In 1998 Kia introduced its first large MPV, which was called the Carnival. CAR tested the turbodiesel Carnival in November 2001. Its 2,9-litre engine produced a mere 93 kW, the seating arrangement was the same (seven), but the seats could not be removed, which limited interior space utilisation. Our test summary stated: “The Kia Carnival TD is a good effort, though it would not take much to improve it even further”.
That statement turned out to be very true, judging by the vastly improved new Grand Sedona.
The name change from Carnival to Sedona was made in 2006 and now the third design has been introduced to South Africa in long wheel-base form only, hence “Grand Sedona”. This is the latest of the Kia models to receive the “Peter Schreyer treatment” and it works very well. As always making an MPV look good isn’t the easiest of tasks, but the only possible criticism of the Grand Sedona could be the rather oversized and fussy front grille. Two seating options can be specified – seven seats in 2:2:3 formation or an 11-seater in 2:3:3:3 layout. Dual sliding doors are standard. The wheelbase is slightly longer than before but the Grand Sedona is a bit lower in height. The width is the same but on the road, it looks wide with a strong, squat stance.
The Koreans have proved that they can adapt quickly to market desires and we see this especially in the vast improvements in interior build quality to match the elegant and classy cabins found in German vehicles. But they do tend to be conservative in releasing upgraded powertrains, perhaps with good reasons of needing to retain reliability and durability with highly complex engines and gearboxes. There is nothing worse than a company receiving a bad reputation from failed components and gearboxes due to insufficient endurance testing.
Fortunately, we do not see any problems with the new Grand Sedona. It uses an already tried and tested 2,2-litre turbodiesel mated to a six speed automatic transmission that works together like a … horse and carriage? The engine provides 147 kW of power with 440 N.m of torque and the auto box smooths out most of the inherent low down roughness of diesels. Even better, there is little hunting through gears, a common problem when you have more than five ratios to play with. The only small gripe is a bit of turbolag coupled with torque converter pick up that delays pull away for a second. Fuel consumption is claimed to be 7,85 L/100 km which is fine for a large and powerful MPV. The amount of bells and whistles fitted varies from base to top of the line but there are many in the top SLX version. This includes electric seating for both front seats, dual sunroofs, smart opening powered tailgate, BLIS, front seats that are heated and ventilated plus middle row heated seats, Infinity audio with eight speakers and subwoofer.
But the neatest design trick of this Kia is the huge bathtub boot recess into which the last seat row folds to provide a flat base for larger items of sporting goods to compliment the four remaining seating spots. But that’s not all. If you need more space and only two seats, you pull a lever and fold the middle two seats against the front seats in a vertical position. Hey presto – even more free space.
There is another characteristic of the Grand Sedona that stands out and that is the ride quality. On the long journey to Clarens and back from Gauteng, the ride quality was superb, soaking up small and large bumps with no complaints, no noise or rattles. NVH has been impressively improved to luxury car status, again not an easy task in a large MPV. Other model options include an 11-seater and a 3,3-litre V6 petrol with 199 kw. A five year/150 000 km warranty applies combined with a 5-years/ 100 000 km maintenance plan.
So, a success the Kia Grand Sedona is but of course, with the Rand in freefall, you will have to dish out over R600 000 for both the LX and SLX models. Still, this is a lot cheaper than some of the competition.