Minivans are sometimes likened to household appliances — functional and necessary, but hardly exciting. This is certainly true for the . But for those with families, pets, and groceries to haul around, the vehicle could be hard to be beat. Unlike larger high-profile SUVs and crossovers, the Sedona fits neatly in urban parking garages. Better yet, it gets you where you want to go economically, comfortably, and safely.

In fact, the Sedona is one of the safest vehicles around. It garnered top crash-safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Plentiful standard safety equipment includes dual front air bags, full-length side-curtain air bags, side-impact door beams, impact-absorbing steering column, and antiwhiplash head restraints. Other safety features include four-wheel ABS, electronic brake distribution, and traction control.

Outside, the vehicle's plain styling might not turn any heads. Our tester came with optional roof rails for luggage, a useful feature. And the rear, dual, sliding side doors sport nifty power windows. But climbing into the car is difficult. An extremely narrow running board provides little foothold. Another gripe: the emergency-brake lever is on the floor near where the driver gets into the car. I mistakenly stepped on the lever several times, engaging the brake. This was annoying to say the least.

Inside, the passenger cabin is quite comfortable. Contoured seats in front, removable second-row captain chairs, and a rear bench provide plenty of room for seven adults. I particularly appreciated the absence of annoying dinging noises when I forgot to latch the seat belt. Instead, a small warning light on the dash flashes discreetly.

I also liked the small pop-down mirror located between the front visors. It lets drivers see what rear passengers are up to, helpful I'm sure for anybody carting around kids. But I found the instrument panel a bit confusing. For example, what looks like control knobs are, in fact, indicators that devices such as the AC are on or off. The actual control buttons are elsewhere.

The ride is what one would expect for a minivan, solid but unexciting. Good control around curves comes from rack-and-pinion steering and MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. The 3.8-liter V6 aluminum engine accelerates smoothly, pumping out 244 hp at 6,000 rpm and 253 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm.

The engine mates to a five-speed automatic transmission, with a manual mode said to give better control for mountainous roads. Our tester only had about 7,500 miles on it, yet the transmission slipped out of gear several times, obviously not good. And I found gaging turns a bit difficult and tended to cut them too close, probably because I am not used to driving a van.

The Kia Sedona LX carries a list price of about $23,000. Add another $150 for the roof rails. A 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty is standard.