Automotive

Review: 2022 Kia Carnival – the minivan that isn’t a minivan

Review: 2022 Kia Carnival – th...
The 2022 Kia Carnival is designed to change what a minivan is perceived as being
The 2022 Kia Carnival is designed to change what a minivan is perceived as being
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The 2022 Kia Carnival is designed to change what a minivan is perceived as being
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The 2022 Kia Carnival is designed to change what a minivan is perceived as being
The 2022 Carnival sports Kia's new logos and grille language
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The 2022 Carnival sports Kia's new logos and grille language
Kia says the Carnival is not a minivan, but we think otherwise
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Kia says the Carnival is not a minivan, but we think otherwise
The engine and transmission in the 2022 Kia Carnival are very well matched
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The engine and transmission in the 2022 Kia Carnival are very well matched
Instruments and controls in the 2022 Kia Carnival are well-placed and easily understood
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Instruments and controls in the 2022 Kia Carnival are well-placed and easily understood
The 2022 Kia Carnival is filled with storage options both large and small
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The 2022 Kia Carnival is filled with storage options both large and small
The third row of the 2022 Carnival is very accessible, even with the optional (removable) middle seat position in the second row deployed
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The third row of the 2022 Carnival is very accessible, even with the optional (removable) middle seat position in the second row deployed
A second-row middle seat is standard in most models of the 2022 Kia Carnival, providing seating for eight in all
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A second-row middle seat is standard in most models of the 2022 Kia Carnival, providing seating for eight in all
Clever in-seat USB plug-ins for the second and third rows are a part of the Carnival's design
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Clever in-seat USB plug-ins for the second and third rows are a part of the Carnival's design
Cargo space in the 2022 Kia Carnival is ample, with the third row folding into the floor for a flat loading surface
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Cargo space in the 2022 Kia Carnival is ample, with the third row folding into the floor for a flat loading surface
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The Carnival is a new model in Kia’s lineup, replacing the Sedona minivan as the people-mover of choice from the Korean automaker. It's styled more like an SUV, offering plenty of interior space. We got ahold of one, and spent a week with it as a daily family-hauler.

Kia insists that the Carnival is a "multi-purpose vehicle" and not a minivan. But with two sliding rear doors, seating for seven or eight, and no option for any kind of multi-terrain use ... well, if it walks like a duck.

At a glance

  • Plentiful interior room and seating for seven or eight
  • Great cargo options and a wonderful powertrain
  • Overly-sensitive advanced safety systems
  • Comfortable and ergonomically smart
Kia says the Carnival is not a minivan, but we think otherwise
Kia says the Carnival is not a minivan, but we think otherwise

The Kia Sedona has been a mainstay, though not a hot seller, in the minivan market for years. As compared to other many-seat options, the Sedona was seen as the budget alternative, and was often ignored because of that. Yet it held its own when it came to styling and capability.

Hoping to change perceptions of the brand and the minivan market itself, Kia introduced the Carnival as a "not-minivan" minivan to tempt buyers away from the newly-redesigned Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler Pacifica.

With the goal of making minivans enticing again, and with ergonomics and capability at a surprisingly affordable price, Kia now hopes that the Carnival will upset the people-moving market. And as unabashed minivan fans, we applaud this goal. Minivans are, by and large, the most underrated utility vehicles on the market, sporting people-hauling and cargo capabilities well beyond that of any other segment.

The 2022 Kia Carnival is filled with storage options both large and small
The 2022 Kia Carnival is filled with storage options both large and small

The 2022 Kia Carnival is about the same size as the outgoing Sedona, and thus on par with current market leaders like the Sienna. It takes a few things up a peg, though, adding features like second-row lounge-style seating (a feature of the Sedona’s top trim) that includes heating and ventilation as well as leg rests. Other expected feature options like second-row entertainment, USB plugs at every seating position, an in-cabin intercom, and a rear cabin camera are there too – as is a full suite of active safety systems.

Those safety systems may be our only serious complaint with the 2022 Carnival. They are often intrusive and very sensitive, regularly creating false-positives. The adaptive cruise control is smooth and well done, but is often overridden by the too-aggressive frontal collision warning system. Similarly, the parking collision avoidance system also often applies the brakes when it’s not necessary. We could find no way to tune the sensitivities of these systems in the vehicle’s setup pages.

On the up side, the 2022 Kia Carnival has a very well-balanced propulsion design. A 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower (216 kW) does the work, and its mating eight-speed automatic transmission is a smooth shifter with a good feel for both down- and up-shifting needs. Road travel is smooth and comfortable, and notice of the drivetrain (which is front-wheel drive) is rare. Ride quality is similarly very good.

A second-row middle seat is standard in most models of the 2022 Kia Carnival, providing seating for eight in all
A second-row middle seat is standard in most models of the 2022 Kia Carnival, providing seating for eight in all

When the Kia Carnival debuted, it was announced with an 11-seat option. That option is not yet available in North America, but is found in a few other markets. Most people who are anticipating this feature, though, will likely be disappointed when it arrives. Adding a fourth row to the Carnival cuts cargo space to almost nothing, and while the third row in the 7/8-seat Carnival is adult-capable (if not friendly), its three-across arrangement is not very accommodating when filled. The fourth row of the 11-seater is even tighter – maybe good for 1st century Romans, but not for modern beef eaters. Kia has not given a timeframe for the "Grand Carnival" 11-seat option for North American or European sales.

As a daily driver and family-hauler, though, there are no points of concern with the new Carnival. It’s spacious, comfortable, accessible, and efficient. There is, so far, no hybrid or plug-in version of the Carnival being offered. Its fuel efficiency, however, is better than advertised with an EPA rating of 26 mpg (9 l/100km) on the highway versus our real-world highway loop which returned just over 27 mpg (8.7 l/100km).

The 2022 Kia Carnival has a starting price of about US$32,000. Our upper-range model with the optional Ceramic Silver paint rang in at $41,595 before delivery.

Product Page: 2022 Kia Carnival

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1 comment
1 comment
BlueOak
Hmm. Not mentioned - that irritating, fat, faux SUV-like transmission tunnel center console makes step-thru access in the front an impossibility - something appreciated by loyal veteran minivan owners. Also not mentioned - can the over-sensitive (Kia Attorney heavy hand?) safety features be permanently deactivated? If not, that kind of over-correction would make daily living with this vehicle abhorrent.

The minivan remains an amazingly efficient way to haul a lot of people - or bar none. Especially if you are not too vain to leverage the benefits. Look at small crossovers - they’re basically small minivans from a packaging perspective. Long hoods might be legacy attractive, but they serve no real functional purpose.