The Comeback Kid: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Kia Sedona SXL
The 2015 Kia Sedona SXL.
Ford and General Motors got out of the minivan game a few years back, never to return...conceding defeat to the Chrysler Town and Country, the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

Kia's Sedona sat out the 2013 and 2014 model years, but it's back for 2015.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Kia Sedona SXL
2015 Kia Sedona SXL.
If you want to know just how big a leap forward, the 2015 Kia Sedona is, click here to see what the last generation looked like. The 2009 Sedona was identical to the 2012 that ended production. It looks like a relic from another age, and was simply not competitive with what else was on the market, gaining whatever sales it did purely on price.

From the outside, the '15 Sedona looks like it's ready to go toe-to-toe with the Sienna and Odyssey, possessed of modern styling, an area in which Kia has excelled in the years they've been out of the minivan business.

It still has a price advantage, but a much smaller one.  The top-of-the-line SXL is about 2 grand below the Sienna Limited and five grand less than the Odyssey Touring Elite.  But both of the Japanese minivans are outfitted with literally everything under the sun at those prices, from rear-seat entertainment (both) to an intercom system for Mom and Dad to communicate with the rear seat (Sienna) and a built-in vacuum cleaner (Odyssey).

The Sedona?  Um...no. The most basic feature of a minivan, the rear-seat entertainment system to keep the kids either amused or in a video coma (either's fine on a long roadtrip for most parental units), is a $995 extra-cost option in the Sedona, and is a small, flip-up screen unit mounted on the backside of the front console, down low and out of the view of anyone in row three. It looks for all the world like an aftermarket unit from Best Buy, except that these days, even those mount on the ceiling so everyone in the back rows can watch and they cost a fraction of what Kia's charging for theirs.

A sure sign that Kia knows how far behind they are there?  Our otherwise loaded tester didn't have that option.

Interior view of 2015 Kia Sedona
2015 Kia Sedona SXL interior.
Otherwise, your $39,700 buys you an attractive cabin, 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, a plethora of airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, a tri-zone climate control system, a surround-sound audio system, navigation and backup camera, Nappa leather seat trim, fold-flat third-row seats, a power tailgate, fog lamps and dual sunroofs.

Fold-flat third row seating in 2015 Kia Sedona
2015 Kia Sedona SXL with fold-flat third-row seating.
The fold-flat third row is nothing to take lightly, by the way, creating an impressive cargo area, especially with the second-row seats and console slid forward and folded.

Our tester had one option package, the SXL Technology Package.  That's Xenon HID headlights, lane depature warning, forward collision warning, a surround view monitor and smart cruise control ($2,700).

Bottom line, with $895 inland freight and handling, $43,295.

But the drawbacks are considerable.  The competition is better-equipped at their highest trim levels. Despite having ballpark displacement and power from its 3.3-liter V6, the Sedona's 17 city/22 highway is not as good as the Sienna's 18/25 and considerably behind the Odyssey's 19/28.

And the Sedona's price advantage shrinks when you consider as-tested prices.  That five-grand difference between the Sedona SXL's base price and the Odyssey Touring Elite's base shrinks to $1,200 as-tested. Pop for the rear-seat entertainment in the Sedona and you're within $300 with an inferior, less useful entertainment system.  You can option a Sienna so it's a bit more expensive, but not so that the Sedona wins on value.

Regular TireKicker readers know that there are Kia products that we're big fans of.  The 2015 Kia Sedona needs a rush makeover to become one of them.