2004 Kia Sedona
2004 Kia Sedona. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

Like any new auto manufacturer, Kia started out small when it brought its first cars to North America and tempted us with cheap prices and long warranties. But an automaker can’t survive on a vehicle line-up consisting only of small cars (the Rio and the larger Sephia and Spectra) and a lacklustre compact SUV (the original Sportage). That’s probably one reason why Kia almost disappeared from this continent a few years ago, before Hyundai scooped Kia out of the deep end and breathed new life into the company, turning its former competitor – and the only other South Korean car maker left on this continent – into a second line of vehicles mostly based on Hyundai engineering.

While most of these new Kias were little more than restyled and re-badged Hyundais, the parent company decided used the Kia nameplate in 2002 to explore an automotive segment completely foreign for a Korean brand.

The 2002 Kia Sedona was the first minivan to come to Canada from South Korea. If going after the minivan market was new for Kia (and Hyundai), their approach was nothing if not familiar: build an unassuming-looking vehicle with plain looks sure to appeal to many buyers, and sell it at a price that undercuts the competition. Where have we heard that one before?

In 2002, the Sedona’s M.S.R.P. was $24,995, lower than that of every other minivan on the market by at least a few hundred dollars. In fact, the asking price for a top-of-the-line Sedona was cheaper than what Honda wanted for its base model Odyssey. So you get the point – the Sedona was cheap.

Size-wise, it slotted in nicely between the short- and long-wheelbase minivans: smaller than an Odyssey, larger than a Caravan, and about the same size as the previous generation Toyota Sienna. The Sedona featured lots of standard equipment including some items that were optional in competing vans. However, ABS was optional on the base model LX, and standard only on the uplevel EX, and side airbags and traction control were never offered.

The term ‘fully loaded’ applies here in more ways than one however, as the Sedona was no lightweight, tipping the scales at a hefty 2,136 kg. Compare that to the Odyssey’s 1,990 kg curb weight or the Grand Caravan’s 1,881 kg, both of which are larger. The similarly-sized Sienna weighed in a comparatively svelte 1,780 kg.

2004 Kia Sedona
2004 Kia Sedona. Click image to enlarge

All that weight put a lot of strain on the Sedona’s 3.5 litre V6, which valiantly pumped out 195 inertia-busting horsepower. But as you might guess, all that inertia busting took its toll on fuel economy: Early Sedonas were rated at 15.6 L/100 km (city) and 10.9 L/100 km (highway), but the numbers improved slightly to 14.8 L/100 km (city) and 9.6 L/100 km (highway) for 2005 models. Nevertheless, the Sedona drank more gasoline per kilometre than its competitors, some of which also had more power to boot.

But the news isn’t all bad. One benefit to that heavy curb weight showed up in the Sedona’s admirable performance in U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, where it earned five stars across the board: driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts, and front and rear seat occupant protection in side impacts.

Its competitive prices when new and steep depreciation have combined to make a used Sedona an attractive deal. A 2002 EX model that went for $27,595 back then is now worth $14,625 according to Canadian Red Book, 53 per cent of its original value. Even a 2005 Sedona with the EX Luxury package is worth $25,000 now, 79 per cent of its original sticker price of $31,695. Those prices are cheaper than those of other import minivans, notably the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

2004 Kia Sedona
2004 Kia Sedona. Click image to enlarge

The Sedona was subject to a few recalls (the details of which can be found at the end of this article) but seems to have benefited somewhat from the quality crusade that Hyundai embarked upon in the years previous to the Sedona’s 2002 introduction. While Consumer Reports states that the basics (including the drivetrain) are okay, it cites electrical system, power equipment and body integrity issues in 2002 Sedonas and as a result recommends against buying one built that year. The magazine gives 2003 models an “average” reliability ranking overall, but didn’t have enough data to accurately rate 2004 models.

For its first time venturing into the deep waters of the minivan market, Kia did an okay job with the Sedona, building a safe and fairly reliable vehicle whose main fault was a little too much heft to haul around. It didn’t set a new high water mark for minivan innovation, but its low resale values make it a hard-to-resist and prudent choice for someone wanting a used family hauler at a low price.

On-line resources

www.kia-forums.com – With about 6,200 members from around the world, this is one of the busiest Kia communities on the web. The forum does include a section for the Sedona, but a lot of the information deals with European and Asian models, which differ significantly from Canadian versions, so not all of the content will be useful to owners here. That said, many of the Sedona drivers on the site know a lot about these vans, so you should find some useful information here.

www.StreetKiaz.com – If you can get past the somewhat tacky layout and talk about body kits and nitrous oxide, you’ll find the Sedona lumped into a forum section along with the Sorento SUV. There is some Sedona information here, but the pickings are lean, with Kia’s smaller cars getting the most attention.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005043 Units affected: 2,976

2002: On certain vehicles, the throttle cable could move out of position during vehicle acceleration. This can permit the throttle cable to be hung-up, which could result in a crash. Correction: Dealers will install a cable guide clip on the throttle body.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003164 Units affected: 518

2003: On certain vehicles, there was a programming error in the ABS control module logic. This programming error could cause reduced braking force at speeds below 40 Km/h (25 mph), resulting in increased stopping distances and the possibility of accidents. Correction: Dealer will reprogram the ABS control module.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005165 Units affected: 11,638

2003-2005: On certain vehicles equipped with alloy wheels, moisture can enter the rear hub and cause damage to the wheel bearing. In certain conditions, this can result in wheel bearing failure, which could lead to a loss of vehicle control. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the hub assemblies.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003125 Units affected: 816

2002: On certain vehicles, some of the second and third row seat strikers installed on the vehicle floor pan have been improperly heat treated and could break in a crash. This could result in injuries to occupants of these seats. Correction: Dealer will replace the seat strikers.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003144 Units affected: 3,146

2002: On certain vehicles, the second and third row seat belt assemblies were secured with anchor bolts that do not comply with the strength requirements of CMVSS 209. In a severe impact, this could lead to anchor bolt breakage, resulting in failure of the seat belt assemblies to properly restrain passengers. Correction: Dealer will replace the seat belt anchor bolts.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005041 Units affected: 11,557

2002-2003: On certain vehicles, moisture can accumulate on the throttle cable. In freezing conditions, excessive moisture build-up can result in ice accumulation and resistance to movement. This can permit the throttle cable to be hung-up or to jump out of position, which could result in a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the throttle cable.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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