Heading off the N3 toward Mountain Country is one of the weekend pleasures that many Gautengers indulge in these days. Those Maluti mountains in the eastern Free State beckon, and whatever the weather, you know that in an hour or two your soul will be restored by some of the best vistas the country has to offer, as well as country hospitality in places like Bethlehem, the Golden Gate reserve area or the charming artistic village of Clarens.
That’s where we were heading on the launch-drive of the all-new Kia family wagon, now known once again as the Grand Sedona. In past iterations Kia here in South Africa had used the “Grand” monicker and then dropped it due to some confusion about varying wheelbase and seating configurations. But in its just-launched 2015 incarnation, life certainly is grand in the new Sedona.
The car is all new, and Kia cleverly had a two-year-old example for us to inspect before setting out on our road trip. The difference in dash design, material textures and the delights of hidden nooks and crannies to stow stuff is a huge leap forward on this Grand Sedona.
Seating Arrangements & PracticalityIt comes in either seven seater family configuration now, or in 11-seater form, the latter being designed to appeal to businesses using it for executive shuttles from the airport, conferencing trips, and the like.
The previous Sedona was available in seven-seat form too (there was also a five-seater), but to realise serious loading space in that one you had to physically remove the seats and store them in your garage. In this one the third row of seats tucks flat into the floor area, liberating an enormous 2 200 litres of space. Even with the third row up right, there is 760 litres of luggage room, and that’s way ahead of many so-called seven-seaters on the market.
This is only the third-generation of a Kia big family bus to be launched here. Back in 1998 we had the Carnival, followed by the second generation and the first to be badged as a Sedona, in 2006. This car had a long life cycle, as the revamp in 2011 was not much more than a facelift to introduce the “tiger” grille design, and a few other in improvements. So this new Grand Sedona, all-new from the floor-pan up incorporating the Peter Schreyer-led design language of the modern Kia range, is a thoroughly modern road-tripper.
Kia says the new body-shell has an improved torsional rigidity level of some 174 per cent, which shows the strides that computer-aided design has made in the past nine years! This was also achieved by an increase of ultra- high strength steel in the structure of just seven per cent, so this stiffness is all down to the latest advances in structural integrity due to the way the various sheet-steel sections of the car are formed in the pressing process.
Ride QualityThe result of the new body-shell on the road is indeed impressive. This is one super-quiet vehicle now, at speed, and our test route served up a variety of surfaces ranging from dirt road with pot-holes to tar-road with pot-holes, to rough tar, to smooth tar.
On all these surfaces the Sedona behaved impeccably, and Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) levels are way down. The stiffer chassis also enables the use of more compliant spring rates asnd more controlled damping, which the Sedona certainly employs, while there has also been lots of work done on optimising suspension and drive-train bushings to enable a quality ride to go hand-in hand with a taut handling package.
It is interesting to note that the Sedona still retains hydraulic, rather than electrical power steering assistance, and the feel I enjoyed through the steering wheel was excellent at the kind of cruising speeds you are likely to enjoy.
Engine ChoicesThe Grand Sedona is packaged in various trim levels, with three on offer. We only tried the SXL version, which is the most expensive, and this was fitted with the already excellent, but improved 2.2-litre common-rail turbo diesel, producing 147 kW and an improved torque figure of 440 Nm.
There is also a petrol option, this being a 3.3-litre V6 with 199 kW and 318 Nm on offer. Interestingly Kia reports that some caravaners prefer the petrol option on the Sedona, which is surprising seeing as a torquey diesel is what you'd want when towing. Both engine options drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox.
There is a plethora of interesting stowage places in the design, and although the roof on the new car is slightly lower, the space in the seven-seater is cavernous. Useful features include Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, as well as Cross Traffic Alert which is useful for reversing out of a tricky parking spot when the cross-traffic view is obscured. Other useful features are remote tailgate lifting and one-touch rear electric sliding doors on either side of the vehicle.
Kia Grand Sedona Price in South AfricaIn summary, the new Kia Grand Sedona is a wonderful family vehicle, ideal for holiday trips, with performance aplenty and handling and ride now extremely impressive. Pricing starts at R499 995 for the EX (diesel) base model, but most sales are likely to be for the seven-seater Grand Sedona with the diesel motor, known as the 2,2 CRDi SX seven seater, at R625 995.
The petrol models start at R605 995 and the range topper is another diesel, the CRDi SXL seven-seater with top level trim at R699 995. All prices include Kia’s 5 year/150 000 warranty and 5 year/100 000 km maintenance plan.