- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Kia offers a second-generation Sedona seven-passenger minivan for the 2006 model year, replacing the original Sedona that debuted in 2002. The minivan market has proved successful for this Korean marque, as Sedona became its best-selling model in 2004, and continues to hold that status.

Despite the recent SUV craze, which many correlate with the decline in minivan popularity, Kia is up against some healthy competition in the sliding-door segment. Chrysler, Honda and Toyota all offer well-known and respected minivans, while GM recently released the Chevrolet Uplander and Saturn Relay as part of its product resurgence.

In accordance with the industry’s trend toward increased size, Sedona’s new platform has grown in every dimension, compared to those of the previous generation. Overall length is up 8.1 inches to 202, wheelbase increases 4.3 inches to 118.9 and width expands 3.7 inches to 78.3. Height remains unchanged at 69.3 inches.

Pricing for base LX models begins at $22,995, while upscale EX Sedonas start at $25,595. Both figures do not include the mandatory $670 destination charge, but these prices still undercut the long-wheelbase offerings from the aforementioned competition. The Chrysler Grand Caravan, Chevrolet Uplander extended wheelbase, Saturn Relay and Toyota Sienna all start several hundred dollars higher, while the Honda Odyssey trades for at least $2,000 more.

Kia’s styling department picked the conservative path in reworking the cut lines and creases of the Sedona’s new body. The headlights and taillights are more angular, appearing both precise and substantial. Front foglights are now rectangular units subtly recessed in the lower front fascia, rather than large circular pieces prominently integrated, as in the previous generation. Extraneous body-side cladding has been reduced to solid horizontal bands mounted midway up the wheel wells. The front swinging and sliding rear door handles are now nicely blended into single strips when closed.

Inside, second-row captain’s chairs provide both autonomous comfort for middle-row passengers and easier access to the rearmost seats. The 60/40-split third-row seats folds flush into the floor, creating a flat loading surface. Each piece folds flat individually, if desired. Second-row seats also fold easily, in the interest of accommodating either cargo or passengers.

When fully configured, Sedona offers 141.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

Both LX and EX models arrive equipped with 3.8-liter V-6 engine delivering 244 horsepower and 253 foot-pounds of torque through a five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic manual control.

All Sedona minivans ride on fully independent suspension with anti-roll bars and coil springs at both ends. Four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS reside inside 16-inch wheels and P225/70 series tires.

Both traction and stability control are also standard on the FWD minivan. With a curb weight starting at 4,387 pounds and increasing to around 4,700 pounds, Sedona still manages 17 miles per gallon city and 25 highway.

The well-equipped base LX Sedona includes manual dual-zone front and single-zone rear air conditioning, power windows/locks/folding mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a tilting steering wheel, eight-way driver and four-way front passenger manual seat adjustment, cloth upholstery, a six-speaker single-CD audio system, tinted windows, projector beam headlights, tachometer and tire-pressure warning.

“Power windows” includes power glass in the sliding doors as standard. A roof rack is available optionally.

Whereas the Sedona LX arrives well laden with options for a base model, the top EX version is somewhat lean in its standard equipment level.

Stepping into EX trim yields 17-inch alloy wheels inside P235/60 series tires, chrome grille accenting, front fog lights, heated exterior mirrors, a standard roof rack, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, mini overhead console, power adjusting front seats, a leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel, faux wood and chrome interior accenting, compass, ambient outside temperature display and a more sophisticated audio system that plays MP3s and cassettes.

While these may seem plentiful, few options considered luxurious are included as standard.

To compensate, Kia offers several upgrade packages for EX customers. A Power Package includes sliding doors and a tailgate that operate electronically via either a keyless remote or vehicle-mounted buttons.

Kia’s Luxury Package adds leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, adjustable pedals, memory for the seats/mirrors/pedals, automatic climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, power sunroof and a reverse warning system.

The Premium Entertainment Package yields a 13-speaker audio system with a six-disc changer and DVD video with an 8-inch monitor, two wireless headsets and remote. Fully equipped, the EX Sedona stickers for just over $31,000, which still could be considered a bargain.

Value is also provided in the comprehensive safety and security package built into all Sedonas. Dual front air bags, seat-mounted front side-impact air bags and curtain air bags for all three rows are standard.

Anti-whiplash front head restraints adjust manually, as do the three units found in the third row of seating.

Both models get a security system with a panic alarm, while EX models equipped with the Luxury Package include an engine immobilizer.

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