2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Kia Sedona

Despite the rising popularity of SUVs and CUVs, and the discontinuation of minivans by a few manufacturers, I might well paraphrase Mark Twain in that any reports of their demise are far from accurate. Honda, Nissan and Toyota have all released redesigns of their vans, while my tester, the Kia Sedona, undergoes numerous changes for 2011.

The most noticeable one is a new engine, a 3.5-litre V6 that replaces the previous 3.8-litre V6. Horsepower rises significantly, while torque falls slightly: the new engine produces 271 horsepower in place of the previous 244, and torque is now 248 lb.-ft., versus the 253 lb.-ft. of the 3.8-litre. As is usual these days, fuel economy improves despite the rise in pony-power. The new engine is rated at 11.5 L/100 km (25 mpg Imp) in the city and 8.0 (35) on the highway; in combined winter driving, I averaged 12.3 (23).

2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

Other changes include stability and traction control now standard on all models – these used to be unavailable on the base trim line – along with a new grille, standard Bluetooth connectivity (but don’t drive and talk anyway), and new standard features on the various trims. Pricing starts at $27,995 for the base LX model, while my top-line tester, the EX-Luxury, was $39,995. A navigation system, which can only be added to the EX-Luxury, is an additional $1,000.

The Sedona competes in a field that isn’t quite as crowded as it used to be, although there are still several worthy competitors. Only the base versions of the Dodge Grand Caravan, at $22,995, and the base front-wheel drive Toyota Sienna, at $27,900, undercut the least-expensive Sedona, and only the Grand Caravan, and its siblings Chrysler Town & Country and Volkswagen Routan, out-power it at 283 horses. (At the time of writing, pricing hadn’t been announced for the 2011 Nissan Quest.) The Dodge/Chrysler minivans are the only ones to offer fold-into-the-floor or swiveling second-row seats, and Toyota is the only one available with a four-cylinder engine or, with the V6, an all-wheel drive option – but all of the vans are similar in size and, depending on the trim lines, offer most of the expected features such as rear-seat entertainment systems and power-operated doors and liftgate. Missing from the list is the Sedona’s twin, the Hyundai Entourage, which is now sold only to fleets and is not available to consumers.

2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

While it’s hard to do anything too radical to a shoebox, the Sedona’s design is smooth and clean and the chrome-ringed grille, now the signature for Kia vehicles, suits it nicely. The 17-inch wheels, body-colour door handles and fog lights are part of the EX family of trim levels. The EX Power, one notch below my EX-Luxury, adds power-sliding doors, power liftgate, and power-adjustable pedals. While not absolutely necessary, those electric doors are very nice when running errands. When you open them with the key fob, young passengers can scramble in while you’re loading items into the cargo area, without having to put down your packages first to open the liftgate or, for smaller children, open the doors for them.

The Sedona’s engine feels wickedly strong. I’d just gotten out of a less-powerful vehicle and so gave the throttle some firm foot when the red light turned green. To my surprise, I got a burst of wheelspin before the traction control took over. The Sedona is so eager that it’s sometimes tough to accelerate moderately away from a stop, but on the other hand, its performance when loaded with passengers is quite satisfactory, and that is the idea of a minivan, after all. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and includes a manual mode on the gearshift lever. Such a program is often handy on lesser-powered vans for extra oomph when passing traffic or climbing hills, but the Sedona has more than enough when left in Drive. In this case, its use will mostly be for those who are trying to forget that they’re driving a minivan instead of a sports car.

The steering was lighter than I generally like, although my husband preferred it, since he frequently suffers pain in his shoulders and so doesn’t like too much steering effort. I expect the steering weight will also be popular with much of its target audience when spinning it around tight parking lots. Still, it’s a big van, and the back-up camera came in very handy during a jaunt to the mall at the height of the holiday season, a time when it seems like every person on the planet forgets the purpose of those parking-lot lines and it’s necessary to get creative when squeezing into the last spot. The exterior mirrors also tip down when the transmission is put into reverse, which also helps considerably for staying between the lines.

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