The mainly mechanical updating of Kia's Sedona minivan for 2011 has created a vehicle that's more than a little contradictory.
This seven-passenger, and really anything but "mini" van, is still a pachyderm of a thing that corners like it has a howdah strapped to its roof rails. But it's now powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 that revs with a race-engine snarl to almost 7,000 rpm and is equipped with a new six-shooter automatic that snaps off trigger-quick shifts which punctuate surprisingly rapidly accrued progress.
This "new" motor - it's actually a variant of the inhouse-designed Lambda family - makes 271 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, which is a bit more of the former and less of the latter than the previous 3.8-litre version.
The new six-speed automatic (replacing a five-speed) makes the most of this to urge the Sedona's 2,087-kilograms of mass into motion with surprising vigour from rest and deliver prompt response to prods on the pedal in traffic or for passing or merging. Even the most lead-footed soccer mom won't find anything to complain about with the Sedona's performance.
And an added bonus is improved around-town fuel economy, which is now rated at 11.5 litres/100 km versus the old 3.8-litre unit's 12.6. The highway rating remains the same at 8.5.
This second-generation Sedona was introduced as a 2006, which is a while ago in product cycle terms, but the major mechanical alterations just outlined aside, little else of significance was included in the 2011 alteration program.
Visually there's a new chrome "tiger-grille" in the nose and new taillights where you'd expect to find them, plus turn signal repeaters in the side mirrors and some tweaks to the standard equipment list, including the addition of Bluetooth.
Kia sells the Sedona in LX versions starting at $27,995 (with a convenience package that ups this to $29,995) and an EX with a starting price of $34,195 that various packages can pump up to the $40,995 for the full luxury kit plus navigation. The test Sedona was tricked out with everything but the navi system and listed at $39,999.
As the owner of a low-rent version of one of the Sedona's competitors, a Dodge Caravan - purchased exclusively for its utility, okay and price - driving the extravagantly equipped EX made me wish I wasn't so cheap.
It's nice to remotely click the locks, slide onto a bumphy-comfy, heated, power-adjustable, leather-covered seat, grip a leather-wrapped wheel, adjust power pedals, set the automatic climate control and the audio system, communicate via Bluetooth, let some fresh air and light in through the sunroof, watch a camera image of what you're about to back over in the rear-view mirror, check out the compass heading you're on and the info on the trip computer, fire up the DVD entertainment system and let people in and out through the side sliders, or open the rear hatch at the touch of a button. Amazing how quickly we adapt to and get used to things like this.
Interior materials look a little plainer than all this luxury stuff might suggest but are of decent quality. Controls all work with a nice touch except the gearshift lever that protrudes from the dash, which feels clunky. Some vibration finds its way through the steering wheel, perhaps from snow tires, which also may have contributed to a low, but noticeable, noise level at cruising speed.
Seven people can be accommodated in the big tin box that is the Sedona, but the final two had probably better be kids. Behind them, you can stash 912 litres of whatever you like, but if you stow those seats, cargo capability rises to 2,268 litres, and if you removed the centre seats you'd have created a 4,007-litre mobile freight container.
Handling was mentioned in a rather un-flattering way up top, but in reality it's no worse (or better) than its rivals in a class of vehicle nobody expects to be particularly fun. Best to be said? It's not a chore to drive, reacting as you'd expect it to and stopping about the same way. It's also a fine straight-line highway cruiser. And, as noted, its abundant power is always welcome.
2011 Kia Sedona EX Luxury
Base Price: $39,999; as tested, $41,895
Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 271 hp/248 lb-ft
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.5 city/8.0 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan