Minivan is not a four letter word
Lou Ann Hammond, Tue, 3 Jan 2006 08:00:00 PDT
It happens everytime we drive a minivan. It's kind of like going out with someone that your friends think is, well, not the person they would pick for you. But you really like them and you go out to dinner with them and there at the same restaurant is one of your friends. You're a little embarrassed, but you and your date join them and all of you have the time of your life. Your friends start to think of this person in a different light. Welcome to minivan land.
Every guy driving the Kia Sedona is trying to justify why they love this vehicle so much. They talk about the 20-year old kid who hangs ten on every decent wave he can find on the Pacific coast. Or hey, what about the family that goes camping out in the woods in their minivan? What they are doing is trying to make a minivan into an acceptable vehicle that doesn't have the label "soccer mom". You see, the problem is that these guys love minivans. Minivans are incredibly user friendly, whether you're a family man or an empty nester who has an active life. Get over it guys, it's not like we're asking you to use women's deodorant that will make you smell like a girl.
It's not even the guys fault. Even some of the auto manufacturers are having a problem calling them "minivans". It could also explain why sells of some minivans aren't doing so well. Manufacturers have no problem selling crossovers, the hot new car that still has rollover problems. One look at the minivan as it whisks by you and you see how much lower to the ground it is. The stigma of the minivan isn't just because it means you're a parent. Minivans were big with your parents and there are very few people who wants to be their parent when they grow up. The reality is, people who buy minivans want a minivan.
When one thinks of minivans you think of it as a small segment of the market. Kia is planning to sell only 60,000 units. That small segment was over 1.1 million minivans last year. Dodge Caravan sold over 226,000, Chryslers' Town and Country sold over 180,000, Honda Odyssey sold 174,000 and Toyota Sienna sold over 161,000. Ford's Freestar didn't do nearly as well, selling only about 72,000. Ford just came out and said they weren't going to push the Freestar. Kia may say they only plan to sell 60,000, but there is plenty of room to sell more and plenty of reason to buy a Kia. While the Koreans may aspire to compete with the Japanese, they actually take sales from the domestic products.
The new front-wheel drive Sedona is built on its own platform with MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear suspension. The 3.8-liter V-6 engine makes 244 horsepower @6,000 rpm and 253 lb.-ft @ 3,500 rpm of torques using premium unleaded. If you use regular unleaded you're going to get about 242 hp and 251 lb.-ft of torque; if you can tell the difference let me know. According to Kia they removed about 400 pounds of weight from the new 2006 Sedona. There maybe even more of a difference between the basic LX and the fully loaded EX. Both vehicles have a better acceleration and a lighter feel than the predecessor, but I could also feel a nimbleness when driving the LX. I'm not sure I would give up all the extras in the EX for the extra 200 pounds.
The Sedona LX we drove had a base price of $22,995 with a destination charge of $670, totaling $23,665. The Sedona EX we drove was completely loaded. The base price was $25,595; $2,400 for the luxury package that includes leather seats, heated front seats, 2-position memory for drivers seat, 2-position memory for outside mirrors, 2-position power adjustment with memory, tri-aone auto climate control, sunroof, back-up warning system, steering wheel audio control, engine immobilizer. Add another $1,700 for the premium entertainment package for a DVD player, 8" monitor with two headsets and remote, Infinity surround sound system. Another $1,000 of power package and power sliding doors and a power lift gate and a destination charge of $670 and you've brought the price up to $31,365. Right now that is the most you can spend on the Sedona. Late availability will give you a rear entertainment system, first aid kit and trailer hitch that could bring a Sedona up to $32,960. The power sliding doors and liftgate can be operated using the remote keyless entry fob.
Standard safety and restraint systems on both the LX and EX includes six standard airbags - dual advanced front, dual front seat-mounted side-impact, and side-curtain airbags that protect in all three rows of seats are included in the base price. Seat belts with front seat-belt pretensioners with force limiters and height-adjustable belt anchors in the first and second rows. The alphabet soup continues with 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control system (TCS), Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH). All this and more is the reason that Sedona got a five-star rating from NHTSA for safety, the highest rating there is and the first time a Kia has received such a rating.
Whether it is a LX or EX, the 2007 Kia Sedona comes with a 60/40 split-folding third-row seat that drops into the floor, like the Chrysler Town and country. Kia says they decided not to do the same with the second row seats because the driveability wasn't as sure-footed. I haven't noticed a difference when I drive the T&C, but I do love the ability to put all seats down in the back. If I owned a minivan it would have to have the fold-down seats and I would probably always keep the second row down and if people wanted to sit in the back they could use the limousine back seats while watching their DVD movie. Toyota makes you take their seats out and it's cumbersome and the seats are heavy. Kia's seats are 60 pounds each. I would also have liked the front seats to go back a little further, giving me more leg room in the passenger seat.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of room in the second row. The power roll-down windows in the sliding side doors, triple-zone air conditioning and dark tinted glass were great, but just the feeling of expansion was impressive. The second row only comes in captain's chairs, so that they can be taken out.
On the outside, the 2007 Kia Sedona has clean sleek looks with a long tapering roofline. The points of differentiation between an LX and an EX on the outside are the EX gets 235/60R17 tires and 17-inch allow wheels. Automatic head lights and front fog lights and solar glass are standard as well. Both models have a full-size spare tire located under the passenger/driver seat.
Len Hunt, Kia Motors America Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, is known for spending time with dealers. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Hunt, was down in New Orleans with his dealers. Kia still has a room to improve; Kia's sales satisfaction index (SSI) are low, their residuals are low even though only 10 percent of their vehicles are fleet. Kia doesn't have a certified pre-owned program, which would help with their numbers. Hunt is known for embracing the products brought to market, unlike his predecessor in VW that slammed the Phaeton and Butterfield, who at the Chicago Auto show was quoted as saying, "I know, it's a minivan, but..." Doesn't matter what was said after that, damage done.
Hyundai, Kias' parent company, has a minivan coming out that will be shown at the Chicago Auto show. According to Hunt the Hyundai minivan will not be made on the same platform as the Sedona. Kia has to make the Sedona better every year; they have an 86 percent repurchase rate on the Sedona. A short wheel base will be produced later; no date was given.