The minivan is the automotive equivalent of mom jeans, a fashion statement not even someone as cool as former President Barack Obama – the guy who kite surfs with billionaire Richard Branson in the Caribbean — could pull off without suffering a social media pummeling.

And it’s this image that explains why minivan sales today are a quarter of what they were at the height of their popularity. It answers the question of why Ford and General Motors abandoned minivans years ago, and why Nissan is about to pull the global plug on its Quest minivan (having already done so in Canada).

And all this is so, so unfair. In a sensible world, someone who drives a minivan would be considered savvy and forward-thinking. Especially so considering the latest and perhaps last crop of minivans out there now.

Case in point, the 2017 Kia Sedona. The styling is slick, the ride comfortable, the handling agile as a good sedan. The Sedona – like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Quest, Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan – is available with all sorts of smart and nifty features, too.

Features? How about a 360-degree view camera, navigation, an eight-inch touchscreen for Kia’s UVO3 infotainment system and a powerful Infinity audio system. Leather upholstery? Sure, it’s available. USB ports, an LCD display between the gauges, heated and cooled front seats, tri-zone climate control, multi-pane sunroof and HID headlights. Yup, available and loaded into my $48,735 tester.

Now the Sedona isn’t particularly fuel efficient, but that’s because it’s so powerful (276 horsepower/248 lb-ft of torque) and so functional – loaded with second- and third-row seats that stow into a tub. The Sedona will seat up to eight, though the more comfortable recliners are the heatable second-row captain’s chairs with extendable footrests.

And high-tech? This is a safety story: adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Sedona is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the IIHS took issue with the headlights – calling them “Poor.”

My first take on the Sedona was, in fact, a double-take. The design is that sleek. Sure, the sliding side doors are a giveaway, but you’ll love them when you climb out in a tight parking space, with a gargantuan SUV snuggled up beside you.

Okay, that $48,735 price tag of a super-premium Sedona SXL+ deserves a double-take. That’s a big financial climb.

That said, the cabin is well-organized, handsome and dressy, right down to the leather seat stitching. The touchscreen and infotainment screens are just the ticket for functionality and Kia has had the sense to install dedicated physical knobs for things like radio volume.

So if the sticker is too high, look to a more modestly priced version and save thousands. And shop around, too. Honda is introducing a new version of the Odyssey, so outgoing versions might be a great deal. And there are good offers to be taken advantage of on the rest of the rigs here.

Perhaps there is no rescuing the image of the minivan and maybe that’s okay. Calvin Klein sells mom jeans to brand-conscious buyers, after all.

I’ll say this: if I were in my kid-rearing years, I’d take a minivan with good and appropriate tires over any hulking, fuel swilling SUV. But I’d also be sure to drive around in very cool jeans – Seven for all Mankind, or Buffalo, Silver or Mavi.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+

Engine: 3.3-litre V-6 (276/248 lb-ft torque.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.1 city/10.5 hwy using regular fuel.

Comparables:  Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan.


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