Generally speaking, auto companies stock their press fleets with the top-of-the-line vehicles. There's a good reason, of course since these models showcase the company's best and most newsworthy features. That's why I was more excited than one would think when I had the opportunity to drive a rented 2015 Kia Sedona LX over Labor Day weekend in San Diego. As chaperone for our long-term Kia Sedona SX, I was curious not only to see what the lower end model offered, but how well it was holding up in the rental fleet.

The Sedona LX I drove benefited from a $1,900 convenience package, giving it a retail price of about $31,000. That's about $6,300 less than our long-termer, and not surprisingly, it lacks things like leather seats, power hatch, navigation, automatic climate control, pushbutton ignition, and a few other things. What it does have is the same 276-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, comfortably controlled suspension, and attractive interior and exterior styling that have made the Sedona surprisingly popular around here. 

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

A cut above a standard rental

Even without cowhide seats and automatic everything, the more basic Sedona felt a cut above the usual rental car fare. The manual air conditioning blew cold enough over the hot days that the kids in the third row complained about being TOO cold. The audio system synced up with my iPhone just fine -- a rental car with functioning Bluetooth?!? -- and the USB connection was helpful for recharging and custom tunes. There were also power sliding doors, a backup camera with a sharp view on the small UVO screen, and satellite radio. Thanks to the $1,900 convenience package on the rental, it also had heated front seats, window shades, a cooled glove box, and dual power doors. About the only thing I really missed was the smart power tailgate on our long-term Sedona, and in fairness, I've managed to live without this particular feature long before I realized it was a must-have, and I could do without again.

As for durability, well, this van was pretty new in the fleet with only about 2,500 miles on the clock, and it's hard to tell what kind of long-term durability it might have. Suffice it to say though, I was impressed, and pleased to see that those who can't quite make the stretch to our SX-level model don't have to feel like they're getting shortchanged.

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