Unassuming comfort. Some drivers don’t want their minivan to be conspicuous, and the 2019 Kia Sedona is here for those drivers. It’s quietly capable, without all the glitz of rivals like the Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica.
Despite the understated exterior, it’s a comfortable way to get around. It can haul seven or eight passengers in relative comfort, and although 2018’s lovely second-row lounge chairs are gone, the seating remains supportive and spacious. The interior’s nothing to write home about, but upper trims offer leather and two-tone upholstery at decent prices.
The ride is another highlight. On its base 17-inch alloy rims, the Sedona absorbs any bumps the road can throw its way. Paired with good sound deadening, it’s a serene ride.
Competence with compromises. The engine is equally competent, with 276 horsepower coming from Kia’s 3.3-liter V6. We like the eight-speed automatic transmission, and the power is enough in nearly all situations.
But the Sedona’s drive doesn’t score on all fronts. The soft ride makes for lots of lean in the corners, and the handling doesn’t reward enthusiasm. Minivans don’t need to be corner-carving machines, but polished competitors like the Odyssey and Pacifica make a more intuitive drive without harming ride quality.
The story gets worse for the Sedona in the efficiency department. The Sedona manages just 18 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway, and 21 combined, according to the EPA. Both the Pacifica and the Odyssey get 19/28/22 mpg (city/highway/combined), which makes for thriftier road trips. Chrysler even offers a Pacifica Hybrid for the truly eco-minded.
Cargo minus versatility. The Sedona scores a qualified win in the cargo department. Behind the rear seats is 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space, which is strong for the class and beats out most rivals. Fold the third row and that number jumps to 78.4 cubes, or a voluminous 142 cubic feet with all seats down or removed.
But while the third row folds neatly into the floor, we wish the second row could do the same. The Pacifica’s second row fits straight into the floor, but the Sedona’s can only by folded and tilted forward. The end result is a cargo bay that’s a touch less versatile, unless you have the garage space to remove the second row entirely.
The safety dilemma. The Sedona starts with a good safety foundation, boasting generally strong crash-test scores from both the IIHS and NHTSA.
But active safety tech is spreading throughout the industry, and Kia isn’t on the leading edge. No active safety features are available until the penultimate EX trim, which gains standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are bundled into a $4,800 package on the EX, though they're standard on the range-topping SX trim.
One way or another, that means paying around $40,000 to get a Sedona with automatic emergency braking. That’s a steep price to pay, given that Honda and Chrysler make their active safety features available at far cheaper price points.
Final thoughts. On the whole, the 2019 Kia Sedona puts together a capable and comfortable package. The soft ride complements the confident powertrain, and the interior has enough space for the whole family. For minivan duties, it’s a solid bet.
But with such polished competition, solid may not be good enough. The Sedona isn’t as sharp as rivals in the handling department, nor is it as efficient on the highway. Maybe most importantly of all, it restricts the best safety features to costly packages and more expensive trims.
This may seem like a minor quibble, but in a vehicle that’s designed to carry the most precious cargo of all, safety ought to be a top priority. Along with the Sedona’s other minor compromises, it’s enough for us to say that families ought to look elsewhere first.