Richard Aucock
03/08/2006 00:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Kia Sedona 2.9 CRDi GS review (2006-2010)

Kia Sedona (© Kia)

Model: 2.9 CRDi GS
Bodystyle: Five-door MPV
Engine: 2.9-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: Five-speed auto
Date of test: August 2006

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What is it?

Although the focus of the MPV sector has shifted away from large, ‘traditional’ MPVs to smaller, hatchback-derived compacts – think Scenic, Zafira, Touran – there is still a market for those who want full seven-seat capability. It is such folk that Kia gunning for with its latest Sedona. Already a surprise best-seller in the large MPV sector, the Korean company has upped its game with the new car, promising European dynamics, refinement and looks for prices that undercut rivals by a good 20%. As the old model was a pretty mediocre machine that still managed to outsell Renault’s Espace, how potentially successful could the new one be? We tried an entry-level diesel model, the volume model of the range, to find out.

Where does it fit?

In the Kia’s home Korean market, there is an 11-seater Sedona available. For Europe, a shorter-wheelbase seven-seater is offered (and quite right too). It sits above the Carens compact MPV, itself recently all-new, giving Kia one of the freshest MPV line-ups on the market. Sliding side doors mimic rivals such as the Citroen C8 and Peugeot 807, and give it an edge over the Espace, Galaxy, Alhambra and Sharan, while there’s a choice of 2.9-litre diesel or (pointless) 2.5-litre V6 engines. You can have automatic with both. The key differentiator over same-size rivals, as mentioned, is price: this is a full-sized MPV for compact MPV money.

Is it for you?

Lots of people clearly thought the old one was for them. As this is a much more attractive-looking machine, with surprisingly chunky, squat Sportage-esque SUV cues (particularly in the rear lights), Kia is already at an advantage; the old car was big and roomy, but never a beauty. Prices top out almost where rivals start; it’s comparable with the smaller (but still seven-seat) Vauxhall Zafira, making it a winner for on-paper value. And the ascendancy of the Kia brand helps, too. Cool adverts and growing awareness mean it’s no longer a maker to be sniffy about.

What does it do well?

First impressions aren’t amazing; the cabin has a hint of cheap tackiness about it – details such as the stereo and dials jar. But the big engine fires up smoothly and idles without clatter, while the handbrake may be foot-operated but it disengages (and engages) with considerably more polish than Mercedes’ similar system (that the company’s had three decades to perfect). The auto in the test car upshifted imperceptibly, the engine was nicely grunty and noisy only when stretched, while the chassis shows the polish seen on so many modern Korean cars. It’s not quite Euro standard, but the crisp, light (if slow) steering feels ‘connected’, stiffish springs mean it doesn’t wallow and stability is excellent at speed. An easy car to drive, which is impressive for one so wide.

What doesn’t it do well?

While pretty well insulated and not too noisy, the ride can feel restless at speed, because of the firmish springs. Though generally, it’s OK – unlike the quality of the downshifts, which seem jerky and snatched. Stretching the engine can also be raucous at times. Brake pedal travel is too long, which makes smooth stops tricky, and the steering calls for too much arm-twirling in town. And why, Kia, do the indicators remain on the right?

What’s it like to live with?

The interior grows on you with time, showing decent quality plastics and commendable assembly standards. The seats are firm and supportive, the cabin feels remarkably wide, the driving position OK (and certainly better than, say, a VW Sharan) and there’s decent space in the middle row of seats too – even if the rearmost are not quite as vast. The usual problem of minimal boot when seven-up is exacerbated here, but pull a lever and the rear two seats do flip up very easily: there’s spring assistance, a thoughtful touch.

How green is it?

Not green at all. For starters, the engine doesn’t meet the latest Euro IV standards for exhaust emissions – Kia will have to rush out a new engine, because this unit will be outlawed by the end of the year. It also returns dismal economy figures. As an auto, it averages just 31mpg, and even the manual only returns 36mpg. By way of comparison, a Galaxy diesel manual, with better performance, returns 43mpg.

Would we buy it?

Not at the moment we wouldn’t, because of that thirsty engine that will have to be replaced or upgraded soon. And this is a shame as, otherwise, the Sedona is a large MPV with merit. It looks very good indeed, drives with more panache than you’d expect and offers cracking value. Give it a whirl; it will probably surprise you. Don’t, though, be tempted by the V6 petrol. Cheaper even than the diesel it may be, but the engine is both breathless and, at 26mpg, a real liability. As with most MPVs, diesel is the only choice here; when the new engine arrives, it’ll be even more of an obvious choice.

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