By Khulekani Dumisa
Holidaying often requires a versatile vehicle that can take lots of passengers and luggage. I was fortunate enough to spend the December break with the updated Grand Sedona, which does both well. The updated Grand Sedona hit the dealership floors recently and you can find out more here. My partner in crime was the top of the range Grand Sedona SXL and I was in for a good treat.
The thing is, the Grand Sedona is a good car but it is not popular in South Africa. I took on the mission wondering what the reaction would be from those who came across it. Before we get there, the average Grand Sedona has a fairly good list of standard specification but being at the top of the range, you may think that the SXL is at an advantage if you are on a charm offensive. The thing is this is simply offset by the fact that the SXL is not remarkably different in appearance from the entry level EX and the midrange EX+. What sets the SXL apart from the other models are the LED headlamps with automatic levelling, LED fog lamps, LED rear combination lights. Other features that are standard in the SXL are Smart Entry with Push Button Start, Blind Spot Detection, a dual sunroof, a Smart Power Tailgate, dual electric sliding doors, electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seats (adjustable eight ways, including memory function and 4-way lumbar adjustment), rear seat warmers and an extra two speakers. Like the EX+, the SXL now features an Electric Parking Brake with Auto Hold Function, replacing the previous foot-brake. These are key additional features but none that would make you think (at least in appearance) that the Kia Grand Sedona SXL is remarkably different from the lower models in the range. The reason for this is to highlight that the positive response we received from admirers was in no way shaped by the bling that is often associate with top of the range models.
The updated Grand Sedona SXL benefits from a redesigned and imposing Kia Grille. Being a large vehicle, the Grand Sedona is hard to miss. In fact, the Grand Sedona may look like a typical MPV but rides slightly higher than the average MPV. This allows for added visibility and helps keeps things much safer. This came in handy when we took our first long drive to Newcastle in KZN. Provincial roads can be unpredictable and a high seating position is reassuring in the circumstances. The first person to be charmed by the Grand Sedona is one of our sister company’s business partners. He’s on his second German MPV. The first was from Wolfsburg and the second one is from Stuttgart. He could not believe how accomplished the Grand Sedona is. Naturally, there are some quality differences between his luxurious MPV and the Grand Sedona but one must bear in mind that folks like him have paid an over R400,000 premium on their luxury MPVs.
On our way back to Johannesburg, the car was occupied by 7 adults. The front seats and the second row seats may be the most generous in size and comfortable, and more advanced (they are all heated and electronically adjustable). Notwithstanding this, the three adults that sat at the last row felt comfortable. Getting in and out was also easy thanks to the big power sliding doors on either side of the car. Not having to share the space with luggage also made the trip enjoyable. Most 7 seaters compromise boot space but it is not the case with the Grand Sedona. Since the spare wheel is housed below the middle row seats, the boot is deep and can swallow up large amounts of luggage.
Spending time in the interior of the SXL is one of the rewarding experiences about having a vehicle of its nature. It is solidly built and has a lot of standard features. The 8-inch touch screen infotainment, which is standard across the range and embedded with Satellite Navigation, is easy to use. In addition, it integrates audio controls and the rear-view camera, as well as Apple CarPlay (the Grand Sedona is Android Auto ready). The sound system could be better. It is adequate but not as decent as what you would expect from a car that offers so much like the Grand Sedona. The overall package will make you overlook that. In fact, travelling long distances, you will appreciate automatic dual zone air-conditioning, glove box cooling and leather upholstery.
Driving the Grand Sedona SXL may seem intimidating initially but Kia has taken that into consideration and made things easier. The SXL has front parking sensors, a back camera and blind spot monitoring. In fact the Grand Sedona slots comfortable into parking bays on the street and malls. The power that comes quick makes changing lanes in traffic seamless. The cruise control comes in handy over long distances. Although this may hike the price, you do feel like the Grand Sedona SXL should have adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. These modern safety features will make the driving experience much easier and of course much safer. That said the Grand Sedona remains one of the safest options in its class with safety systems like ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchors. The electric windows also have a safety function that automatically halts the window closing if an obstruction – like a child’s hand – is detected. Drivers will also benefit from Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Hill-start Assist.
The Grand Sedona SXL can be summed up as quite good just based on design, standard specification and practicality alone but that is half the story. The 2,2-litre ‘R’ turbodiesel engine powering the car with 147 kW of power and 440 Nm of torque is another big part of the story. This engine is loved for being quiet and fuel efficient. This saw us achieving fuel consumption that is as low as 6.0l/100km which is pretty remarkable for a car this size. Also worth a mention is the KIA’s new home brewed eight-speed automatic transmission that does duty in the Grand Sedona range. We had not quite been convinced by the accuracy of the timing of gear changes at launch but spending time with the Grand Sedona over the a longer period (covering over 4,000 kms), our views changed somewhat. We felt that with more kilometres in, the transmission felt more accurate and self-assured, thus delivering perfect performance in hilly roads of uLundi, misty and twisty roads of Melmoth and wide roads of Durban.
The drive in the Sedona felt comfortable upfront and at the back. Of the many kilometres driven, I finally got to experience the Grand Sedona as a passenger for a four hour trip. The second row of seats was comfortable. I got to recline them without compromising the seating position of the front and third row passenger seats. The third row passengers can also recline their seats provided there is not a lot of luggage at the back.
Final word has to go to the practicality and versatility of the Kia Grand Sedona. The Grand Sedona last row can be folded to extend the boot space. If more space is required, the seats can be folded completely into the boot of the Grand Sedona. Additionally, the second row seats can be folded into an upright creating even more space. In fact we did this on one of our trips and managed to fit in a mountain bike.
The Grand Sedona may not be as popular as other players in the segment but it is every bit as good as the best out there and should be seriously considered when shopping in this segment.
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