How Soon Is Next Time? The 2016 Kia Sedona SXL

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Kia Sedona
The 2016 Kia Sedona.
There is very little to feel sorry about for Kia these days.  The onetime punchline of a car company has made enormous strides in the past seven or eight years, to the point where their products are now legitimate competitors to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda.  Here in California, there is no stigma to owning one of these South Korean machines.  They seem as thick on the ground as their more established Japanese competitors.

But there's one place where Kia hasn't brought its "A" game.  And that's the Sedona minivan.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Kia Sedona
2016 Kia Sedona.
And it has always, sadly, been thus.  Kia's previous Sedona minivan was so far behind the pack that they pulled it from the American market and went vanless for 2013 and 2014.  When Kia unveiled the all-new Sedona for 2015, they were like proud parents.  But the (shrinking) minivan-buying public is telling them their baby's ugly.  Oh, not in literal terms.  The Sedona's styling is sleek and handsome as minivans go  (the nose is a bit puggish, but...).  They're simply awarding first, second, third...and even fourth prize in the eight-passenger beauty pageant to other minivans.

Who's number one?  The Toyota Sienna, which moved 137, 497 copies from dealer lots to suburban driveways in calendar 2015.  Second is the Honda Odyssey (127,736 sold).  Third and fourth are the Dodge Grand Caravan (97,141) and Chrysler Town and Country (93,848), which, since they're the same minivan with different badging and trim, could probably be combined for 190,989 sales and would then be in first place. That would bump the Kia Sedona up to fourth place from fifth, with 2015 sales of...

36,755.  Ouch.  The only minivans that people buy less often than Sedonas are the Nissan Quest (an acquired taste that only 11,018 people acquired last year) and the Mazda 5 (8,609 sold), which Mazda discontinued at the end of the 2015 model year.

Interior view of 2016 Kia Sedona
2016 Kia Sedona interior.
So what's wrong?  It's certainly not the creature comforts afforded the occupants of the front two seats of the new Sedona...especially in top-of-the-line SXL trim like our tester, which for a base price of $39,900 makes tri-zone automatic climate control, an Infinity surround-sound audio system with SiriusXM Satellite Radio and HD Radio as well as premium navigation, a rearview camera, Nappa leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seating (memory for the driver), pushbutton start, a heated leather-wrapped woodgrain-style steering wheel, blind spot detection, parking assist, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and dual sunroofs standard equipment.

No, most of the problem comes with the back seats.  Oh, it's first-class lounge seating (Kia's description) in the second row and a perfectly comfortable third row and one of the two sunroofs is theirs, but...

Let's answer one simple question:  Why do most people buy minivans?

Answer:  Because they have kids.

And what do most people want their kids to do on long roadtrips?

Answer:  Shut up and stop driving Mom and Dad crazy.

Etch-A-Sketch, Highway Bingo and Wooly Willy don't cut it with today's youngsters.  No, nothing works like the raw, hypnotic power of video. Whether it's Teletubbies or Deadpool (please be responsible parents and make age-appropriate viewing choices), there's no substitute for a couple of Blu-Ray-fed widescreen HD monitors that fold down from the headliner and keep the kids in a video coma for the drive to the mountains, the beach, Grandma's or wherever.  Which is why Kia is in such big trouble.  Because they have a rear-seat entertainment system for the Sedona, too.  It costs $1,095 and this is it:

Rear-seat entertainment system for 2016 Kia Sedona
2016 Kia Sedona reat-seat enterainment system
If you're thinking it looks like something from Best Buy in 2008, you're right.  If you think I'm being harsh, show it to your kids and tell them you're buying this instead of the minivan with the HD widescreen. Have the swear jar nearby and open.  Even if they are still in preschool. Tell them that Kia's actually charging $100 more for this than they did last year and you could fill that empty mayonnaise jar with quarters in an afternoon.

In addition to the rear-seat entertainment system, our tester had the SXL Technology Package (Xenon HID headlights with high-beam assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, a surround-view monitor, smart cruise control, chrome side sill trim and a power outlet in the wayback) for $2,800.  With $895 inland freight and handling, the Sedona rang in at $44,690.  That's a chunk of change for any minivan.  Factor in that at an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon city/22 mpg highway, the Sedona gets worse gas mileage than the Toyota Sienna (18/25) or the Honda Odyssey (19/28) and that , comparably equipped, you can have a top-of-the line Odyssey Touring Elite for a couple hundred bucks more (as well as the priceless rear seat video coma) and the sales pitch for a Sedona becomes very labored.

Given Kia's quantum leaps in design and quality, which have them now in most segments with fully competitive vehicles that have an edge in features, fuel economy and price, you'd expect they'd make the most of a clean sheet when it came to designing a minivan.  You can bet that they won't make the same mistake with the next-generation Sedona...but barring an emergency refresh of this one, that's likely to be at least three years away.