All new is an expression that gets more than its share of hard work in the auto world, frequently applied when newness doesn't extend much beyond a redesigned front fascia, revised taillamps, and an expanded color palette. The 2015 Kia Sedona, however, is about as all new as all new gets: new chassis, new engine, new transmission, new body, new interior, new features, refined inside and out. Basic dimensions (wheelbase and overall length) stretch slightly, width is unchanged, and height has been reduced by a half-inch. A more significant increase lies in the Sedona's structure, composed of 76 high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, according to Kia, yielding a big improvement in torsional rigidity: 36 percent better than any competitor, according to the company, a list that includes the Chrysler Town & County, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

More structure means more safety

In addition to improved rigidity, the new design was also aimed at improved crashworthiness, including the new narrow angle offset collision standard. Kia anticipates a five-star ENCAP score from the National Highway Safety Administration, and a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, key factors in minivan purchase considerations.

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Uh-oh, we used the minivan word. It's true that the Sedona was known as a minivan in its first two generations, but in this renewal it's officially a "multipurpose vehicle." Part of the design mandate was to give the new Sedona a look that's a little less minivan, and a little more sport utility. Kia publicity material calls it "European inspired styling similar to that of a CUV," and the new look is a little more butch, with a bullish nose and vertical sides, though those sides still contain sliding side doors, a feature unique to vans, great or mini. Semantics aside, there's no argument about the multipurpose label. Minivans deserve it more than almost any other vehicle, and the new Sedona is a more deserving member of the clan than its predecessor-more room, a new approach to maximizing cargo space (the middle seats stack vertically against the front row), wider liftgate port, easier third-row access (there's seating for seven or eight), and of course upgraded interior appointments, an expanded list of safety features, contemporary infotainment, and a lot of attention to sound deadening.

New powertrain

The Sedona's new engine is a 3.3-liter V6 with direct fuel injection, sending power to the front wheels (no all-wheel drive option) via a six-speed automatic transmission. New is relative here; the 3.3-liter also propels the Cadenza sedan and Sorento SUV, and it gives the Sedona 276 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 32 horsepower compared with the previous 3.5-liter V6. On the other hand, curb weights are substantial, rising from 4411 to 4720 pounds, a range of 309 pounds over the various trim levels, suggesting modest acceleration.

And that's precisely what the Sedona delivers. The Sedona performs well enough in everyday urban traffic, and the programming of its automatic transmission is well matched to the power traits of the new V6 engine. On the other hand, in passing situations on two-lane highways, a little more thrust would be welcome; exposure time in the oncoming traffic lane can feel a little lengthy. Multi purpose vehicles obviously can't be confused with sports cars, but even so the Sedona's responses could be a little quicker, and its steering could provide a little more tactile information to the driver. Then again, the Sedona excels in two dynamic areas that rank high in priorities for potential owners in this class: creamy ride quality and quiet operation.

There are five trim levels, three of them new, including the top-of-the-line SX Limited. MSRPs start with the basic L ($25,900) and soar to $39,700 for the luxo SX Limited, all plus $800 destination. Like other current Kia-Hyundai vehicles, the Sedona makes a strong value proposition, with extensive standard feature content at each trim level. Kia continues to wrestle with a so-so quality perception, a perception that lags the reality of its current products, Sedona included.

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