional.

Bolted between the Sedona's flanks is a 3.8-liter V-6 delivering 244 horsepower, considerably more than the 195 horses the outgoing model's 3.5-liter V-6 delivered. And, with less weight to lug around, this Sedona should be considerably livelier under throttle. A five-speed automatic transmission directs power to the Sedona's front wheels.

As with the first-gen Sedona, the model lineup for 2006 consists of the base LX and better-equipped EX. Both versions, however, are fitted with tri-zone air conditioning, side-door power windows, keyless remote entry, cruise control and second-row captain's chairs.

Order the EX and the content extends to provide an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated power mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, wood-trimmed interior, power-operated rear-quarter windows and a roof rack.

Among the Sedona's many options are leather seats (heated in front), adjustable pedals, power-sliding side doors and liftgate, backup sensor, premium sound system and a power sunroof.

The clincher to any Kia deal usually involves the price, and the Sedona should be no exception. The final tariff has yet to be announced, but expect to see a starting sticker below the $22,000 threshold.

For the well turned-out and polished Sedona, that tantalizing bit of financial frosting should get more buyers biting and add fuel to an already highly competitive vehicle category.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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