2015 Kia Sedona SX-L: Smooth and quiet

The minivan has evolved from the spartan, efficient, function-over-form conveyance of its roots in the early 1980s to what amounts to a luxury box – big, roomy, accommodating and loaded with comfort features. Thus, we were not surprised to ascribe such qualities to a brand name usually associated with value and bargain pricing – the Kia Sedona.

We drove the top-of-the-line 2015 Sedona SX-L just a few weeks after turning in a similarly equipped Honda Odyssey minivan. Naturally, the experience bred comparisons, even though the Sedona has a reputation for tolerable but forgettable performance, and the Odyssey is routinely ranked among the best of its class.

In fact, the Odyssey has two major advantages. First, its Honda badge has a positive impact on trade-in and resale value. Second, it’s significantly more fuel-efficient than the Sedona SX-L: 28 mpg on the highway, compared with 22. Over the long haul, that leaves a lot of gasoline at the pump for someone else to buy. The Honda also has more cargo room.

But … while some people might be put off the Kia’s mediocre fuel economy or view the Odyssey’s cargo-room edge of six cubic feet or so as mandatory, the two minivans are not that far apart where livability is concerned. The Kia offers a smoother, quieter ride, more power and a lower price.

Our Bright Silver Sedona had a sticker price of $43,295. The lone option, the $2,700 Technology Package, included a lane-departure warning system, forward collision warning system, surround view monitor and smart cruise control. Otherwise, the Sedona was exceptionally well equipped: Nappa leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, Infinity sound system, satellite radio, first-class lounge seating, dual power sliding doors, smart power tailgate and dual sunroofs.

Kia offers less lavishly equipped minivans beginning at $26,100 for the Sedona L. All are equipped with 276-horsepower V-6 engines and 6-speed shiftable automatic transmissions. Compared with the SX-L, these minivans get better fuel economy – 18 to 24 mpg (25 mpg in SX trim).

Having apparently concluded most people use minivans as mainly people-movers and for family vacations, Kia unabashedly delivers less cargo room than the Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Town & Country. Kia also does not have an all-wheel-drive option; only Toyota offers that feature on its minivans. The third-row seat folds into a well in the back, a convenient design similar to one used by Honda. But Odyssey owners have to remove the second-row seats from the vehicle to gain full use of the cargo bay. Kia’s second-row seats fold upright, just behind the front seat – sacrificing a small amount of cargo room, but for many owners, making the van easier to live with.

Past Sedonas have not fared well in Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys focusing on reliability, but the redesigned 2015 model has been rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $43,295

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6, 276 horsepower, 248 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: shiftable 6-speed automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 4,539 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19×6.5-in. chrome alloy

Tires: 235/55R19 all-season

Max. towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 33.9 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 142 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 21.1 gal.

Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline