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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Kia’s Sedona comes
  as standard with seven
  full-size individual
  seats. It’s also well-
  specified, looks good,
  is pleasant to drive
  and starts at £16K.
  Deal or No Deal...?

There was a time when the principal reasons for buying a Kia Sedona over, say, a Renault Espace or Chrysler Voyager was purely financial. The Kia might not have had the brand cachet to pull customers into the showrooms, but it did the same job as its rivals and cost considerably less.

These days Kia's name is as well known as that of its competitors. And customers don't shop there just because it's cheaper. They buy Kia because they want to; and the Kias of today stand scrutiny in their own right. The fact that they still offer very good value is icing on the cake. We recently tested the seven-seat Sedona and found it a sound and stylish alternative to Ford's S-Max and the aforementioned Voyager and Espace.

The Sedona line-up is nice and straightforward. There are three trim levels to its core 183bhp 2.9 turbodiesel model: GS, LS and TS. A single petrol model powered by a 186bhp 2.7 V6 is also on offer at
a headline-grabbing 15,995. But most buyers in this sector of the market appreciate the undoubted benefits of an oil-burning powerplant and these are priced from an entry-level 17,545. A five-speed auto-matic transmission is also available for an extra 1,100. We tested the model most likely to find favour with most customers most of the time — the middle of the range 2.9 CRDi LS. It comes as standard with a five-speed manual 'box and costs 19,545 on the road.

This latest generation Sedona is a good-looker. The angular look and stacked headlights works well on the 'single box' people carrier body that's taller, shorter and wider than the model it replaced. Some neat styling touches and a quality metallic paint finish give the Sedona
a swish appearance that stands comparison with some rather more expensive rivals.

But is the Sedona, as Kia claims, all the MPV you'll ever need? It certainly appears to be. MPV buyers generally have pressing practical needs for a five-, six- or even seven-seater; but that doesn't mean that they should have to sacrifice comfort for additional seats. The Sedona's interior calls for no such compromises. The interior is very roomy and provides individual seats for seven in three rows, arranged in the popular 2-3-2 formation. Adults sitting in any of the five individ-ual rear seats will find plenty of leg and headroom.

The seven seats are full sized and comfortable. There is a generous eleven inches between the back of the front seats and the leading edges of the second-row seat bases. The middle seat occupant — thanks to the dash-mounted gear lever — can enjoy a full thirty inches of legroom! All seats are positioned reasonably high in the vehicle, so visibility is good and the view out interesting.

But it doesn't stop there. Each of the five rear seats slides backwards and forwards, reclines, folds in half, stores upright or comes completely out of the car. Kia says it decided against folding rear seats because of the compromises involved: they have to be smaller and are therefore less comfortable and they also have to be mounted higher in the car therefore stealing headroom, legroom and luggage space.

This does mean that if you want to carry more luggage or a really big load, you have to remove the rear seats and store them somewhere.
If you do, however, you end up with a massive amount of load space: with all seven seats in use there is 364 litres of luggage space. But take away the rearmost pair and this swells to 1,753 litres. In strict two-seater mode the Sedona's load bay is a cavernous 3,440 litres. And if you need to use the roof rails you'll find it's no hassle, thanks to the sliding side doors: when open you can stand on the exposed floor to easily reach the roof.

Access to all three rows is excellent, and is helped by the low floor. Not only do the large rear side doors slide, but they do so at the touch of a button on the B-pillar or a gentle pull on the inner or outer door handles. Alternatively they can be operated from the front, via the central roof console. The electric operation works for entering and exiting the vehicle and can be worked from the driver's seat or at the point of entry/exit. They're also fitted with very effective and quick acting auto-reverse mechanisms to prevent little fingers being trapped.

We tested them on our own valuable editorial fingers. They worked just fine! For the record, access to the two reclining third-row seats (they have six inches between them and can slide fore/aft by ten inches
if you need some extra boot space) from either side of the vehicle is easy. Surprisingly, they're made for real-world adults up to 5' 10" tall.

Not only is there masses of space but there's an equally impressive number of storage compartments. You'd be surprised at the number of big 'family' cars we test that have severely limited storage facilities. Not so the Sedona. Everywhere you look or sit there are cubby-holes, bottle-holders and lockers in abundance — including a large double-decker glovebox, a coin box and CD drawer beneath the gear lever, a sunglasses holder in the roof console, a folding tray between the front seats with four cupholders that, when raised, even extends length-ways, and sturdy fold-down tables on the front seat backs that stay put when required.

Comfort is not just about the supportive and accommodating seats, but also other amenities — including air conditioning. The LS's standard features include triple-zone climate control air conditioning with individ-ual roof-mounted vents to ensure genuine cooling exactly where it's needed. Other kit benefiting both passenger and the driver includes front and rear electric windows, powered and heated door mirrors, six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtains that protect all six outboard occupants), seven three-point belts (the six outboard belts are height-adjustable), remote central locking, roof rails, a drop-down fish-eye 'conversation' mirror (so that either the driver or his front seat passenger can keep an eye on youngsters seated in the second and third-row seats), the previously-mentioned electric sliding rear side doors, which are a real boon when getting kids — or even elderly relat-ives — aboard in tight spaces. Another plus is the low floor, so there's no risk of tripping when entering through the sliding doors.

You also get reversing sensors, privacy glass, alloy wheels, metal dash inserts, electrically-opening rear quarterlight windows (a real luxury touch and incredibly practical — a good one, Kia!). And there's a con-venient cut-off switch for the front passenger airbag and two Isofix child-seat anchors on two of the centre-row seats.

Entertainment is readily on hand to keep passengers occupied through-out their journeys. There's a JVC music centre with a 4x50-watt amplifier and a CD player with MP3 capability. Viewable by all five rear passengers is a roof-mounted DVD player with a 6-inch screen and cordless headphones. The picture quality is great and the drop-down screen doesn't affect the driver's rear view. i-Pod compatibility is available via a simple extra lead.

So far, so good. Start her up and let's see how she goes. The four-cylinder turbodiesel engine is smooth and quiet enough and pulls strongly. The maximum torque of 253lb ft is available from 1,750rpm so it's flexible enough once you're moving; pick-up in top gear on motor-ways is brisk. Okay, its 0-62mph time of 15 seconds doesn't exactly set the world alight! But it will run to 122mph — which is more than sufficient, given that the legal limit is still 70mph. Top gear (5th) calls for 2,500rpm at 70mph.

Nevertheless, out on the open road or motorways — or even amongst the faster moving urban traffic where most people carriers spend
much of their lives — the Sedona is a sprightly performer. Official fuel consumption figures for urban, mixed and touring are 27.7, 36.2 and 44.1mpg respectively. During a full week's testing over all sorts of roads our test car averaged 31.3mpg.

From the driver's seat the view ahead is clean and uncluttered. Incid-entally, the view back is good, too, and makes parking easy. The instruments, with easy-to-read white on black graphics, are exactly where the driver can see them — straight ahead. The thick-rimmed four-spoke steering wheel is leather covered and feels nice to handle. It only tilts for rake but — helped by the fact that you sit square to the pedal set — there's ample seat adjustment to ensure that a very good driving position is easily achieved. Like the front passenger, the driver also gets an adjustable inner armrest — and just to give you
a better idea of how much space there really is inside the Sedona, there's almost a full seat width of space between the two front seats.

The dash-mounted gear lever is ideally at hand and provides clean, precise changes — helped by the fact that its ratios are well-matched to the diesel's torque band. An easy to use foot-operated parking brake replaces a traditional handbrake and saves space. Helpfully, large stereo buttons and A/C controls are high up in the centre of the fascia and easily seen and reached. The amiable cabin is well insulated from any diesel clatter — and just about all other noise — making cruising at fast motorway speeds refined. There is nothing stressful about driving a Sedona — quite the opposite, we'd say.

The Sedona's chassis uses MacPherson struts at the front with Kia's compact and neat in-wheel multi-link suspension set-up at the rear. The 'comfort-profile' 225/70 Bridgestone rubber mounted on 16-inch
7-spoke alloy wheels contribute to the Sedona's quiet ride and grip well. Disc brakes are standard all round; ventilated at the front. As you would expect, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution are both standard. The brakes do such a good job that you rarely think about them and the steering feels direct. The Sedona is happy to go where you point it and has an amazingly tight turning circle.

For tight manoeuvring you can press a button (VRS) on the facia to change the speed of the steering rack. This not only makes turning the leather rimmed wheel less work, but also creates space for snow chains by creating greater wheel clearance in the front arches. Okay, so we don't often see deep snow in the UK but lots of Brits head to the ski-slopes and not having chains can earn you a substantial fine in Europe.

The Sedona rides well and even over not such good roads the ride remains impressively smooth. Handling is predictable with ample cornering grip and, frankly, if it 'leans' then the driver is at fault.

If you have the need for a value-packed, easy-to-use and pleasant to drive seven-seater family car, then the Sedona is a pretty hard pack-age to beat. Try taking the whole family for your test drive — you'll be amazed at how quickly they can all clamber in! And instead of hearing that irritating "Are we there yet?" you'll hear: "Are we getting one yet?"

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Kia Sedona 2.9 CRDi LS
| 19,545
Maximum speed: 122mph | 0-62mph: 15 seconds
Overall test MPG: 31.3mpg | Power: 183bhp | Torque: 253lb ft
CO2 206g/km | VED Band F 205 | Insurance group
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