Len Hunt came from the Volkswagen Group to lead South Korean automaker Kia to the promised land, and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge about how consumers in the world’s largest and most important market think, feel, and act. After years spent working to improve the images of Audi and Volkswagen in North America, Hunt realizes that for Kia to achieve success, it must climb what he calls the “brand ladder.” The first step is to win consumer confidence. Confidence will lend the product integrity, fueling pride of ownership, customer loyalty, and ultimately passion for the brand.
Kia began ascending Hunt’s “brand ladder” when it gave every model sold in North America a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years of roadside assistance to instill confidence in the durability of its cars and trucks. Then it began redesigning each model with contemporary styling, comfortable and appealing interiors, and quality construction. This, combined with low sticker prices that virtually guarantee value, has provided Kia with product integrity. Now, the next step is to make sure Kia buyers feel pride of ownership in their choice.
Completely redesigned, the 2006 Kia Sedona minivan is the first of several new products in the pipeline that should polish the company’s image in North America once and for all. The original Sedona was a terrific value and received impressive crash-test scores, two things most important to families looking for daily transportation and enough to make the minivan one of Kia’s top-selling models despite its dated styling, somewhat underpowered V6 and rather portly curb weight. The all-new 2006 Sedona continues as a great value and is expected to receive top crash-test scores, but is now larger, more powerful, lighter, and more fuel efficient. It’s also a stylish vehicle – as far as minivans go.
Kia identifies three key competitors for the new 2006 Sedona, saying that the Honda Odyssey is the aspirational choice in the segment, the Toyota Sienna possesses the highest quality, and the Dodge Grand Caravan is the mainstream best-seller. Kia’s goal was to create a blend of all three that would rise to the top of the class. We spent a day in northern San Diego County driving the 2006 Kia Sedona to find out what works and what needs work with this new minivan. We pushed its buttons, pulled out its seats, rode in every row, and even carved a canyon at twice the posted speed limit. With few exceptions, Kia has created a terrific family-mobile, and if you’re shopping for one of these incredibly useful machines, you must test-drive the new 2006 Kia Sedona.
Kia is starting off slow with the new 2006 Sedona, planning to sell 60,000 annually in two trim levels: LX and EX. A short-wheelbase model will arrive in the fall for 2007, and is expected to comprise 10-percent of total sales in future years.
The 2006 Kia Sedona LX starts at $23,665 with a $670 destination charge, and its equipment list includes power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, and remote keyless entry. A tilt steering wheel, cruise control, eight-speaker stereo with CD player, rear wiper/washer, rear defogger, and floor mats are also included. Other standard features are a parabolic conversation mirror so that the driver can see all the occupants in the vehicle, visor extenders to block out extra sunlight, vanity mirrors, a cargo light, cargo area grocery bag holders, and cargo net hooks.
The 2006 Kia Sedona EX is base-priced at $26,665 with destination. The extra cost nets fog lights, automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a four-way power passenger’s seat, woodgrain accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Sedona EX buyers also enjoy a stereo with a cassette/CD/MP3 player, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a Homelink programmable transmitter, power rear quarter windows, and an additional 12-volt outlet. Heated side mirrors, a roof rack, and UV-cutting solar glass for the windshield and front side windows are also standard on the Sedona EX.
Options for the Sedona LX are limited to roof rails ($150), cross bars ($150), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones ($1,200), a first-aid kit ($20), and a trailer hitch ($375).
Options for the Sedona EX include the stand-alone DVD entertainment system, first-aid kit, and trailer hitch. Other EX options get bundled into packages. The EX Luxury Package ($2,400) includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, power adjustable pedals, programmable memory for the driver’s seat/mirrors/pedals, steering wheel audio controls, a power sliding sunroof, automatic dual-zone climate control, an engine immobilzer, and a backup warning system. The EX Power Package ($1,000) includes power sliding side doors and a power rear liftgate controlled by the keyless entry fob or buttons inside the Sedona. The EX Premium Entertainment Package ($1,700) includes a 600-watt, 13-speaker Infinity Logic 7 multi-channel surround sound system and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. A fully-loaded 2006 Kia Sedona EX will cost $31,600.
As with every Kia, the new Sedona also gets a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years of roadside assistance.
Nuts and Bolts
Believe it or not, you can break the front wheels of the 2006 Kia Sedona loose and lay a patch of rubber if you get into the throttle hard enough. That’s because the new Sedona offers the most powerful engine in the class, a new aluminum 3.8-liter V6 equipped with 24 valves and dual continuously variable valve timing (CVVT). This new V6 makes 244 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 253 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm when running on premium unleaded. That’s more horsepower and torque than Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota offer in a minivan. Run the 2006 Sedona on regular unleaded, and you only lose two horsepower and 2 lb.-ft. torque.
Despite its somewhat porky 4,387 base curb weight, the 2006 Kia Sedona joined Kirstie Alley on the Jenny Craig program, shedding 400 pounds thanks to an aluminum – rather than iron – engine block, a lighter rear suspension, and other measures. Combine this weight loss with the 25-percent gain in engine power, and it’s clear that the new model is a performance champ compared to the old Sedona. Fuel economy is also improved by 13 percent, up to 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. We averaged 17.7 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving over mountainous terrain with two people on board.
Power flows to the Sedona’s front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission equipped with Kia’s Sportmatic manual shift feature, which works like most others – slide the gear selector into a special gate and then tap down for downshifts and up for upshifts. Not much use for this feature in a minivan, and we only used Sportmatic to get some engine braking on steeper grades, though it is quick to deliver downshifts if not upshifts. Kia says it has no plan to offer all-wheel-drive on the Sedona since most people who want four driven wheels combined with lots of interior space buy an SUV.
The 2006 Kia Sedona rides on an all-new, dedicated platform supported by a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link rear design with struts. Coil springs manage body motion, and stabilizer bars help limit body roll. Kia’s suspension tuner, Gordon Dickie, aimed for a blend of the Honda Odyssey’s taut responsiveness and the Toyota Sienna’s soft cushiness, and we’d say he succeeded. Power rack-and-pinion steering guides P225/70R16 Hankook all-season tires on the Sedona LX and P235/60 Michelin all-season tires on the EX. The new Sedona also gets bigger brakes, four-wheel discs that are vented in front and equipped with ABS, EBD, and brake assist.
Making a minivan stylish is a difficult task accomplished by few, but with the 2006 Sedona, Kia gets it exactly right. This minivan’s proportions are balanced, in part because Kia pushed the wheels out as far to the corners as possible but also thanks to its clean, crisp, chiseled character enhanced by a strong shoulder line that runs from the headlights to the taillights. The only miscue is the exposed door track on either side of the Sedona, but since most minivans have these, you don’t notice it…much.
Look at the 2006 Kia Sedona in profile and you might be surprised to see a roofline that curves sharply over the front seats and gently tapers to the rear, providing a subtle and sporty look in combination with a beltline that gradually sweeps up toward the D-pillar. Body colored trim and privacy glass come standard on LX and EX, and the pricier trim level gets a few chrome garnishes for a more upscale appearance. The new Sedona features clear-lens headlights, stylish wheelcovers on the LX and twin-spoke alloys on the EX, and vertical tri-color tail lamps that integrate nicely with the rear of the van.
Kia is working hard to design appealing interiors constructed of quality materials, because the company knows that this is where owners spend the most time. In the 2006 Kia Sedona, the materials are of decent quality, but the Sedona LX’s Raschel seat fabric borders on mouse-fur and its pattern could stand to be more subdued. EX models get a nicer standard Moquette fabric. Most impressive, however, is the leather that’s optional in the EX. It feels really good – soft, smooth, almost plush, yet the seat is perfectly supportive. The EX model also gets a fake wood trim bezel surrounding the controls in the center of the dashboard – LX versions are a bit stark, especially with the gray interior, though there are subtle chrome accents to help keep the cabin from looking cheap.
In terms of control layout, the 2006 Kia Sedona’s buttons, knobs, and displays are all clearly marked, large, and operate with the dampened heft and refinement of a luxury car. The end result is the impression of quality, and of designers who bothered to take the time to consider how a minivan is really used. The last thing distracted moms and dads need is to hunt around for primary controls while cruising out of the Mickey D’s drive-thru with a demanding brood aboard.
Safety and Technology
The 2006 Kia Sedona had not been crash-tested as this story was written, but company executives are confident that it will receive top scores for frontal, side, rear, and rollover crash protection. After all, the previous Sedona received five-star ratings, so nothing less will do for the redesigned model.
In addition to structural engineering upgrades, every 2006 Kia Sedona receives dual-stage front airbags with weight and occupant sensing, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Other standard goodies include front active headrests designed to help reduce whiplash in a rear collision, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Stability and traction control are also included in the base price, along with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Kia has also designed the sliding side doors to open just partway if the windows are down to keep children and pets from getting accidentally squished, and every rear seat receives an adjustable headrest.
If anything is missing from the Sedona in terms of safety equipment, it’s a run-flat tire option. Since the Sedona’s full-size spare tire is mounted underneath the vehicle just aft of the two front seats, it would be nice to know that once the five-year roadside assistance program expires a flat tire won’t result in destroyed clothing or unsafe tire-changing conditions. Honda Odysseys have a temporary spare tire mounted in the left rear cargo panel where it’s easy to reach. Also, on the technology front, we think Kia should seriously consider offering a navigation system option on the Sedona. We know plenty of soccer moms and dads that want navigation systems, and won’t even consider a vehicle without one.
Cargo and Convenience
Since people don’t buy minivans for performance or prestige, cargo and convenience are critical elements to get right. The 2006 Kia Sedona lags behind the competition on this front, its maximum 141.5 cubic feet of cargo space unable to match the heavy-hitters in the segment from Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, and Toyota. In fact, if toting lots of stuff on a frequent basis is why you need a minivan, you can’t do better than the Dodge Grand Caravan’s 167.9 cubic feet and innovative Stow ‘N Go system, which collapses both the second- and third-row seats into the floor.
Kia didn’t engineer a similar system into the Sedona because it says Dodge Grand Caravan owners rarely use the feature. That means you must yank the 60-lb. second-row seats out and stow them in the garage when more than 80.1 cubic feet of cargo room is required. The seats are heavy to lift, but there is generous door clearance so you don’t need to wrestle with them much. Just watch your shirtsleeve on the seat latches, because they could deposit grease marks if you’re not careful. Re-installing the seats is not easy at first, and because they are heavy, they are difficult to get lined up and locked into place.
The Sedona’s third-row 60/40-split folding seat is easier to stow away, but is not purely a one-handed operation like the Dodge Grand Caravan or Honda Odyssey. You need two hands to push the seat flush with the cargo floor, and you need two hands to adjust the backrest angle when raising the seat, as in the Toyota Sienna. Loading the van is simple due to a low liftover height, and a six-foot-tall adult’s head will clear the corners and center latch of the raised tailgate.
If you’re using the Sedona for an airport run, there are 32.2 cubes to work with behind the third-row seat. Loading people into the Sedona’s rearmost perch is easy thanks to second-row seats that fold and tumble forward with one-handed operation, creating a wide space through which it’s easy to climb aboard. Assist handles on the Sedona’s B-pillars are helpful when getting out.
For daily driving, Kia supplies the 2006 Sedona with plenty of the nooks and crannies that minivan owners love. For example, facing the front passenger is a dual-door glove box that offers four separate compartments in which to stash stuff. Unfortunately, it adds extra shut lines to the dashboard, presenting a ripe opportunity for misalignments and unsightly gaps, which could lead to a sense of slipshod build quality. Other storage solutions include a covered and lined storage slot in the dash good for holding CD jewel cases; an ashtray with a nicely dampened lid that can double as a coin box; a big bin at the bottom of the dashboard; and an overhead sunglasses storage compartment. Between the front seats there’s a deep folding and extending tray equipped with four large and useful cupholders. In fact, the 2006 Kia Sedona boasts 14 cupholders, or two for every occupant, which is overkill on par with a Quentin Tarantino film. There’s a hook that deploys from the dash in the right front passenger’s space to hold a trash bag, the third-row occupants get a storage box on the left-side trim panel, and Kia offers a total of three 12-volt power outlets on the Sedona LX. EX models get four outlets.
Must be that the extra outlet in the EX assumes more electronics gear will be used onboard the pricier model. The optional DVD entertainment system can accommodate a PlayStation or Xbox gaming system, and while the nine-inch screen doesn’t impede the view to the rear, any wiring hanging off the auxiliary hookups will. Likewise, the handy conversation mirror, a parabolic reflector that lets the driver monitor each of the Kia Sedona’s six passenger positions, won’t block visibility but it’s set a bit far back on the headliner for easy viewing.
Kia offers one-touch down operation only for the driver’s side power window rather than both front windows, and there isn’t a one-touch up function. Likewise, the Sedona EX’s available power sunroof is one-touch open but not one-touch close. In our opinion, Kia missed an opportunity to trump Honda on this front by offering what are fast becoming critical convenience features.
Though the 2006 Kia Sedona is 15-percent larger inside than the previous model, accommodations in the third-row seat are tight at 34 inches of leg space. Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, and Toyota all offer more room for the way-back bench. Plus, the Sedona’s third-row cushion is hard, flat, and mounted rather close to the floor, lacking proper thigh support for adults. Taller people banished to the back of the bus will have their legs flush against the second-row plastic seatbacks, but foot space is decent. We’d recommend reserving these spots for kids only – especially on longer trips.
In terms of comfort behind the wheel, the Sedona LX rates OK. The LX is equipped with a manually-adjustable driver’s seat that includes a seat-height adjuster, but those who like to sit tall need to know that as you crank the seat higher, the bottom cushion flattens out so you feel like you’re getting dumped toward the dashboard. Good thing that even at its lowest setting, the driver’s seat sits high enough that you don’t feel like you’re sitting on the floor. The LX has a tilt steering wheel, but it does not telescope and the Sedona’s power adjustable pedals are only offered on the EX trim, which also has an eight-way power driver’s seat.
The driver’s seat in the Sedona LX did not soothe, the armrests did not ratchet and lay limply down near the driver’s lap, and we didn’t cover enough miles to determine what long-distance comfort might be. More seat track travel would be appreciated to keep longer-limbed drivers from resting their right legs on the hard plastic of the lower center console. The Sedona EX’s eight-way power leather chairs were better, partly because they came with ratcheting armrests for proper height adjustment. The upper door panels in the LX are upholstered in cloth that seems vulnerable to soiling over time, while the EX had an easy-clean vinyl – both were softly padded. Both models also offer manual lumbar support for the driver, and the front passenger’s seat sits high off the floor making it quite comfortable even if it lacks height adjustment.
The Kia Sedona’s second-row seats slide fore/aft and recline to maximize leg room and comfort, a big benefit over the fixed rear chairs in the Dodge Grand Caravan. These standard captain’s chairs are firm, supportive, and sit tall, but could use a bit more thigh support for adults. However, after settling in over a 50-mile ride, we enjoyed cross-your-legs comfort.
Kia wanted to make the new 2006 Sedona fun to drive, so it installed a powerful engine, a manual-shift automatic transmission, a suspension tuned for improved handling, and larger brakes for better stopping ability. Don’t take this to mean that the new Sedona is a performance vehicle, because it’s not. But it’s no penalty box, either, as we learned during our one-day test drive behind the wheels of a 2006 Kia Sedona LX with the optional DVD entertainment system and an EX with the optional Luxury Package.
Smooth, responsive, and refined, the 2006 Kia Sedona’s new 3.8-liter V6 is also powerful enough to break the front tires loose accelerating around turns. Open it up, and you’ll even hear a pleasantly aggressive growl from behind the firewall. The five-speed automatic transmission features Kia’s Sportmatic manual gear selection, with which the driver taps the gear selector up for upshifts and down for downshifts. We didn’t use this much – the Sedona is a minivan, after all – and when we did, upshifts lagged a bit but downshifts occurred without delay. Driven normally, the Sedona’s transmission shifts unobtrusively, and it includes grade-logic control to hold a gear on steep ascents to keep hunting to a minimum and on steep descents to increase engine braking. During our drive in the Sedona EX, we averaged 17.7 mpg in a mix of city and highway in mountainous northeastern San Diego County.
Falling somewhere between the taut Honda Odyssey and the soft Toyota Sienna, the 2006 Kia Sedona’s suspension provides a great blend of ride and handling, but occasionally the driver can feel a rubbery lack of wheel control over bad pavement. It’s not harsh, and it’s not loud, and it could probably be erased altogether with additional tuning. Handling is impressive for a minivan, as we discovered during a downhill run from the Palomar Mountain area that included multiple 25-mph hairpin turns. Pitching the Sedona into those hairpins at twice the recommended speed resulted in plenty of body roll and tire scrub, but in high-speed sweepers the 2006 Kia Sedona’s weight transitions predictably and the tires offer good grip. The Sedona LX rides on P225/70R16 Hankook Optimos while the EX receives P235/60R17 Michelin Energy tires – each brand produced a quiet ride and entertaining levels of grip while giving plenty of warning about approaching limits.
Though Kia has upsized the Sedona’s brakes for 2006, and while they feature excellent pedal feel and modulation, they faded a bit during our high-speed downhill run. Of course, 99.9-percent of Sedona owners will never drive the van like we did, so this is likely a non-issue. In keeping with the Sedona’s sporty intent, steering effort is purposely dialed in on the heavy side regardless of speed, but in our opinion, the steering wheel requires too much effort to spin, especially at parking speeds. Because the region where we drove the Sedona was buffeted by strong Santa Ana winds that constantly tugged at the van, we cannot comment about on-center feel, but we’ll tell you this: even traveling into the gusts, the Sedona was much quieter inside than most of its competition.
This quietude is perhaps the most impressive thing about how this box on wheels drives. Most minivans serve as echo chambers for powertrain, suspension, road, and wind noise, but the 2006 Kia Sedona is comparatively silent when underway. It’s much easier to carry on a conversation in the Sedona than in the relatively loud Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey. Even when cruising at 80 mph on grooved pavement, road and engine noise were virtually absent. In our experience, only the Toyota Sienna comes close to delivering this kind of cabin isolation, and at comparatively higher prices.
Why didn’t Kia install fold-into-floor second-row seats like Chrysler, Dodge, and Nissan?
Kia conducted customer clinics with Grand Caravan owners who complained that the second-row Stow ‘N Go seats were uncomfortable to sit in and that they rarely used the feature except to flatten the third-row. So rather than go to the expense of engineering a solution that few people use, Kia instead kept the Sedona’s price low and installed comfortable second-row seats.
What is the main reason to consider a 2006 Kia Sedona?
To make sure the 2006 Sedona remained a good value, Kia looked at the entire segment and chose to include on it’s all-new minivan only those features that people needed and really wanted. That’s why there’s no reversing camera, no Stow ‘N Go seating, no slide-together second-row seats, no all-wheel-drive option – engineering these features costs extra money, and existing minivan owners either don’t use them or won’t pay for them. As a result, the 2006 Sedona brings to market the best and brightest ideas from other manufacturers in a handsomely designed package. All that’s left to ensure market success, at this writing, is top-notch crash-test scores.
Why should I skip the 2006 Kia Sedona?
The main reason to skip the 2006 Kia Sedona would be if a feature you want or need is not offered on this vehicle. Take all-wheel-drive, for example. It’s not available on the Kia, but you can get it on the Toyota Sienna. Ditto a reversing camera. Dodge and Nissan offer second-row seats that collapse into the floor for quick conversion from family hauler to cargo mauler. Mazda features second-row seats that slide together to form a bench, and Honda’s got a Mommy ‘n Me seat that puts a baby closer to its parents in the front buckets. These features are not offered on the new 2006 Kia Sedona, but a loaded 2006 Kia Sedona also doesn’t surpass the $32,000 barrier with its sticker price.
Test Vehicles: 2006 Kia Sedona LX and 2006 Kia Sedona EX
Price of Test Vehicles: $24,865 (LX); $29,065 (EX)
Engine Size and Type: 3.8-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 244 at 6,000 rpm (premium fuel); 242 at 6,000 rpm (regular fuel)
Engine Torque: 253 lb.-ft at 3,500 rpm (premium fuel); 251 at 3,500 rpm (regular fuel)
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with Sportmatic manual control
Curb weight, lbs.: 4,387 (LX)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 18/25 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy:17.7 mpg
Length: 202.0 inches
Width: 78.3 inches
Wheelbase: 118.9 inches
Height: 69.3 inches
Leg room (front/row 2/row 3): 41.7/40.9/34.0 inches
Head room (front/row 2/row 3): 40.9/39.8/38.3 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Seven
Max. Cargo Volume: 141.5 cu.-ft.
Competitors: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna.
Photos courtesy of Kia Motors America