By on June 25, 2020


You were probably thrilled to get a glimpse of the next-generation Kia Sedona yesterday, perhaps even dissolving into uncontrollable babbling, tears rolling unchecked down your crimson cheeks. Pull yourself together! It’s still a minivan. Kia just decided to play dress-up, disguising the new people mover as everyone’s favorite vehicle type: the easy-driving, socially acceptable crossover.

We’ve reached a point in history when the utility and versatility of a minivan — a once huge segment of the American auto landscape — needs to be dressed up as a SUV in order to (hopefully) sell. Are the segment’s attributes not enough? Clearly not. Stigma of such vehicles and declining sales forced Kia’s hand, prompting a re-do. But it begs the question — could it force a change in your thinking?

Maybe not the Sedona, but any minivan model.

Lose the sloping hood and the unmistakable profile of a minivan, and perhaps the overall package becomes that much sweeter. It already takes something of an individualist to get into a minivan these days, despite the many pluses that come with the purchase. A huge, flat cargo floor afforded by hideaway (or removable) seating gives a minivan the edge when it comes time for home improvement projects or moving day. That, plus the all-wheel drive cropping up in the segment (Chrysler, Toyota) and increasing hybridization, means would-be buyers have less reason to consider a crossover.

And yet buyers continue to vacate the minivan market in droves. The last thing an automaker can do to stem the flow is to gussy up a minivan in SUV clothes.

Would having the appearance of an SUV make you more likely to purchase a family vehicle with sliding rear side doors?

[Image: Kia Motors]

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26 Comments on “QOTD: Who’s Fooling Who?...”

  • avatar

    Whom. One of those needs to be a whom.

  • avatar

    I recently drove a rented Pacifica for about 2000 miles and was genuinely impressed by the level of comfort and its ability to get ~30 MPG on the highway (cruise set at 75 mph!).

    Outside of lacking a “dirty side”, I could easily see myself owning one. A wife and 3 kids makes me appreciate things I didn’t when I was young(er).

  • avatar

    The mild crossover styling should help lure a few more customers to the brand, but I think the market could be ripe for a more aggressive SUV look in their minivans. A little more ground clearance would butch things up nicely, and provide a more elevated seating position so many drivers prefer. Plus AWD, of course. Yes, I think the first generation Mazda MPV really was ahead of its time, at least in concept.

  • avatar

    Let me rephrase the question, “If a minivan were less dorky looking would you be more apt to buy one?”

    Yes, if I needed one

  • avatar

    Well, we just bought a Pacifica Limited. If it looked more like a crossover I would not have looked at one. If I wanted a crossover, I would buy one. That said, I see no need for a crossover, they are one huge compromise. I can tell you from first hand experience they get worse mileage, have less room and don’t ride as nice as a minivan. They have less rear seat leg room than a midsize and don’t hold all that much more than a midsize. If you want to see out the back window it comes out a wash. They do ride better than a full frame SUV, but not by much and you can’t tow nearly as much and don’t have as much room.

    Nissan Rogue
    Dodge Avenger
    Chrysler Pacifica minivan
    Dodge Durango (first gen)

  • avatar

    Being perpetually dorky, the sliding doors or appearance don’t bother me at all (especially when I’m bewildered by the emotional appeal of crossovers – no one thinks you’re doing anything more interesting with that Nissan Rogue than going to Trader Joe’s). That said, modern vans are too big to be sensible for me (just one kid, and live in a city). If I want something smaller with sliding doors, my choices are hope to find a nice Mazda5 or overpay for one of a couple small work vans with vestigial back seats which seem to be priced assuming a healthy fleet discount will be taken back off. And considering the spot next to mine is used by a Highlander-driving moron who parks like a dementia-addled senior late for bingo, sliding doors would be useful.

    • 0 avatar

      Maymar, if you can get ahold of a decent Mazda5 I’d say do it. We bought a 2014 in Channahon IL a few years ago with about 15k on the odometer and it has been a great little wagon. Not a single problem. Our CUV-driving neighbors can sneer at it all they want. It’s like the best kept secret in the automotive world. Dirt cheap insurance. Great gas mileage. Minimal maintenance needs. Drives smooth and quiet. Pretty impressive hauling capability with all the seats folded down.

      Best of all when the kids exit the vehicle in the garage those Mazda5 sliding doors keep my ’14 Accord Sport safe and sound from door dings :)

      Too bad the vehicle has been discontinued in the USA- we would buy another when this one wears out.

      • 0 avatar


        Totally agree on the 5. Mine has been quite reliable over 9 years, 100k miles.

        Mine is the generation before yours and while a few things changed I think most of the mechanical bits are the same. So keep an eye out for:

        Bad passenger engine mount. Easy, cheap fix. If you like you can replace the fluid filled mount with an aftermarket solid rubber one. A bit more vibration but a LOT more reliable.

        Rear camber chewing tires. Solution is to replace the fixed upper control arms with adjustable units from a Ford Focus. They bolt right in.

        Clunks from front suspension. I had a bad clock in the front end.
        Replacing the usual suspects (links, bushings etc) did not help. Finally I replaced the struts and the problem went away only to resurface 6 months later. Turned out the center strut tower nut had gotten loose. You’d never know unless you check it with wheels on the ground. I think it’s because the 5 uses the same struts as the somewhat lighter 3 and perhaps the torque isn’t set correctly. Something to check anyway.

        TCU. These fail randomly and the best solution is to replace with an “E” unit. Probably the most expensive fix in this list. You might try relocating yours off the transmission and ziptie it to the nearby brake lines, thus removing it from the heat and vibration which may be the cause of the failure. This takes about an hour.

        Entertainment unit. Seriously, replace the crappy stock radio with a decent 7″ double DIN touchscreen SAT NAV head unit. Add in backup/dash cameras. There are bezels you can buy to make the install look pretty decent. This completely transforms the driving enjoyment of the car, especially on long trips.

        Other than that enjoy!

  • avatar

    Sliding doors are inherently handy – I wish the Flex was given such a blessing but then it would have sold even more poorly due to fashion reasons.

    The remaining minivans are automakers screaming into the void and year after year fewer people care. 99% of those people driving three row CUVs would be better served by a minivan. Instead they value things like ground clearance and advanced AWD systems that they nearly never use.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in SW WI I have never NEEDED AWD. The one time a road was impassable with 2WD, AWD or 4WD would not have made it either. The snow was to the top of the mailbox. Now, if I had a ‘mog!

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    If I were in need of a family or indoor cargo hauler, I would have no problem buying a traditional minivan. But I’m obviously not representative of car buyers since I specifically sought out a station wagon in my early 30s and I didn’t/don’t have kids.
    Making a minivan more like an SUV would eliminate a lot of the features which would make me find a minivan useful – meaning lower lift height and higher roof.
    Are they going to be raising the beltline or lowering the roof on these?

  • avatar

    The only vaguely SUV-ish looking minivan-ish things have been the Mazda MPV All-Sport 4WD and Mercedes R-class, and neither of those were real minivans (hinged rear doors, etc.) But so what? Despite what I often read, there’s nothing stigmatizing about driving a minivan. Unless you think having a life and driving an incredibly versatile vehicle is stigmatizing.

    My main concern with recent minivans is that some of them are becoming less practical. The current Sedona already lacks a removable or foldable 2nd row seat or walk-through access between either the two front seats or between the 1st and 2nd rows. The Toyota Sienna is about to lose those features as well. Also, Kia and Honda are losing buyers by not offering FWD in their vans, given that many sedan buyers and most crossover buyers want it.

  • avatar

    Seems all Kia did was make the hood longer/flatter and add some fake skid plate doodads to the bumpers. All the things that make it a minivan are still there.

    I see this as a win, as I have long believed that minivans are too feminine in their design language to achieve widespread acceptance.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    This product is a great illustration of how contemporary society is, at all levels, seeking to smash or bend definintions–of everything.

    We have a former Olympic mens track athlete now calling itself Caitlyn, and we are all supposed to play along.

    If Kia wants to dress up its minivan and call it a “Grand” something or other, fine, I guess we can play along with that too. Who cares?

    — SUVs aren’t really “sporty” in any way–so it’s not like the “SUV” term is sacrosanct or anything. Lines get blurred to the point of meaninglessness….whatever……

  • avatar

    You minivan buyers are such bandwagon people. I’ll take my people mover in wagon form. Also, I prefer it with a choke, a crank start, roll up windows and push button transmission.

    Wait, push button transmissions are back in. Never mind. Give me 3 on the tree.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The trick for minivan mfrs now is how to keep me in one. My 09 Sedona is probably my favorite car I’ve owned in 40 years, since it does everything well.

    Although my kids are (nearly) all moved out, I still like its utility for hauling and towing. But the desire to put a 4×8 sheet inside a minivan means I’d probably be looking at a Pacifica next time. The “U” in “SUV” is curtailed by the lack of floor space for such a job, and most pickups don’t even have beds this big.

    As for the ‘stigma’ of minivan ownership, I don’t get it. I love my large family, and the absence of a minivan would be a big sentimental loss for me, at least until I got a new vehicle that fits my station in life.

  • avatar

    I’ll probably get a minivan despite having the kids all gone. It’s the cheapest way to get a V6 now, and the practicality is unrivalled. I just wish they were a bit smaller.

  • avatar

    To quote Art Vandelay from yesterday:

    Circa 1996 “lets make the U body vans look more like SUV’s by giving them more hood”

    automotive Press “Idiots”

    today “lets make our vans look more like a Sorrento by giving them more hood”

    automotive Press “Brilliant”

  • avatar

    Everything needs to be dressed up as a CUV these days – look at any of the smallest CUVs and tell me they aren’t simply jacked up compact cars with butch styling.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    “Stigma”? Who exactly is judging the minivan driver? And should the minivan driver even care?

    Personally I give no credence to those who actually fall for the marketing hype that ‘you are what you drive’. That belief is why people lease vehicles way over their income level.

    While contemplating the universe recently, I decided that the vehicle that I truly want is another minivan. I have home improvement projects on a semi-regular basis. I have a dog. I have a child who will be returning to school, out of town. I expect to become a grandparent in the near future (another child, not the student). I have children who will probably be moving in the near future. I like to take one ‘driving vacation’ each year. Once a year, I go on a golf day trip which means a foursome with golf bags.

    What vehicle can handle all of that better than a minivan?

    Unfortunately in my extensive experience with Dodge minivans, the maintenance costs and downtime with them becomes excessive.

    I am too cheap to pay for a Sienna or Odyssey.

    And no, I don’t buy used. My one recent experience with a used vehicle resulting in too many trips to the garage and eventually a reluctance to drive it on the highway, at night or any distance from home. Despite it being one of the top vehicles for longevity/quality, having low mileage when we got it, and only having one previous owner.

    So I am probably relegated to a ‘small’, 4/5 seat CUV as a compromise.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I understand what you are saying about Chrysler minivans. I’ve known too many who bought them either new or used and ended up with maintenance headaches. I used to car pool with a man who liked to buy two year old Chrysler minivans from Hertz. He always purchased a factory warranty with them and never failed to get his money’s worth in repairs in the 2-3 years he owned them.
      In my case, we bought a new 99 Honda Odyssey that we still own. It is the most useful vehicle I ever owned and still going strong at 145k miles. The only major failure it suffered was the infamous 4 speed AT at 82k miles. Fortunately for me, it was covered under the class action lawsuit, and I only paid $1k for rebuilt tranny 12 years ago. It’s still working flawlessly. The power steering pump started to fail four years ago and I replaced it for about $250. Other than normal wear items, no other non wear item failures.
      Since I became the executor of my late mother’s estate, I have made 19 round 60 mile trips fixing up her house to sell and ferrying loads of goods and trash out of her house. With the second row seats removed, it holds about the same as my brothers 2007 crew cab F150.
      I’m very glad that we didn’t sell it two years ago when we replaced it with, of all things, a CUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Somebody I work with recently reluctantly replaced his Odyssey with just over 450,000 kms when the transmission quit. I would like one or a Sienna, but not the payments required.

        In theory rather than a Toyota or Honda I could purchase a Caravan and still have over $10k left for repairs. But even then any resulting down time would still prove frustrating.

  • avatar

    Ever sit behind the wheel of an Atlas? The hoodline is so high long and wide you cant see the ground before 30 feet from the car. Give me the sloped hoodline and great visavility of a minivan anyday.

  • avatar

    Nothing new, just another CUV. Been around for years, where have you been. I like the new Sedona, Sliding doors are useful.

  • avatar

    “Lose the sloping hood and the unmistakable profile of a minivan, and perhaps the overall package becomes that much sweeter”
    They have that, it’s called the Sorento, and it will ride on the same platform and share a lot of parts. Do you want a minivan-ish SUV, or a SUV-ish minivan? Consumers can pick between the two. They don’t have to decide for everyone.
    As a long term hatch and SUV driver, this is the first minivan to hit my radar.

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