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Kia makes a minivan? You may be further surprised the 2019 Sedona is set for an update

2019 Kia Sedona

2019 Kia Sedona

What changes will make it different?

Quite a few, if recently leaked spy photography is to be believed. Kia seems poised to give its minivan a thorough freshening for model-year 2019 to stay competitive with the likes of the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna.

Likely to involve mainly styling updates, the freshening would be Sedona’s biggest change since it was last redesigned for model-year 2015. The South Korean automaker evidently has faith in the viability of its minivan, despite a worrying 46-percent drop in sales for 2017. Indeed, Sedona was outsold by each of its rivals 4-1.

The entire minivan segment continues to fall from favor with buyers. Sienna and Odyssey have suffered significant sales declines, despite the Honda being fully redesigned for model-year 2018 and the Toyota getting a refresh. Nissan bowed out of the game entirely by discontinuing the Quest. Only the Pacifica has seen sales growth, although the segment leader was the budget-priced Dodge Grand Caravan, a holdover last updated for 2011 that’s being sold alongside the newer, costlier Pacifica.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

To see just how much Kia changes it. The biggest update will likely be to exterior and interior styling. The basic shape, structure and probably the engine will carry over, although a new, more efficient automatic transmission may be in the cards. That could improve fuel economy, a worthy goal since Sedona is among the heaviest minivans, a porky problem that also hinders acceleration.

Expect the 2019 lineup to reprise the 2018 roster, although you can also anticipate some price increase across the board. Look for the lineup to again start with the rental-fleet-special L model and continue through the slightly better equipped LX, the volume-selling EX, the luxury-themed SX, and the flagship SX-L. All will continue with a V-6 engine and front-wheel drive, leaving available all-wheel drive exclusive in this class to the Sienna. The 2019 Sedona will again seat seven or eight passengers, depending on model selection.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Consider it, if you can get a good deal. Inventories are swollen and factory incentives are generous. Discounts should get juicier still as the 2018 model year winds down and dealers launch clearance sales ahead of the refreshed 2019s.

The ‘18 Sedona can’t match Pacifica’s blend of cargo flexibility, style, and refinement. It lacks the Odyssey’s engaging driving experience and falls short of the Sienna for comfort and available all-wheel drive. On the upside, the Sedona has no deal-breaking issues. It’s reasonably priced, covered by Kia’s excellent factory warranty, and the brand has made great strides in quality and dependability surveys.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, though precisely how only Kia knows. Spy photography of heavily disguised prototypes suggest the front end will exchange its smooth curves for sharper angles. It’s reminiscent of the design direction Audi has taken with its most recent vehicles, which we suppose is no surprise given that Kia’s chief stylist used to work for that German luxury brand. From the windshield back, don’t expect the ’19 Sedona to look radically different. The rear lamps and bumper will probably be tweaked. Exterior lighting, at least on upper-level trims, will likely switch to LED from xenon.

Sedona’s current instrument and control setup is simple and convenient, but expect Kia to thoroughly revise it for 2019. Instead housing the speedometer and tachometer in individual pods, they’ll be fully integrated into a single binnacle and be separated by a large central multi-information display. Anticipate updated infotainment with a larger dashboard touchscreen flanked by physical controls, as in Kia’s subcompact Soul hatchback. Sedona’s climate controls will likely be directly beneath, in a condensed layout easily accessible to driver and front passenger. Look for Kia to retain a nice feature in Sedona’s dual gloveboxes, with a cooled function optional on the LX and standard on EX models and above.

Seating should remain comfortable for adults and children alike. Expect most models to retain eight-passenger capacity via three-person second- and third-row bench seats. The “First-Class Lounge Seating” option should return for the SX-L. This consists of second-row captain’s chairs that recline and feature an integrated footrest. They also slide laterally to further separate their occupants. On all other models, the second-row bench should slide forward and pivot up for increased cargo capacity or to ease access to the third row. The third row will again fold flat into the floor — and it would be a nice convenience if Kia introduced power operation for this function.

Any mechanical changes?

Probably not to the engine itself. Expect the ’19 Sedona to carry over a 3.3-liter V-6 that’ll again be rated at 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Chances are good for a transmission upgrade, to an 8-speed automatic from a 6-speed automatic. This should improve throttle response and fuel economy, though without some weight loss, acceleration will still probably remain no better than adequate.

It’s be good if suspension tweaks were on the 2019 Sedona menu. Today’s model doesn’t ride badly, but road manners could be improved with sharper steering feel and a reduction of the body lean that occurs even at moderate cornering speeds.

Will fuel economy improve?

We can hope. The ’18 Sedona’s EPA ratings were at the bottom of the class. L, LX, and EX grades rated 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The 2018 SX and SX-L rated 18/25/21 and 17/22/19 mpg, respectively.

Moving to an 8-speed transmission should bump ratings slightly, but what would help more is a reduction in curb weight.

Will it have new features?

Possibly. LED exterior lighting will likely appear, at least on upper trim levels. Advanced driver-assistance features, such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, and radar-based adaptive cruise control, should remain available. We give Kia props for offering them even on the outgoing Sedona LX grade, even if it requires the purchase of costly option packages. We hope they become standard across the board, or at least are offered at a less expensive price.

The L will likely return as a very basic model, with seven-passenger seating, front and rear manual climate control, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, and a few auxiliary 12-volt power points.

LX grades should include eight-passenger seating, a power driver’s seat, and power sliding rear side doors. We’d like to see Kia include the pushbutton ignition, cooled glovebox, and 7-inch touchscreen infotainment with CarPlay and Android Auto that are optional on the 2018 model.

The EX would add leather upholstery with heated front seats, extra USB charging ports, and three-zone automatic climate control.

SX grades would have imbedded GPS mapping, upgraded audio system, and ventilated front seats while the SX-L would include a surround-view camera.

How will 2019 prices be different?

Count on them increasing. By how much will depend on how radical the changes are and if Kia elects to make key convenience and driver-assistance features standard rather than optional on some models. Base-price estimates include Kia’s destination fee, which was $950 on the 2018 Sedona.

Estimated base price for the 2018 Sedona L grade is about $28,000. As before, most retail shoppers will start at the LX level, which we estimate will start at $30,500 for 2019. The ’19 EX should list for about $35,000, the SX around $39,000, and the SX-L around $44,000.

Assuming standard and optional equipment carries over, the LX Essentials Premium Package ($2,400 on the 2018 Sedona) would include front- and rear-obstacle detection, UVO with CarPlay and Android Auto, leather upholstery, heated front seats, pushbutton ignition, second- and third-row side-window sunshades, cooled glovebox, and roof rails. Ordering this would open access to the LX Advanced Technology Package ($1,900), which adds autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, and heated exterior mirrors.

The EX Advanced Premium Technology Package ($2,400) would include the aforementioned driver aids, along with heated second-row seats, driver-seat memory with power lumbar adjustment, and a power front-passenger seat.

The SX 8-Passenger Advanced Touring Package ($3,900) also has driver-assist features plus a surround-view camera, steering-linked auto-leveling headlights, acoustic windshield glass, heated steering wheel, and 110-watt power inverter in the cargo area. It also trades seven-passenger seating for eight.

The SX-L Prestige Package ($1,000) nets dual power sunroofs, second-row lounge seats, Nappa-brand leather upholstery, and an upgraded headliner. Note that selecting this package makes you forego the otherwise standard heated second-row seats. You also lose the ability to tilt and slide the second row to increase cargo space.

As it will probably be priced thousands less than other flagship minivans, our pick for the best Sedona may very well be the SX-L. The lounge seats are novel, but only you can decide if it’s worth losing some cargo space in order to obtain them.

When will it come out?

Expect a 2019 Sedona release date in the third quarter 2018.

Best competitors

Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

We’ve outlined our primary concerns for the Sedona. A lighter weight minivan, with a more modern transmission, and expanding driver-assistance features as standard equipment on more models would make it more competitive. It will likely never unseat the Pacifica, Odyssey, or Sienna in terms of sales, but it could very well attract more buyers into Kia showrooms.

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]