Context required
THE GOOD
  • Cost-effective feature packaging
  • Handles respectably well
  • Power is acceptable
THE BAD
  • No AWD
  • Not especially fuel-efficient
  • Poor driver ergonomics

Pull up a chair, and let’s have a chat about the minivan segment because it looks nothing like it did even just a year ago.

Suddenly, there are multiple competitors to this 2021 Kia Sedona that offer all-wheel drive, fuel-saving hybrid technology, and snazzy features. Does that mean there’s no place for the more-traditional Sedona? If you look at it by comparing this loaded SX Tech to the top trims elsewhere, you’d dismiss it pretty quickly. But there’s one important detail in play: the most expensive model here is closer to its competitors’ mid-trim pricing, making this a much different discussion.

Styling: 7/10

The Sedona remains one of the better-looking minivans around, as far as I’m concerned. But while most manufacturers that still build minivans have integrated the channel for the rear sliding doors into the rear-most window surrounds, the Sedona’s still sit conspicuously below the shoulder line. It’s a design element that’s present in the renderings that have been released for the forthcoming next-generation model, which is a shame because it’s a detail that makes a van look somewhat dated. Otherwise, the tiger-nose grille and clean, symmetrical lines make the Sedona into a better-looking vehicle than a rolling box ought to be.

Safety: 7/10

The 2021 Sedona doesn’t get an especially glowing appraisal from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it’s not only due to the headlight rating it received: it also received an “Acceptable” rating in the passenger-side small front overlap test. The IIHS requires every test to return a “Good” rating to give a vehicle a Top Safety Pick designation, which the Sedona doesn’t achieve.

However, if you’re spending at the SX Tech level, the suite of safety technologies offered is quite good: driver attention warning, blind-spot detection, forward collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality are equipped. It’s important to note, though, that several of these features are available with competitors at lower price points.

Features: 7/10

For the price, the SX Tech’s feature set is decent. It includes an upgraded audio system, leather upholstery, heated front and second-row outboard seats and a heated steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, a third-row USB port, and a wireless phone charger (which is offered in all trims but the base, a nice value-add). However, some of the cooler features offered in competitors such as stowing second-row seats, kick-activated doors, entertainment systems, ventilated front seats, or on-board vacuums are not available.

User Friendliness: 7/10

An eight-inch infotainment system comes with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and on-board navigation in the SX Tech grade, and it’s generally well-functioning and thoughtfully laid out. However, the position of the screen relative to the driver means that my short arms couldn’t reach many of the important buttons and dials without a significant stretch. The second-row seats fold nicely out of the way to offer a good amount of access to the third row, and if captain’s chairs aren’t an option then it’s nice that the middle position has an armrest with solid cupholders that are properly usable by younger kids. But in this test unit at least, the third-row seats don’t sit especially firmly in their floor brackets, meaning the seatbacks allow more movement than they should.

Practicality: 8/10

It would take something pretty egregious for a minivan to score poorly in practicality. With 960 L of cargo space behind the third row, 2,220 L behind the second, and 4,022 L behind the first, the ability to haul just about anything one would reasonably expect is only hindered by the second-row seats that don’t fold flat enough to securely hold objects on top and need to be removed to make use of the full rearward space. Three LATCH-ready seating positions are available: two are in the second row, while a third is placed in the right-most seat in the third row, which is decently spacious for head- and legroom though slightly less so than its newer competitors.

Comfort: 7/10

The SX Tech grade comes with heated front- and second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. There are no ventilated seats, but that’s reasonable for this price. The leather upholstery is comfortable and visually interesting with layers of colour. The ride is stiff enough to leave some room for improvement, though.

Power: 7/10

The Sedona’s 3.3L V6, generating 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 5,200 rpm, provides an adequate amount of output for most drivers’ needs. Is it especially exciting? No, but if you’re shopping in this segment I can’t imagine you’re deeply concerned about such matters. The eight-speed automatic transmission climbs through gears smoothly and downshifts predictably enough to get highway passes done confidently. Its towing capacity of 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) is typical for the segment.

Driving Feel: 7/10

The Sedona drives as expected for a minivan, and perhaps even slightly better as body roll isn’t as pronounced as it is in some models over the years, though newer entrants perform better still. But it would cost more to get those models into the feature content found in the Sedona, so it’s a matter of striking the balance of what’s important to each individual shopper. More importantly, all-wheel drive is not available on the Sedona, which means it might not be considered a comparable SUV substitute.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The fuel consumption figures tell a similar story: at a Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) rating of 12.7 L/100 km in city driving, 10.0 on the highway, and 11.5 combined – and my own observed rating in a city-heavy week landing at 12.2 L/100 km – the Sedona would have been considered an average performer. But then the new Toyota Sienna came along with a standard hybrid powertrain and fuel consumption averages deep into the single digits. But Sienna pricing starts not too far below where Sedona pricing ends, so this is another factor that demands buyers set their priorities.

Value: 7/10

While the Sedona is commendable for offering desirable features at accessible price points, it’s surpassed by competitors in powertrain and fuel efficiency. It will be interesting to see what comes with the next generation that’s due for 2022.

The Verdict

Overall, the 2021 Kia Sedona is best thought of as a cost-effective people-mover, with pricing and packaging that falls roughly in between what’s offered from the Chrysler Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Pacifica and toward the low end of the Toyota Sienna’s model range. There’s a small subset of buyers who will find a good value balance in the Sedona, particularly the SX Tech trim’s attractive styling and well-priced feature set. But it seems people don’t mind spending on their vehicles these days – given the ever-increasing average selling price of new vehicles that now exceeds $40,000 – and shoppers will find more pizzazz, better fuel efficiency, or improved practicality elsewhere in the segment.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.3L   Model Tested 2021 Kia Sedona SX Tech
Engine Cylinders V6   Base Price $42,795
Peak Horsepower 276 hp @ 6,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 248 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm   Destination Fee $1,795
Fuel Economy 12.7 / 10.0 / 11.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $44,940
Cargo Space 960 / 2,220 / 4,022 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row  
Optional Equipment
$250 – Colour charge, $250