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2015 Kia Sedona SX Limited

Kia

Its sales having plunged in the 12 years since Sedona first landed in North America, Kia instructed Peter Schreyer, the former Audi automotive designer, to execute an inspired makeover. He introduced features that are more characteristic of a soccer mom's favourite vehicle, the SUV. The goal? Make the minivan cool again.

The brand's honeycomb grill is finished in satin metal and flanked by headlamps that squint at you like a pair of lion's eyes. The flattened hood resembles the crossover utility style, similar to the maker's Sportage. The window line, accented by a chrome strip, slopes down toward the back to provide a sleek – opposed to boxy – appearance and a muscular rear spoiler complements the rear window. Inside, a centre console accommodates the gearshift in SUV-like fashion, adding storage and the advantage of blocking tykes from sliding through the opening to sit on mom's lap.

For all us cable-TV customers barred from choosing the channels we actually want to watch, here is an automotive antidote to address the frustration. Kia offers seven different packages, or trims, allowing customers to pick and choose. For instance, the base L model includes air, keyless entry, power windows/locks and cruise control. The SX features an eight-speaker Infinity auto system, a 110-volt outlet, LED taillights, a power liftgate and memory settings for seats and mirrors. Bump up to SX Limited and you get 19-inch wheels, household electric outlets, Nappa leather seating with decorative cross-stitching, a console in the second row, projection fog lights, parking sensors and more. The second-row captain's chairs fold back and a La-Z-Boy-ish leg rest pops up, so the kids are sitting in first-class … flying overseas … spoiled.

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Safety being of highest priority to minivan buyers, the Korean auto maker has constructed 76 per cent of the body with high-grade steel from its own mill. Torsion is stiffened, and on Southern California freeways the steering seemed responsive, feeling more like driving a car than piloting a yacht on English Bay. In the class, its 276-horsepower engine is more powerful than all but Chrysler's Town & Country (283 hp). We heard occasional light whistling at speeds more than 100 km/h; otherwise, the ride was quiet and smooth. Downside: It is not available in all-wheel drive, leaving Toyota as the only auto maker offering an AWD minivan.

Kia labels the remodelled Sedona a Multi-Purpose Vehicle in a futile attempt to dodge the minivan stigma.

However, parents accepting all that comes with parenthood should feel their image is safe while they're hauling the kids to the hockey rink, ski hill or a birthday party in the new-look Sedona – even when the other parents ask about their new "minivan."

You'll like this car if ... You secretley desire a minivan but wonldn't dare make the move on frumpier-styled competitors.

TECH SPECS

  • Base price: $27,495; as-tested: $45,995
  • Engine: 3.3-litre V-6
  • Drive: Six-speed automatic
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.2 city/9.7 highway base model, 14.2/10.3 with SXL
  • Alternatives: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest

RATINGS

  • Looks: Trends more toward SUV than traditional minivan with aggressive mesh grille, muscular front, high window line, optional 18- and 19-inch wheels, higher ground clearance, shifter between the front seats.
  • Interior: Available heated and ventilated front seats (Nappa leather in the more expensive trim), leg rests in the second row, 12 cup holders, eight-inch display screen. The centre console has storage space and allowed Kia to enlarge the dashboard screen.
  • Technology: Canadian version is minus sophisticated telematics.
  • Performance: Quiet, responsive, surprising feel with the electronic steering, anti-lock braking, cornering brake control, stability control, traction control, hill assist and roll-over prevention.
  • Cargo: Not much room for the hockey bags when eight people are along for the ride, but flipping down the third-row seat more than doubles the space to 78 cubic feet while accommodating five passengers. In most trims, the second-row seats collapse, bringing cargo to 142 cubic feet or the same size as the smallest enclosed U-Haul trailer.

The Verdict

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8.0

Distinguished look and feel versus a traditional minivan.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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