With less than two weeks left before the New York Auto Show’s annual media preview begins our e-mailbox is suddenly getting flooded with news about new production models – and a raft of concept vehicles that could offer a hint of models to come.
Among the planned debuts, expect to see a new “midsize multi-purpose vehicle” from Kia, apparently a more acceptable alternative to the oft-derided term, minivan.
The Korean carmaker isn’t saying much, issuing little more than this teaser image and a terse release that suggests, “This global debut will challenge the segment and will offer the functionality to transport as many as eight passengers and their belongings while also serving as a purposeful offering for adventure seekers.”
What we can ascertain is that it’s an attempt by Kia to salvage what it can in a segment of the market that has been shrinking for more than a decade – but which still has a significant number of fans among family buyers and a smattering of empty-nesters who like a van’s flexibility and don’t really care about its less-than-sophisticated image.
Kia is, in fact, one of the relatively few manufacturers still playing in the segment. It introduced its Sedona model in 2006, then pulled from the market six years later. It was re-launched with only the most modest of tweaks a year ago and has barely shown up as an asterisk on the sales charts ever since – at just 7,000 last year it lagged far behind the Honda Odyssey, for example, which generated 130,000 sales.
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The teaser release suggests that Kia is hoping it can both increase its appeal to conventional minivan buyers while gaining some traction with those who would never consider uttering that “m” word.
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Three rows? Likely. Sliding doors? That seems to be in the cards, as well. But the face of the new “MPV” is decidedly more sporty than the classic one-box minivan. It remains to be seen what else Kia could come up with to reach out to mini-phobes.
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Could Kia drop the Sedona name, hoping for a clean start? That’s another possibility. We’ll have to wait a couple weeks, it seems, to find out more.