Kia Motors Corp. makes the best minivan for the money — better than the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country or the Dodge Caravan.
The rivals are all nice family haulers. But nice doesn’t cut it in the marketplace. Value does.
The 2006 Kia Sedona LX minivan offers the most value, which is not to be confused with the lowest price.
Low prices are meaningless for inferior products.
The Kia Sedona is first-class in all respects — quality of craftsmanship and engineering, quality of interior materials, highway performance and safety. I liked the Sedona LX so much, I didn’t want to return it to the manufacturer.
A minivan! I couldn’t believe it!
But after nearly 600 miles on the highways, byways and back roads of Virginia and West Virginia, I became a convert. The front-wheel-drive Sedona LX handled the heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains without hesitation. It was sure-footed in the curves and dips of the Shenandoah Valley, and it ran with unruffled confidence amidst the ruffian 18-wheelers roaring along Interstate 81 across the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
And it was peaceful — peaceful!
Minivans exist solely to haul families, friends and stuff. That is why most minivans, like the Sedona LX, have seating for seven people.
But people can be problematical. They have wants and needs that become demands and arguments on long road trips. It matters not that you love them, or that they love you. Uncomfortable passengers can turn a long drive into a journey to hell.
A comfortable passenger cabin — one that grants all aboard ample personal space and that treats their backs and bottoms kindly — is the best antidote to such misery. The Sedona LX has a passenger-pampering cabin, which is all the more remarkable because there is nothing fancy about it.
The standard seats are cloth-covered. But they are thoughtfully contoured, expertly upholstered. There is a smartly designed front tray that can hold a book or laptop — or serve as a small dinner table. Other storage nooks abound. There are 14 cupholders.
None of my three passengers complained on the Virginia-West Virginia run. There were no jibes about a ride too harsh, too soft or too bouncy. Two of them were so comfortable, they fell asleep. Peace reigned! Hallelujah!
Automotive journalists and self-described auto enthusiasts often speak of “fun to drive,” a phrase they reserve for anything that isn’t a minivan, a vehicle they regard as uncool, little more than a household appliance.
They do not understand the point of the journey, which is to move freely, swiftly when doing so is either necessary or desired, but always safely and comfortably — preferably at an affordable price. The Sedona LX embraces that understanding. In doing so, it makes so much of what is installed in rival minivans seem excessive.
Here is a minivan that comes with a gutsy 3.8-liter, 244-horsepower V-6 engine but that still gets 25 miles per gallon on the highway using regular unleaded fuel. It fits neatly into urban parking garages. It has top crash-safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It does anything anyone reasonably can expect a minivan to do, and it does it all for a base price starting under $23,000.
The Kia Sedona LX moves to the top of this column’s minivan list. It’s earned it.
Nuts & Bolts
2006 Kia Sedona LX Minivan
Complaints: None. This one is everything a minivan should be, including affordable.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories in city and highway traffic, whether unloaded (driver only, no cargo) or heavily loaded (driver and three passengers and an estimated 250 pounds of cargo).
Head-turning quotient: It’s a minivan. That means it gets as much attention as Hollywood gives to stable families.
Body style/layout: The Kia Sedona LX is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive minivan with four side doors (manually operated sliding rear doors) and a rear hatch. Automatically operated sliding rear doors are available. It also is sold with the upscale EX trim package.
Engine/transmission: The Sedona minivan comes with a standard 3.8-liter V-6 engine that develops 244 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 253 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually. The manual mode gives the driver better vehicle control on mountainous, curvy roads.
Capacities: It seats seven. Cargo capacity with second- and third-row seats down is 142 cubic feet. With seats up, it’s 32.2 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 21.1 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 25 miles per gallon in highway travel. And that included loaded and unloaded runs!
Safety: The Kia Sedona has top crash-safety ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No wonder. Standard equipment includes head airbags for all three rows, side air bags for front-seat passengers, traction and stability control, anti-whiplash head restraints, antilock brakes. Impressive.
Price: Base price on the 2006 Kia Sedona LX is $22,995. Dealer’s invoice price on base model is $21,700. Price as tested is $25,165, including $1,500 in options (rear entertainment audio-visual system, roof rails and cross bars) and a $670 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $23,680.
Purse strings: It’s a buy. Compare with any mid-sized minivan.