Kia Motors Corp. really was on to something when it brought out the first-generation Sedona minivan in 2001.

The South Korean auto maker knew the segment was small, but the prices were getting larger every year.

Kia figured many buyers didn't care about leather seating, navigation and power this-and-that: They just wanted a reliable and modestly appointed family hauler that didn't need to be treated with kid gloves.

This thinking led the Sedona to become one of Kia's best-selling models in the U.S.

Now, five years later, the auto maker is launching its second-generation minivan.

While it still is bargain-priced, starting at $22,995 for the new long-wheelbase model (previously Sedona was sold only in short-wheelbase form, and the '06 short-wheelbase model isn't due until fall), a fully loaded Sedona will set you back $31,000.

However, this is about mid-range for Chrysler, Honda and Toyota minivans.

Kia officials at the vehicle's media preview claim the '06 Sedona is a no-compromise minivan, with the level of quality buyers have come to expect from the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

Well, not quite. But it's getting there.

The Sedona's interior fit and finish is slightly above average. Panel gaps are tight, but there still is a preponderance of hard plastic. And it lacks some of the high-end fabrics and soft-touch materials found in the Odyssey.

The interior is spacious, save for a somewhat intrusive center stack; larger buyers may find their legs bumping up against it while driving.

Second-row bucket seats fold up and forward, but are not stowable.

Kia says it considered copying Chrysler Group's popular Stow 'n Go second row seats but discovered most buyers find them uncomfortable. The Sedona's third-row seats do fold flat into the floor, though.

Sedona's exterior styling is evolutionary and somewhat dull.

The tail is the most handsome view, featuring sharper edges than the old Sedona, while the front grille, with chrome on the EX trim, is a half-hearted Odyssey clone.

On the road, the Sedona's new 3.8L DOHC V-6, also available in the upcoming revamped Kia Amanti and Sorento, delivers a class-leading 244 hp and 253 lb.-ft. (343 Nm) of torque. It's more than adequate for passing maneuvers on crowded freeways and also got the 4,387-lb. (1,990-kg) vehicle up quite a few inclines with just a slight torque lag here and there.

The 5-speed automatic transmission, Sedona's only gearbox, shifts smoothly. The optional Sportmatic feature works well overall, but the vehicle still has the final say when it comes to gear selection.

Through the use of high-tensile steel, all-aluminum head and block, multilink rear suspension and a lighter transmission, Kia has managed to reduce the Sedona's weight by more than 400 lbs. (181 kg) from the previous generation.

The Sedona gets six standard airbags and antilock brakes ā€” optional on the previous Sedona.

The '06 Sedona comes in just two trims, LX and EX. The LX features standard power windows (including on sliding doors), mirrors and door locks.

The EX, beginning at $25,595, adds roof rails with crossbars; AM/FM/CD/MP3/Cassette audio system with eight speakers; and power rear-quarter windows.

A $1,000 power package that has dual power sliding doors and power rear hatch is one of three EX option groups.

Overall, the Sedona is a nicely appointed and well-engineered minivan, despite lacking some of the high-end features of its competitors, such as a navigation system, all-wheel drive and tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

The '06 Kia Sedona already is on sale at U.S. dealers.