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Driven: Kia's comfy bus

2007-04-26 14:14
Wrong era and wrong car, but traveling along in the all-new Kia Sedona, it's hard not to have flashbacks of the ageless David Kramer, those red "velskoene" and his catchy jingle about driving in a Volksiebus. The jingle may still be as infectious, though there's nothing like a journey in a new Sedona to remind you just how much has changed in the world of the humble MPV.

Of course, there's nothing especially "humble" about the fourth-generation Sedona. It may not have grown too much since the previous iteration, but the fresh, contemporary styling makes it more appealing.

Despite its bulk, it does appear to have maintained some of the previous models styling cues. The creases running along the bonnet and onto the grille are the most noticeable, while at the rear the light clusters are slimmer and extended vertically to meet the higher shoulder line. Overall styling is neat and in keeping with Kia's current design language, and for the most part looks like an oversized Carens.

Moving on up

I could lament the way in which manufacturers are increasingly tossing their wares at the upmarket buyers in their particular segments. This is again displayed with the pricing of Sedona having leap-frogged from the mid R 250 000s to the low R 300 000s, although the reasoning behind this is fairly sound.

New Sedona, as with several new Kias launched recently, is covered by a ten-year/150 000 km warranty, five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and roadside assistance for three years. Service intervals are at every 15 000 km.

Also, the stylish eight-seater is kitted with all the bells and whistles you could possibly want to throw at it. The quality of the materials and general fit and finish are worth noting too.

Starting at the front, the driver's seat is electrically adjustable and the steering wheel can be adjusted for rake. Front occupants have the use of swinging armrests the driver is able navigate the audio and cruise control systems by using the steering wheel controls. Amazingly, audio is provided by a three-in-one system with an MP3 compatible CD player and a tape deck for the real golden oldies in your collection.

Storage aplenty

There are plenty of nooks and crannies for an assortment of oddments, and a handy feature between the front seats is the tray table housing four cupholders that can be folded flat against the passenger seat freeing up an aisle to the rear of the cabin.

Standard equipment includes power windows all round, tri-zone climate control with separate roof-mounted controls for the rear occupants, electrochromatic mirrors, rain sensing wipers, rear park distance control, power sliding doors with an obstruction sensor, and a conversation mirror that drops down from the roof. There is only one option - and that's a sunroof...

Leather upholstery is standard across the range and passengers in the second row get to sit in individual seats. Access to the rearmost bench is as easy as tumbling a seat forward. The final row (which is split 60:40) can be folded flat into the boot recess for a flat load area.

And while the outer passengers have three-point belts, those occupying the centre seats are secured by lap straps. A full complement of airbags and a comprehensive arsenal of active safety gadgets, including ABS and ESP, do the rest of the work.

Qualified "Mum's Taxi"

On the road, the new Sedona should excel in its role as "Mum's Taxi". Powered by either a 24-valve 3.8-litre petrol V6 mated with a five-speed automatic or a 2.9-litre turbodiesel with a choice of five-speed automatic or manual gearboxes, running this MPV around town should be super easy. Steering is sufficiently light, and the turning circle is a reasonable 12.1 m.

The petrol unit is sourced from the Sorento and produces 184 kW at 6 000 r/min and a peak torque of 350 Nm at 3 500 r/min. The latest version of the 2.9-litre turbodiesel develops 118 kW at 3 700 r/min and similarly produces 350 Nm at 2 000 r/min.

Driven along the winding launch route, the V6 showed itself to be rather composed, lacking any of the alarmingly wafting qualities one would expect from a bus of this size. And while I have experienced more refined automatic gearboxes, this five-speed nonetheless delivers the goods when required. When more spirited driving is required, shoving the gearlever into the manual mode that allows for sequential shifts is always an option.

Kia products have become known for their great value for money, and the new Sedona is no different. Well put together with a high standard of features, an appealing selection of petrol and turbodiesel engines and pricing for this Kia is especially competitive.

The only real hurdle the new Sedona possibly faces is that of public perception in the light of stiff competition from the Chrysler Voyager and the VW Caravelle.


3.8 V6 automatic - R323 995
2.9 CRDi manual - R323 995
2.9 CRDi automatic - R333 995

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