The waterhole is both crowded and shrinking.
The animals eye each other nervously. This is a hotly contested area and newcomers aren't welcome.
Yet the established brands find themselves suddenly shouldered aside by a new upstart with a brash chrome grille. What's this? A Kia? Surely it should be taking its place over with the cheap seats.
But no, just as has been the case with nearly every reintroduced Kia model of the last few years, this new machine manages to hold its own both inside and out. It's got a longer feature list. It's got amazing secondrow seats like a business class flight. The regulars are nervous.
They should be.
The new Kia Sedona isn't what you'd call wildly styled. After all, there's only so much a designer can get away with when the brief is, "box-with-sliding-doors." Still, this being the top-flight SXL+ model, there are some exterior niceties.
Chrome 18-inch alloys contrast nicely with metallicflake paint. LED accent lighting surrounds a wellchiseled face, and the overall silhouette and three-quarterview is more conventional than the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna have become.
However, this is a minivan. Styling is not really a huge consideration, any more than the wrapping on your largest birthday present. Never mind how many bows it has - what's in the box?
As the top of the Sedona lineup, you expect the SXL+ to have all the usual features of leather and power-heated seats, and keyless entry. It does, but goes a little further, adding ventilation to those heated seats, a rear passenger sliding moonroof, and wonderful reclining secondrow seats. More on those in a bit.
For driver and passenger, the Sedona is essentially a Hyundai Genesis Sedan with more cargo space. You get nicely contrasting leather and lots of piano-black trim, plenty of the required multiple cubby holes and a dual-glovebox, and a twotone dash layout that looks a little bit more entry level luxury sedan than haul-thekids minivan.
Move around to the rear amenities, and it really does seem like this particular version of the Sedona isn't for toddlers, but for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Celebrities in South Korea often prefer being shuttled around in the anonymity of a van as opposed to a limousine, and you get that kind of vibe from the SXL+.
The rear seats slide both fore-and-aft and side to side, and may be pushed far backwards and deeply reclined. They come with folding footrests too, so you can really stretch out in back in captain's chair comfort.
As a result, the third-row seat gets a little squished. Mid-trim Sedonas come with easier to access thirdrows (the second row slides and folds more easily), but the SXL+ trim is sort of a four-person flagship with extra capacity when needed.
Out back, there's the usual enormous amount of minivan room. The folding third row seats are a bit less solid-feeling than those in a Honda or Toyota, and they leave a bit of an exposed gap when folded. However, if you're transporting a golf foursome, or picking up luggage at the airport, there's loads of space.
Power comes from the Hyundai/Kia 3.3-litre V-6 found in multiple applications, here making 276 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 248 foot-pounds of torque at 5200 rpm. That's a few more horsies than most rivals, but the 3.3-litre has a relatively high torque peak.
For straight-line acceleration, a firm foot is necessary. However, even when loaded with people and accelerating up a steep highway hill, there's plenty of punch, and the six-speed transmission works without calling attention to itself.
For this new generation of Sedona, Kia's done much in the way of chassis stiffening, adding high-strength steel and basically making a better box. Handling is - well, it's a minivan. However, having placed that asterisk on any performance figures, the Sedona actually carries itself well for such a large, heavy vehicle. From the driver's seat, it rarely feels ponderous, and is perfectly capable of holding its own on long highway sweepers.
And here's where the SXL+'s rationale really starts to make sense. Out on the open road, the Sedona is wonderfully comfortable, quiet and serene. It's the only minivan in recent memory to come with radarguided cruise control, so you simply set a reasonable speed, stretch out along with your passengers, and cover highway and interstate in leaps and bounds.
With so much cargo space to bring whatever or whomever you like along for the ride, it's an ideal road trip machine. Grand Tourers are most often long and sleek coupes. Here, a minivan manages to pull off pretty much the same job without effort.
The top-level Sedona is simply crammed with stuff to like, from those aforementioned heated-andcooled seats, to adaptive cruise control, to automatic headlights and highbeams, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure assist. Particularly useful in such a large vehicle is the combination of a top-down, 360-degree camera and parking sensors.
Putting the Sedona into a small parking space is just as easy as getting a subcompact car in there, and you'll find yourself obsessing over getting it just-so every time. Power sliding doors and a power tailgate are handy, and the latter is automatically activated if you stand behind it for a few seconds - very useful if you're returning with hands full of grocery bags.
Official fuel economy figures for the heaviest Sedona are a so-so 14.2 litres/100 kilometres on the highway, and 10.5 l/100 km in the city. The weight of all these features and the big 18-inch alloys and tires take their toll. Still, no proper-sized minivan is truly a miser, and the SXL+ does manage reasonable return on the highway.
Huge amount of features; smooth, quiet ride; excellent sound system; and great chairs.
Fancy second row chairs cut down on rear passenger space; slightly heavy and thirsty; and modest torque.
The Checkered Flag
A business-class flight with sliding doors.
Honda Odyssey ($30,350) Already a family favourite among Canadians who've outgrown their Accord, the Odyssey isn't quite as fancy as the Sedona in the higher trims, but manages to be a bit more family-friendly. The interior is relatively dowdy, but looks like it'll stand up under hard usage.
The Sedona has the Honda firmly beat in terms of feature content, but the Odyssey does at least come with all the essentials. It'll have to wait for a redesign to go toe-to-toe with Kia on items like adaptive cruise.