SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Come with us as we wind through a spaghetti bowl of freeways in San Diego County to test the enthusiastic get-up-and-go power and easy-driving spirit of a new iteration for Sedona, the minivan of Korea's crafty automaker Kia.
This one looks crisp with taut lines drawn across the chiseled body.
The aerodynamic prow slopes to a body-colored grille set between corner headlamp clusters housing clear-lens halogen projector-type headlamps.
A tall band of glass rings the stretched package and each flank contains a hinged front door and rear slab slider for easy access to the passenger compartment.
In general it looks like a big and spacious minivan with room inside perhaps to haul all in the family, but the new sheetmetal style for Sedona does not adequately portray this minivan's tale of expansion and muscle development.
For that, it helps to park the new Sedona beside the previous version.
The first edition landed in North America as a 2002 model and mirrored class leaders with a four-door unibody structure, a feature-filled passenger compartment with three rows of seats for seven, and a V6 powertrain.
Its size with a wheelbase of 114.6 inches and overall length of 194.1 inches positioned Sedona in the middle of the class between minivans with short and long wheelbases.
By contrast, the new design for Sedona as a 2006 model amounts to a much larger package with the wheelbase drawn out to 118.9 inches and the overall length stretched to 202.0 inches.
Further, the new platform gains several inches in width of the wheel track and translates that increase to more than three inches of extra breadth in the body structure.
Where these size-wise expansions become apparent is inside Sedona's passenger compartment, which gains about 15 percent more room for riders and cargo.
Still with seats for seven, Sedona's revamped cabin houses a pair of tall captain's chairs on the front row clad in fine fabric or soft leather.
The standard driver's bucket shows six-way adjustments plus lumbar support, while the passenger's seat has four-way adjustments, or power-controlled adjustments apply to both buckets with trim upgrades.
Sedona's second row also holds two captain's chairs. Each bucket has a seatback which folds forward, or the entire seat can be released from floor tracks and removed from the cabin.
The back row bench has room for three with the seatback divided 60/40 percent in two sections and foldable.
Also, the bench folds up entirely in several simple motions and slips into a below-deck recess, leaving a flat floor in the cargo bay.
With all seats in place, Sedona's rear cargo area contains 32.2 cubic feet of room -- about twice the trunk space of a full-size sedan.
With second-row buckets removed and the back-row bench folded into the floor, the cargo bay becomes downright cavernous -- 141.5 cubic feet.
Kia laces Sedona with noteworthy standard safety features, including a carload of air bags.
For first-row seats the protection includes advanced front air bags and seat-mounted side air bags, plus curtain-style air bags tucked above side windows. And the curtain air bags extend rearward to shield outboard seats on the second and third rows too.
Responsive steering comes through a rack and pinion device, and brakes include a big disc at each wheel coupled to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), a traction control system (TCS) plus electronic stability control (ESC) for all versions.
Suspension setup is precise and fully independent with front MacPherson struts and coil springs and a rear multi-link arrangement with coil springs.
Tuning of the suspension feels firm and a stabilizer bar added in front and back helps to check excessive body roll when steering the minivan around a curvy course.
Kia lights a fire beneath the 2006 Sedona by installing a big V6 engine which produces significantly higher power and torque numbers than the predecessor.
The new 3.8-liter V6 has an aluminum block and cylinder heads, dual cams on top, and dual continuously variable valve timing (CVVT).
It generates 244 hp at 6000 rpm plus 253 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm with premium unleaded fuel. When filled with regular unleaded, the power numbers dip slightly -- 242 hp and 251 lb-ft.
Transmission for the V6 is an electronically controlled five-speed automatic with overdrive and Sportmatic manual-mode shifting.
Kia builds the new Sedona in two content versions, labeled LX and EX, with additional equipment for luxury mode clustered in add-on packages.
Sedona LX stocks a lot of standard gear, such as power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, three-zone air conditioning with separate fan controls for each row of seats, intermittent windshield wipers front and rear, an overhead console up front, a keyless entry device with panic and alarm functions, cruise control, cargo net in the back bay and a cargo lamp, mats on the floor, three 12-volt power outlets, 14 cupholders around the cabin and a stereo audio kit with AM/FM/CD and eight speakers.
Sedona EX increases the goods with foglamps and heated exterior mirrors, rails on the roof with crossbars, an upgraded audio system, trip computer and compass on the dashboard, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, power controls to adjust the front bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and wood-grain trim accents defining the dashboard center stack.
Three optional packages for EX are the Power Package (power controls for sliding side doors and tailgate), Luxury Package (leather upholstery, seat heaters, power adjustable pedals, automatic climate controls, power sunroof and backup warning system) and the Premium Entertainment Package (DVD player with wireless headsets and remote control plus a deluxe audio system with 13 Infinity speakers).
Kia establishes the MSRP at $22,995 for Sedona LX and $25,595 for Sedona EX.