Clearly, the minivan is tremendously useful and over its 20-odd years of existence, great strides have been made. Today’s minivan can be equipped with a powerful V6 engine, front- or all-wheel drive, dual sliding doors that can be opened and closed with a simple button, second- and third-row seats that hide in the floor, luxury comparable to a Lexus, respectable towing and cargo hauling capabilities, and exceptional safety rankings buoyed by a plethora of airbags. True, styling is by and large still dull, but in terms of practicality and versatility, the minivan reigns supreme, and among the segment’s best values is the Kia Sedona, a well-backed model that’s been redesigned for 2006.
Admirable is one way to describe the previous Kia Sedona, with its five-star crash test rating and low entry-level price. But at roughly 4,800 pounds, it was a porker that made its 3.5-liter, 195-horsepower V6 work mighty hard. For 2006, the seven-passenger Sedona has shed about 400 pounds and gained dozens of ponies. The 3.5-liter six has been replaced by a 24-valve, aluminum 3.8-liter V6 with dual overhead cams pushing 244 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 253 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm. Power is directed to the front wheels by a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode, and last year’s front disc/rear drum brake setup was dropped to make room for a four-wheel antilock disc system working in conjunction with electronic brake-force distribution and electronic brake assistance. Standard stability and traction control systems work with rack-and-pinion steering to maintain control on the road, an effort supported by stabilizer bars and the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. The 3,500-lb. tow capacity and excellent crash test scores have been carried over from 2005, though the 2006 Sedona is larger in terms of cargo and passenger capacity.
Shoppers familiar with Kia’s minivan will recognize the LX and EX trims available for 2006. The base LX, starting at $23,665 including a $670 destination charge, is delivered with standard 16-inch steel wheels and 225/70 tires, dual sliding doors, rear climate controls, a CD player, a tilt steering wheel with cruise control, 13 cupholders, and six airbags – two front, two front-side, and two side-curtains. If that sounds kinda weak, don’t worry because there’s more, like a driver’s seat with lumbar support and manual height adjustment; removable second-row bucket seats that slide, recline, and fold; a split third-row bench that folds into the deep cargo hold with the pull of a strap; keyless entry; and stability and traction control systems. All of that, plus Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five-year/60,000-mile basic coverage. For a little extra cash, buyers can load their 2006 Kia Sedona LX with a roof rack, a tow hitch, and a rear DVD entertainment system. Yet, even with that equipment, some folks may desire the $26,265 EX model, with its standard 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior accents, fog lights, roof rack, heated mirrors, MP3 player, leather steering wheel and shift knob trim, front power seats, woodgrain trim, and rear cargo net. For the ultimate Sedona, the EX can be decked out with power sliding doors and a power tailgate, leather seats, power pedals, a power sunroof, a rear parking aid, a 605-watt Infinity surround sound system, and more.
With a sticker price of $24,865, our 2006 Kia Sedona LX arrived in stock form except for a $1,200 rear entertainment system. The van proved to be invaluable as a support vehicle during a sport compact comparison test at Willow Springs Raceway, shuttling our editors and video crew and all of their gear all day under the blistering desert sun. The remainder of the Sedona’s time with us was spent as a daily commuter and transportation for a growing family’s weekend trip to Palm Springs.
So we were in the process of putting the Kia Sedona through its paces on the track, when suddenly…wait a minute. Track…Sedona…minivan? Okay, so maybe that was a weird convergence of another test, a slow practice lap and the availability of the Sedona. Whatever. Point in fact, that little bottle-nosed whale of a van held up admirably around the corners and even put forth some vehicle dynamics in its own right – albeit at a pedestrian pace – keeping its composure, accelerating in a timely fashion and, generally, acting quite spry.
Heck – and no one got car sick for the experience. The experience was eye-opening, how planted the Sedona was when driven beyond the normal suburbanite crawl. The body roll, while pronounced, eventually shifted and settled; the tires, though squealing like five-year-old girls, kept good rubber on the track; and the brakes handled the increased demand capably, though with some fade toward the end. Back in reality, however, and on the road where it actually belongs, the Sedona is a pleasing enough ride, with a powerful 3.8-liter V6 that nicely lugs around the van’s 4,387 lb. curb weight thanks to a five-speed automatic transmission with “Sportmatic manual control” – for you hopeless Grand Prix Dads out there. Actually, using the shifters does enable the driver to wring more out of the engine, and I found it to be a useful benefit. Braking was excellent, and steering felt precise – though heavy – and unsure of itself over rough pavement. The suspension feels much softer than what you’d get on an Odyssey, but nicely connected – though it fairly bounced through some potholes and along a bumpy road. Those roads also revealed another ugly mole on the Sedona’s pretty face: noise and clatter in the cabin. With one or two drivers inside, there was some vibratin’ and a shakin’ goin’ on inside, enough to be a distraction. Other than that, for a minivan not named Honda, the Kia Sedona was a nice, firm and responsive ride. Take it to YOUR track today! (Just kidding)
Mike Sullivan’s 2006 Kia Sedona Driving Impressions:
The first thing I noticed about the 2006 Kia Sedona was how easily I found a comfortable driving position. The Sedona’s driver sits with a commanding, upright posture, surrounded by an enormous glass canopy that makes it feel like you’re floating down the road. Front and side visibility was outstanding, but understandably, with such a large vehicle, rear visibility was limited. The optional back-up warning system would have been useful, but our test van didn’t have this.
Overall the Kia Sedona drives like a car, albeit a big, heavy car. It travels softly on both the highway and city streets, but with enough nimbleness to make easy U-turns on standard four-lane streets and to find parking in a crowded, cramped lot. The V6 engine did a good job of getting the Sedona up to speed, and always responded readily under foot. However, the automatic transmission felt slow to shift when passing on the highway. Hitting the gas would make the engine roar, but a moment would lapse before the transmission responded by shifting into a lower gear. Also, though braking power felt strong, I sometimes had trouble forecasting the amount of force necessary to stop the vehicle precisely where I wanted it to, often progressively applying more pressure as my stopping point approached.
Thom Blackett’s 2006 Kia Sedona Driving Impressions:
Get that foolish notion about a minivan being fun to drive out of your head. Unless the topic is the current Honda Odyssey, there’s no sense in even dreaming. But, there are minivans out there that promise to soak up miles of both congested and desolate freeway with ease, if not with great amounts of verve. Such is the case with the 2006 Kia Sedona. The 244-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic tranny do a nice job of getting this seven-passenger front-driver off the line, though with more than 4,300 pounds to motivate, acceleration is well short of breathtaking. Nail the throttle only to discover a decent dose of torque-steer, after which the engine starts to lose some of its initial gusto. That gas pedal feels well modulated around town, though there are times when ample foot pressure does nothing in terms of gaining speed; other times the accelerator feels touchy. Maybe it was a short in my brain-foot connection, or more likely the throttle acting a little schizo.
Smooth shifts are the norm with the automatic transmission. However, while attempting to accelerate for a highway pass I noticed a significant delay before performing the required downshifts. Oddly, there’s a manual-shift mode that’s accessed by moving the lever to the right – click forward for an upshift, rearward for a downshift. This is a nice feature, to be sure, though one that seems a bit out of place and superfluous in a budget minivan. I suppose it’s better to have unexpected additions than inconvenient deletions.
This being a minivan, the chances of owners tossing their Sedonas around decreasing-radius turns are a few notches below nil. Hence, I didn’t subject this Kia to any tortuous canyon carving. On city streets, highways, and gentle curves the ride was controlled with minimal body roll. There was some understeer and squealing from the Hankook Optima 225/70R16 tires when pushed a bit. Steering was vague and too light at speed, points somewhat compensated for by the tight turning radius (in minivan terms).
After quite a few miles evaluating the Sedona, I found a lonely stretch of flat asphalt to test the brakes. Throughout the drive, the pedal felt a little mushy and hard to modulate. However, a full-on panic stop from about 60 mph suggested that there should be no worries about the Kia coming to a quick halt in an emergency.
It’s a minivan. Of course it’s comfortable. Maybe…but maybe not so much. Yes, there is plenty of room for families growing up and out, so to speak, but for the driver, the 2006 Kia Sedona’s front seat was decidedly uncomfortable. The padding felt tilted downward, for example, and no attempts to ratchet up or adjust the seat made a difference. Call it the Sedona Slide, right into the dashboard, and while it is, of course, only a feeling – you’re not actually sliding into the steering wheel – it makes for a fidgety trip. It’s nice that there are armrests, but they flop around like Goofy ears on a baseball hat, with no ratcheting mechanism to keep them in place. Legroom, for the driver, is also peculiar, as the well feels a little too shallow. In back, the second-row seats are nicely upholstered and very easy to sit in, with plenty of room for legs. I preferred sitting back there during my drive, but the wife didn’t want people to think she was chauffeuring me around. In the way-back, back where the little people live, there’s scant room for toes or heads – but that’s a bit to be expected. If you’re out to lunch and riding in your boss’s minivan, and he asks you – Hey Charlie, do you mind sitting in the way-back? – get your resume updated.
Mike Sullivan’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Comfort:
As a new father, my wife and I are considering what to buy for our next car. We would like something safe, easy to drive, and large enough to accommodate the family as well as all of the “baby baggage” we’ll be toting around for the next few years. So I was genuinely excited when I got the chance to take the family on a Palm Springs weekend getaway in the new 2006 Kia Sedona. My wife, on the other hand, did not share my enthusiasm. When she heard the words “Kia,” “minivan,” and “Cool!” come out my mouth in the same sentence, she was predictably underwhelmed.
Oh, but experience makes the heart grow fonder. We strapped the baby in, loaded the rear storage area with luggage, a stroller, a play pen, a cooler, and a bunch other junk and still had the entire third-row available. And, speaking of junk, we had plenty of convenient pockets and storage bins in which to stow our snacks, sun glasses, and hats. And for our beverages, one of the 13 cupholders was always within arms reach. The two-hour ride also allowed my wife to watch, thankfully wearing headphones, the latest romantic comedy on the rear DVD entertainment system. It’s fair to say that by the time we reached our destination, her outlook on the Sedona was as sunny as the Palm Springs sky.
So from a passenger’s point of view, the Sedona makes for a pleasant transport. As for the driver, the comfortable seat with well-placed armrests made the trip easy. Also, while trying out the back seats for myself, it was easy to find legroom when sitting in the sliding second-row, and it was easy to get comfortable by reclining, even in the third row. Also worth noting is the commendable performance of the air conditioning system thoughout the vehicle. The Sedona was pleasantly clement even in the 100-degree Palm Springs heat.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Comfort:
Despite the stigma that goes with minivans, few people will argue that these versatile haulers are impractical and uncomfortable. The 2006 Kia Sedona offers seating for seven passengers, all of whom get generous amounts of head, knee, and foot room. Even those seated in the third row enjoy plenty of leg and foot room thanks to second-row buckets that slide forward. Technically, that last row is designed for three bodies, but because of its narrow width, we’d suggest only two adults or three smaller kids. The front buckets feature soft cushions, fold-down center armrests, padded door armrests, and the driver gets a tilt steering wheel. Bolsters are lacking and the bottom section of the seat is too short, but otherwise there’s plenty to like here. Second-row passengers get the same buckets as those up front while the third row gets a reclining backrest, three adjustable headrests, and dedicated heat and air conditioning vents overhead.
Getting in and out of the front- and second-row seats is a non issue. Accessing the third row requires a simple pull of the second-row bucket’s handle, whereupon the seat folds and tumbles forward for relatively easy passing to the rear bench. The sliding doors on each side include a power window button that lowers the glass almost completely.
Kia has worked hard on its quality. And it shows, too – the 2006 Sedona is taut and well built, though there was too much rattle and vibration in the cabin during a typical commute, and the interior materials felt sub-standard to my touch. Over time, that may make for a dingy interior – who knows. Aside from those small nits, however, the pickings here are that the Sedona looks to be a quality machine, with a solid powertrain, attention to detail, and sharp finishing touches. Plus, and perhaps most important, are the Sedona’s best-ever safety scores from the government (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). If something else says quality more emphatically than that, I would like to see what it is.
Mike Sullivan’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Quality:
Besides a few minor fit and finish issues, I really don't have any complaints about the Sedona's quality. Everything operated as designed, the materials where acceptable, and I did not notice any rattling during my time with the vehicle. However, with upgraded fabric and power doors, I would be interested in seeing the EX version of the Sedona.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Quality:
Buyers wanting top-of-the-line interior quality need to look elsewhere. Overall, the bits and pieces found within the 2006 Kia Sedona are better than one might expect for a seven-passenger van priced below $25,000, but you won’t be confusing this ride with a Lexus. Covering the seats of our LX tester was cheap cloth that stained easily, low-grade plastics with matching grains, flimsy interior panels on the sliding doors and beside the rear bench, and loose rear pillar covers exhibiting wide gaps. Our Sedona had a fairly quiet ride (aside from some third-row bench noise), but it would be fair to expect rattles as the miles rack up. On the exterior, I noticed irregular gaps around the tailgate, hood, and front fender/A-pillar joints, and the paint was suffering from a decent case of orange peel.
My wife is a conundrum. Especially about cars. Known for hating minivans – for all things “minivan” – she comes out of the house and says to my utter shock after I pull up to the house in the 2006 Kia Sedona: Hey, I could drive that thing. What is it?
Whatever. She and hundreds of other automotive journalists are clearly wrong when it comes to the Sedona: it’s the stylish equivalent of a moose wearing pajamas. The nose is too big. The sides need more definition. The back is relatively nondescript. It’s a minivan, alright, right down to the way it looks. Just because it happens to be an excellent minivan fails to give it beauty points. All that recorded, where Kia is taking the Sedona – now that could change some minds on the whole minivan-is-boring philosophy. With more aggressive shoulders and a little more drama in the lines, this could easily be the most attractive minivan on the planet. Inside, the mouse-fur seat covers and seventies-era patterns should go – really. The fabric clung to clothing and seemed destined for dirt. Design-wise, however, the Sedona is smartly configured inside, with plenty of storage spaces – all intelligently done. Knobs and buttons are easy to reach, and easily understood – a quick glance and you’ll know where the temperature adjustment is. Cargo-wise, the Sedona seems small compared to the competition, and removing the seats was a little difficult. In this age of Stow-N’-Go seating, there are better alternatives than grabbing a seat and flinging it out of the sliding door.
Mike Sullivan’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Design:
As an automaker, if you were going to make a gorgeous looking minivan, you would probably do everything possible to call it something other than a minivan. For instance, Mercedes-Benz has spent a great deal of effort trying to convince the public that the handsome R-Class is not a minivan, but rather a Grand Sports Tourer. Kia, on the other hand, is not afraid of using conventional terms when describing the Sedona. It’s proud to build a minivan, and with minivan pride comes a belief that function always outweighs form. So rather than debate the merits of its appearance, let’s just say its nice looking... for a minivan. Instead, let’s focus on utility and the thoughtfulness of the Sedona’s design.
Starting from the outside, two sliding doors allow for easy access to either side of the vehicle, whereupon entering, you are greeted by two captain’s chairs that are perfectly positioned for loading car seats. If you access the Sedona from the rear, a deep storage compartment accommodates plenty of cargo. When more space is necessary, the Sedona’s third-row seat folds neatly into the floor and the second-row captain’s chairs are easily removed. There are also plenty of useful stowage compartments, including a bi-level and segmented glove compartment, two center stack pull-out drawers, and a tray between the front seats that conveniently folds down to allow the front seat passenger to access the rear seats. Also, simple gadgets, like the passenger’s seat purse hook and the convex conversation mirror, really show that Kia was clearly focused on creating a very useful multi-passenger vehicle. In the Sedona’s case, utility easily trumps style.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Kia Sedona’s Design:
Minivans have historically been boring in nature, both in terms of visual and driving appeal. However, models like the redesigned Honda Odyssey have shown that change is possible. That vehicle is marked by attractive styling and a, gulp, somewhat entertaining ride. In contrast, the 2006 Kia Sedona is an exercise in generic design – a bit of Ford Freestar in the front end, a body similar to 99 percent of its competitors, and a tail end that is upright rather than rakish, much like we expect from the upcoming Dodge Caravan redesign. To its benefit, there’s nothing about the Sedona’s exterior styling that should offend anyone.
Interior design carries on with the status-quo theme. It’s plain yet useful with clear gauges, smooth dash lines that wrap into the door panels, matching grain patterns, and a flat black material on the instrument panel. The third-row seat stows away into a deep cargo hold, but it’s a three step process ending with a good push down – handy, but not equal to the effortless systems of some competitors. The second-row buckets can be released and removed, provided you’ve got enough upper body strength.
Bland looks and a questionable interior – from the basis of comfort and cargo – knocks the 2006 Kia Sedona to a perch somewhere below the top of the minivan class. However, with class-leading safety scores, a supple suspension, a powerful engine, responsive brakes, Kia’s powertrain warranty and – of course – a competitive price, that perch returns very close to the top. Your list, should you be shopping for a minivan? Drive the Honda Odyssey, and the Toyota Sienna. Then drive the 2006 Kia Sedona.
Mike Sullivan’s Advice about the 2006 Kia Sedona:
Don’t overlook the 2006 Kia Sedona. With a base price of $23,665, this minivan comes loaded with features, and it should deliver the kind of utility most families desire. And on top of the conveniences, the Sedona is also the safest minivan on the road. With electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, and six airbags, Kia has done everything possible to ensure the safety of its passengers. Recently, the Sedona earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest possible crash-test rating, a first for a minivan. Also, as with every Kia, the 10-year/100,000-mile warranty should ensure that the Sedona will have a long service life. Overall, if you’re looking for a minivan, the value found in the Sedona is too good to ignore.
Thom Blackett’s Advice about the 2006 Kia Sedona:
Should I be in the market for a minivan, which after a yet-to-be realized marriage and subsequent kids and additional dogs may eventually be a reality, my first choice would have been the style and performance of a Honda Odyssey. That was until I realized just how much diapers and daycare cost. That’s when I saw that I could get a nicely-equipped 2006 Kia Sedona EX for about the same price as a base Odyssey LX. Even fully-loaded with a rear DVD entertainment system, power side and rear doors, and a 605-watt Infinity sound system, the Kia runs right about $30,000, or about $5,000 less than an Odyssey. I could pay a lot of babysitters with that kind of coin. Plus, the Sedona shares the Honda’s terrific crash-test results. Kia’s minivan may be a little boring and features some sub-par materials, but in terms of utility, safety, and value, the Sedona should look beautiful to buyers on a budget.
Price of Test Vehicle: $24,865 (including a $670 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 3.8-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 244 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 253 lb.-ft. at 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 4,387
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 17/25 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 20.2 mpg
Length: 202 inches
Width: 78.1 inches
Wheelbase: 118.9 inches
Height: 69.3 inches
Leg room (first/second/third): 41.7/40.9/34 inches
Head room (first/second/third): 40.9/39.8/38.3 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Seven
Max. Cargo Volume: 141.5 cubic feet
Competitors: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna
Photos by Ron Perry