2021 Kia Sedona Review: Dead Van Walking

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick
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2021 kia sedona review dead van walking


Engine: 3.3L V6
Output: 276 hp, 248 lb-ft
Transmission: 8AT, FWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 18/24/21
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 12.7/9.9/11.5
Starting Price (USD): $31,575 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $42,675 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $34,090 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $44,590 (inc. dest.)

The Sedona is running on borrowed time.

We’ve known a new generation model is coming for months now—it’s already on sale in Kia’s home market. But now even the name is set to disappear: a recent NHTSA filing confirms the Carnival name for our market, the same as the rest of the world.

Get a Quote on a New Kia Carnival

So why test a model on its way out? Two good reasons. Firstly, dealers are bound to want to shift remaining inventory in preparation for the 2022 model, and that means deals to be had. Second, it acts as a baseline, a reminder of what the incoming model needs to accomplish.

Even in its final year of production, the Kia Sedona remains a solid choice for people-moving needs. A conservative wrapper holds a comfortable interior, with easy-to-use tech and, in this range-topping trim, a competitive level of driver assist and safety features. Most importantly for family buyers, the Sedona is budget-friendly, with a strong warranty and a price tag thousands less than the competition.

Spacious interior lacks clever solutions

The current Sedona has been roaming North American highways since 2015. The look is hardly new, then, but like many of the brand’s 2010-era designs, it’s aged well. The conservative looks are more inoffensive than anything, with the 18-inch wheels exclusive to the SX trim being the biggest bit of bling outside. The SX also gets unique front and rear bumpers—well, at least in America. Our Canadian-spec tester sticks to the standard ones, missing out on the cool “ice cube” fog lights south of the border. Everything else is pretty standard minivan fare, with the rear looking particularly fridge-like thanks to upright proportions and small taillights.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Kia Sorento Review: First Drive

Moving inside, this range-topper features smooth, dual-tone gray leather seating for eight. Red stitching contrasts nicely, but while the leather is perforated, the front seats aren’t ventilated: that’s another US-only perk. Nonetheless, they’re plenty comfortable, and on a mid-December 350-mile (563-km) day trip, the fast-acting heating function was far more valuable. Interior trim quality is consistently good. The Sedona can’t match the luxury of the high-end Toyota Sienna or (especially) the Chrysler Pacifica, but it’s around $10,000 cheaper, so concessions need to be made.

2021 kia sedona review dead van walking

There is, as you’d expect, limb-flailing levels of room in here. Front row, middle, way-back—all three are more than acceptable for adults, though nobody will offer to sit in the very middle seat. Sticking a trio of full-grown humans in the third row will require they at least know each other, too. If you break out the measuring tape, the Sedona is slightly smaller than newer models like the Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Pacifica, most notably in the shoulder- and legroom.

Befitting its role as a family shuttle, storage cubbies and cupholders dot the interior. It’s useful, if not particularly surprising. The Sedona lacks the innovative center console treatment of the new models on the market.

2021 kia sedona review dead van walking

The second-row Slide and Stow seats are a mixed bag. On the plus side, they’re easy to use, folding up right against the front row. On the other hand, they still eat into available space this way, but we’re still talking a cavernous 142 cubic-feet (4,022 L) in max load-hauling mode. Fold the third row flat into the floor and you’ve got 78.4 cubes (2,220 L) to cram with stuff; it’s still 33.9 (960) with all the seats up too.

Smooth (if loud) progress

2021 kia sedona review dead van walking

No matter which trim you select, every 2021 Sedona comes with a 3.3-liter V6 behind its Tiger Grille. The six-pot sends power exclusively to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, it’s ever so slightly down on the V6 Odyssey and Pacifica, but in daily use you’re unlikely to notice.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Toyota Sienna Review: First Drive

What you will notice is a loud, rough din from the V6 when you ask anything more of it than cruising. The engine makes itself known often, the clearest sign that this is an older Kia model. What’s extra strange is that the noise isn’t quite as noticeable outside the Sedona.

Engine noise aside, the rest of the Sedona driving experience is smooth. The 18-inch tires have a good amount of sidewall to them, taking the sting out of potholes as I straight-line Highway 401 between Toronto and Kingston. The steering wheel is naturally light in both feedback and weight. An available Harman/Kardon sound system provides ample power for tunes, and the 8.0-inch touchscreen uses the same slick UVO setup as other Kias. It’s an easy system to navigate, though it can’t match the configurability of FCA’s Uconnect.

Easy on the wallet

2021 kia sedona review dead van walking

The Sedona’s age translates to a lower starting price than most rivals. The range kicks off at $31,575 ($34,090 CAD), including destination, undercutting all but the Chrysler Voyager. That de-contented Pacifica can’t match the Sedona’s standard kit or its strong warranty, however. The list includes heated seats and (leather-wrapped) steering wheel, power sliding doors, rear air conditioning controls, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple and Android connectivity, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rear-parking sensors.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Review: First Drive

A wireless charger, two 110V outlets, tri-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, larger infotainment screen, sunroof, and the Harman/Kardon sound system are all available on higher trims, and present on this range-topping tester, which rings in at $42,675 ($44,590 CAD).

The Sedona still requires buyers to pay extra for advanced driver safety assists. These include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian sensing, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, smart cruise control, and around-view camera. US buyers need to step up to the EX Premium Package ($39,675) for all that; Canadians must pick the range-topping SX Tech.

Verdict: 2021 Kia Sedona Review

2021 kia sedona review dead van walking

As the market embraces crossovers more and more, minivans like the Sedona have an opportunity to shine. Sure, you can bag a new 2021 Sorento for similar cash, but that crossover’s third row is a studio apartment compared to the townhouse in the Sedona’s way-back.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD Review: A Covetable Mainstream Sedan?

The current Sedona is an honest vehicle. It does exactly what you ask of it—shuttle a lot of people and/or their things—with minimal fuss. If you don’t need some of the new-fangled goodies in the segment, like all-wheel drive, hybrid drivetrains, or built-in vacuums, it remains an affordable, reliable pick. But the competition does offer those, and handily outsells the Sedona. Kia will need to sprinkle some of the magic from the K5 onto the Carnival if it looks to move up the minivan ranks.

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  • Lots of space
  • Affordable price
  • Easy-to-use infotainment


  • Loud engine
  • Lacks AWD or hybrid options
  • Not quite as spacious as more modern rivals
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

More by Kyle Patrick

Join the conversation
  • Janell Janell on Feb 16, 2023

    DO NOT RECOMMEND!!! My moms 2021 Kia just broke down and needs a new fuel pump. Dealership quoted her at $1509 to fix it. Never had issues with such a new vehicle until this van!

  • John bolla John bolla on May 06, 2023

    If it's anywhere near new it's covered under warranty!