Kia Carnival — A modern minivan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(October 3, 3031) It was time for a new generation minivan at Kia, but instead of the all-new 2022 Kia Sedona, we have the all-new Kia Carnival. Kia not only revised and reworked its minivan for 2022, but it changed the name, perhaps to distance its newest entry from the typical minivan stigma. The Sedona name has been retired and the minivan moniker has been swept into the trash bin of history. Welcome the new Carnival, which Kia calls a Multi-Purpose Vehicle or MPV.


Call it what you will, but it's hard to disguise the sliding rear doors — the trademark of the typical minivan. But maybe the folks at Kia have got something here, after all, because one of our usual once-a-week restaurant passengers upon entering the spacious and very well-appointed SX Prestige trim, asked what is this? We said it's a minivan, and our passenger was on the verge of arguing, pointing out that she thought it was a restyled larger SUV crossover.

If we had been quicker on the uptake we wouldn't have introduced the word minivan into the conversation. We would have explained that this is an MPV. Sorry for that slip-up, Kia. But after 20 miles in a very comfortable second-row recliner-type seat in our top-trim test vehicle, our passenger exclaimed that "whatever this is, I like it!"

While the basic minivan approach remains, the longer hood, tall body sides and chopped greenhouse give it an SUV look at a quick glance. The very appealing black wheels on our test car aided in giving it the "cool" look other manufacturers have sought with their new minivan offerings, but have not quite succeeded like the Kia has with the Carnival. The textured grille makes a strong first impression, and the interesting shiny C-pillar trim is an upscale touch.

Whatever you give call this newest people mover, the minivan has suddenly become a hit again with families. Sales of the modern minivan are outperforming most other segments. The problem — there aren't that many minivan nameplates available.

What all minivans have these days is flexibility, connectivity, the latest in safety features, and more hauling capacity than all, but the biggest SUVs. The Carnival can be configured as either a seven-passenger van — with a pair of captain's chairs in the second row or as found in our top trim La-Z-Boy-like recliners for long-distance comfort — or with a second-row bench-type seat that makes it an eight-passenger vehicle. And the way-back third-row will accommodate full-size adults. While we very much liked the recliners with their pop-up footrests — Kia calls them "VIP lounge seats" — we could live quite well with the standard captain's chairs in less expensive trim.

The Carnival's engine-transmission setup gives it very adequate performance for all eventualities — even when loaded with cargo and people. Under the hood is a naturally aspired 3.5-liter V-6 good for 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic. It's a refined engine that can hit 60 mph in just seven seconds, quicker than all-wheel drive versions of the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica and just a half second behind the Honda Odyssey. And its a 14-horsepower jump from the outgoing Sedona's 3.3-liter V6.

We were impressed with the engine's refined, responsive demeanor. It's quiet and smooth and when pushed hard makes a nice engine sound. The eight-speed is a perfect match with prompt downshifts when quickly passing a slow-moving car on a two-lane highway.

One of the downsides to the Kia is its lack of an all-wheel drive option, a feature welcomed in cold-weather climates, and its lack of a fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain as found as standard equipment in the Sienna and as optional in the Pacifica. The Carnival gets decent gas mileage EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined. And it sports a towing capacity of 3.500 pounds.

Inside, the Carnival's dash layout and front-seat area are both modern and accommodating with a large center consul and an optional dual-screen infotainment system with a digital gauge display as found in several other new Kia vehicles including the Sorento compact crossover. A single eight-inch infotainment screen is standard, and the optional dual 12.3-inch displays that stretch across two-thirds of the van's dashboard are almost breath-taking. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard. And there are a minimum of seven USB ports as standard equipment — three front, two middle and two rear.

Safety is paramount for families with children and the Carnival answers the call with such standard safety as rear occupant alert, blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, drive attention warning, and forward collision mitigation. Adaptive cruise control comes as standard equipment on all but the base LX. And all Carnivals have what Kia calls safe exit assist that can prevent a rear passenger from opening a door into traffic approaching from behind.

The Carnival comes in four trim levels — LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige — starting at $33,670, which compares favorably with the competition. We recommend moving up to the EX starting at $39,530 or the SX starting at $42,870. The EX brings such things as 19-inch wheels, the 12.3-inch screen with navigation, power tailgate, three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charging, and a rear cabin intercom — "you kids quit fighting and settle down." The SX Prestige with just about everything available on the Carnival including a rear-entertainment system that features large screens on the back of the front seats comes in at $47,770.

A big selling feature for the Carnival is Kia's industry-leading warranties including a 5-year/60,000-mile basic and a 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain. Free roadside assistance is provided for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Our SX Prestige tester carried a bottom line of $47,770.

2022 Kia Carnival

Base price: $33,670; as driven, $47,770
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 121.7 inches
Length: 203 inches
Curb weight: 4,644 pounds
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 40 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 145.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 7.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey

The Good
• Stylish exterior design
• Considerable standard equipment
• Quiet engine, refined ride
• Attractive starting price

The Bad
• Some controls require too much attention

The Ugly
• No AWD available