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Minivans? Kia’s got one, too, and the 2018 Sedona may be the bargain of the class

2018 Kia Sedona

2018 Kia Sedona

What changes will make the 2018 Kia Sedona different?

A new, more efficient transmission is the anticipated headline for Kia’s 2018 minivan. New color choices and higher asking prices will likely round out Sedona’s changes as Kia likely preps it for a midcycle update for model-year ’19. They’ll bring slight styling and feature revisions, with the next all-new Sedona due around model-year 2022.

Launched in the United States as a 2002 model, Sedona was redesigned for model-year ’06 and again for 2015. The most recent redesign sought to reverse its standing as a budget-friendly but somewhat-crude alternative to the likes of the far more popular Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna.

Indeed, today’s third-generation Sedona is a vast improvement over its predecessors, and while it sells better, it remains a bit player in this class. It ranks No. 5 of 6 minivans in sales, ahead of only the Nissan Quest and well behind the fourth-place Honda Odyssey. Moreover, minivan sales overall are down about 20 percent in the first quarter of 2017, as buyers flock to crossover SUVs. Nonetheless, automakers aren’t abandoning this practical, savvy family oriented audience, as evidenced by the model-year 2017 release of the all-new Chrysler Pacifica and the model-year ’18 unveiling of the redesigned Odyssey and revamped Sienna.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To experience Sedona with an eight-speed automatic transmission in place of the current model’s six-speed automatic. The new transmission should improve throttle response and fuel economy. Better mileage is especially important because Sedona is among the heaviest vehicles in the competitive set and has one of the lowest EPA ratings. On a cautionary note, if Kia freshens the 2019 Sedona’s styling, buying an ’18 could net you a minivan whose appearance has just one model year before potentially looking a bit dated next to the updated ‘19.

Expect the 2018 Sedona to carry over the 2017 lineup, beginning with the base L grade and climbing through LX, EX, and SX, to the top-line SXL trim. Seven- or eight-passenger seating would again be available, depending on model. And all will return with a V-6 engine and front-wheel drive.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

It’s worth considering. Sedona isn’t head and shoulders above the competition in any one area — nor is it demonstrably worse. It doesn’t have the forward-thinking style or flexible interior of the Pacifica. It lacks the sophisticated road manners of the Odyssey. And it doesn’t offer the all-weather security of all-wheel drive available exclusively on the Sienna.

Still, Sedona is pleasant to drive and comfortable in all three seating rows. It’s available with most features any minivan buyer could ask for. And it’s priced several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars less than comparably equipped rivals. Another plus is the excellent warranty coverage Kia shares with sibling brand, Hyundai: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10/100,000 powertrain.

If you like the Sedona, buying a ’17 instead of an ’18 will help you avoid almost-certain model-year price inflation. Even so, while Sedona is priced below the competition, Kia’s incentives tend to be less generous, even during model-year closeout season. Cut-rate financing and/or small cash rebates will be available but probably not to the extent that you’d find them on a Pacifica or a Sienna.

Will the styling be different?

Very unlikely, given a probable model-year ’19 facelift that would update details without altering Sedona’s basic shape or dimensions. The ’18 will continue with the look that came on line with the model-year 2015 redesign. It’s handsome enough, with its own version of Kia’s signature “tiger nose grille” and a slight kick up in the beltline that lends some character to the rear haunches. Smack-dab in the middle of the segment size-wise, Sedona cuts a safe profile – not groundbreaking but hardly offensive.

Expect exterior appearance differences among the ’18 Sedona models to again include exterior LED accent lighting and chrome side-window surrounds on the EX grade and above. Look for the SXL to continue with exclusive chrome door handles and chrome lower-side-sill trim. Xenon headlamps should remain standard on SXL and optional on SX. All ’18 Sedonas will again have alloy wheels of individual appearance and size: 17-inch diameter on L and LX, 18 on EX and SX, and 19 on SXL.

A highlight will remain the clean and contemporary cabin design with its well-thought-out control scheme. Gauges are large and easy to read and most buttons, knobs, and dials fall easily to hand. Kia’s available UVO infotainment system is among the more user-friendly, aided by support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, which was added for model-year 2017. Opting for one of the upper-end trim levels opens access to high-end features, such as heated second-row seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Most occupants will feel comfortable in the Sedona’s cabin. The L model should return as a seven-seater only, with eight-passenger seating via a second-row bench again optional on the SE and standard on the other models. Sedona lacks the flexibility of Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go fold-into-the-floor second-row seating system. However, the bottom cushion on the second row can pivot up, while the split seats can slide forward to increase cargo capacity or ease access to the aft-most seating positions. And the SXL is available with plush, second-row reclining lounge-type captain’s chairs. On all, the third-row bench folds into the cargo floor, complementing cargo volume that’s among the most generous in the segment.

Any mechanical changes?

In the only significant model-year 2018 change, Kia is expected to fit Sedona with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This would replace the six-speed and would be intended to improve the responsiveness of Sedona’s sole engine, a 3.3-liter V-6. Its 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque is at the lower end of the class, and Sedona is among the heaviest minvians, so even with the upgraded transmission you won’t be winning many stoplight grands prix. But the new tranny should at least have the ’18 Sedona feeling livelier from a stop and quicker to downshift for highway passing and merging.

Kia would do well to tighten up Sedona’s suspension, as well. Today’s version lacks the sloppy ride motions and leaden handling that plagued its predecessors. But there’s still a fair amount of body lean, even at moderate cornering speeds. The steering also lacks the precise feel you get from a Pacifica or Odyssey. We don’t think these deficiencies will matter too much to buyers, though. Ride quality is good, the cabin is tranquil and comfortable, and a solid range of safety and convenience features (see below).

Will fuel economy improve?

Perhaps slightly, if Sedona gets the eight-speed transmission. It could use help. EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2017 edition aren’t stellar.

The L, LX, and EX models rate 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The SX rates 18/25/21 mpg, despite weighing 14-106 pounds more than the L, LX, or EX, depending on equipment. The SXL is the heaviest and rates 17/22/19 mpg. By comparison, the ’17 Pacifica rates 19/28/22 mpg, when equipped with its optional engine stop/start, a system Kia doesn’t offer. The eight-speed transmission could raise the ’18 Sedona’s EPA ratings by 1-2 mpg across the board. All models would continue to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.

Will it have new features?

Don’t count on it, given the safety and connectivity features introduced for model-year ‘17. Most prominently, autonomous emergency braking was made available for the first time. It can stop the minivan automatically to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle.

Credit Kia for making this important driver aid standard on the SXL and available on all models but the base L model. On the LX, EX, and SX, it’s included in options groups that also bring forward-collision and lane-departure warning, radar-based adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, and blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection. Lane-maintaining automatic steering isn’t available.

For 2017, Sedonas with autonomous braking and the other driver assists received the coveted Top Safety Pick+ classification from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Pacifica was the only other 2017 minivan that was a Top Safety Pick+, although the updated Sienna and certain versions of the redesigned Odyssey are likely to join the club for 2018.

Equipped to suit car-rental fleets, the L model will again be fairly spartan. It does come with Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, and a 5-inch touchscreen for the radio display. No factory options aside from paint color are offered.

Most folks would be better served starting their 2018 Sedona experience with the LX model. It’ll again add power-folding exterior mirrors and a power driver’s seat. Otherwise, it has the same basic level of equipment as the L but getting the LX will again open access to a couple factory option packages that include some desirable extras.

The EX should remain the ’18 Sedona’s volume leader. It comes very well equipped. Among standard features expected to return are fog lights; additional USB charging ports; keyless entry with pushbutton engine start; UVO infotainment system with CarPlay, Android Auto, and 7-inch touchscreen; rear-obstacle detection; leather upholstery with heated front seats; side window sunshades for the second- and third-row seating areas; and a utility flashlight in the cargo area.

The updated UVO infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto support is likely to remain optional on the LX model and standard on the EX and above. This allows you to display your smartphone map apps on the dashboard screen. But for GPS mapping where there’s no cell signal, you’ll need the imbedded navigation system that’s exclusive to the SX and SXL; it comes with an 8-inch touchscreen.

Besides imbedded navigation, expect the ’18 Sedona SX model to include as standard blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection; driver-seat memory; power front-passenger seat; ventilated front seats; and heated second-row seats. The ’18 SXL will again include all this, plus a heated steering wheel, surround-view camera system, and chrome wheels.

How will 2018 prices be different?

Base prices will probably go up a bit. Blame the costlier eight-speed automatic transmission, as well as year-over-year inflation. Estimated base prices in this report include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $950 on the 2017 Sedona.

The 2018 Kia Sedona L will probably start around $28,000. Estimated base price is around $30,000 for the LX and $34,500 for the EX, and for that estimated $4,500 jump, you’d get lots more standard equipment. The ’18 Sedona SX would be priced from an estimated $38,000, the SXL from around $43,000.

Expect major options packages to return with little-altered content and price. For the LX, the Essentials Premium Package ($2,400) would again include leather upholstery, heated front seats, front- and rear-obstacle detection, pushbutton start, rear-window sunshades for the second and third rows, and UVO with CarPlay and Android Auto.

Ordering an LX with the Essentials Premium Package would again open access to the safety-heavy Advanced Technology Package ($1,900). It would again include forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, heated outside mirrors, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning.

For the EX, the Advanced Premium Technology Package ($2,800) would again include the same driver aids as the LX’s Advanced Tech package, plus heated second-row seats, driver-seat memory, and a power passenger seat.

SX buyers could again select the Advanced Touring Package ($3,900). It would include the aforementioned driver assists, plus a useful automatic load-leveling suspension, additional sound deadening, a 110-volt power inverter in the cargo area, a surround-view camera, and a heated steering wheel. The package should also return xenon headlights and Kia’s Dynamic Light Bending, which automatically adjusts the headlights to help illuminate upcoming corners.

For the ’18 SXL, the Prestige Package ($1,000) should be back with dual power sunroofs, Nappa leather upholstery, and the second-row lounge captain’s chairs. Similar to those available in the Sienna, these seats have a built-in leg rest, 11 inches of fore/aft travel, and 3.3 inches of side-to-side travel. Note that ordering this package deletes the second-row heated seats and the ability to flip and slide them to increase cargo volume.

At what will likely be about $38,000, a Sedona EX with Advanced Premium Technology Package is probably the best value in the lineup, though don’t discount the SX and SXL. They offer a high level of luxury content at a price that can be thousands less than the top-end versions of the Odyssey and Sienna.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Kia Sedona will be in fall 2017.

Best competitors

Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

Adding the eight-speed automatic transmission would be a good start. Sedona could also stand to lose a couple hundred pounds, which would make it feel quicker and nimbler, while improving fuel economy. We’re glad Kia offers the latest driver-assistance features on almost all trim levels, but they ought to be standard on more than just the top-line SXL.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]