Dear Kia – you had a great contender in the minivan market. The Sedona has served you well for three generations since 2002. The last generation model came up with some innovations that Stellantis, Toyota, and Honda would have loved to incorporate into their rival vehicles.
When you first announced that your fourth generation Carnival was coming to our market, you were not going to call it a "minivan." Instead, you called it an MPV. I get that in most of the markets the Carnival is sold that it is the designation for the vehicle. But…I’m confused.
Granted, there is no such thing as a “minivan” in the Philippines, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Russia…and so forth. Yet, since 1983, minivans changed the way families transported themselves on this continent. You came around and offered your own take on the genre some 19 years later, but you did just fine competing against the status quo – even SUVs.
I have to ask, Kia, what’s makes you so damn special?
*takes a deep breath*
Now that I got that off my chest, let me tell the story of the 2022 Kia Carnival MPV – or, whatever you want to call it.
This vehicle was designed to emulate an SUV – partially. However, there is no denying that it is a passenger van. This bold entry into the family vehicle market starts with a concave “tiger” grille that dominates the front clip. A set of LED lighting clusters, mixing headlamps, driving lights, and turn signals, flank this large grille. My SX tester added foglamps to the mix in the lower fascia/bumper area.
Unlike its competitors, the bold Carnival is most square and angular at the same time. The glass profile is broken up by a set of satin chrome accents with a 3-D design. Wrap around the rear end and you get a strip of LED taillights across the upper third of the liftgate.
What makes this Carnival stand out is the new Kia logo. It just fits this vehicle perfectly.
To add some coolness to my tester, Kia installed a set of blacked-out 19-inch alloy wheels. I must say that it adds to the cool factor of this van/MPV/family truckster/etc.
Before I take you to the driver’s seat, I must discuss some claims that Kia made about the Carnival. They state that it has a best-in-class passenger area – 168.0 cubic feet. They also state that it has the most cargo space in its class at 145.1 cubic feet. Part of that claim is the comparison to everyone’s livery truckster and entry-level Wayzata Tractor – the Chevrolet Suburban. The Carnival beats the Suburban by a little over one cubic foot.
Getting it all situated to take about 145 cubic feet of stuff, you have to start with the manual folding third-row seats. Once they are out of the way, there is a completely flat floor from the bumper to the second row of seats. In my SX tester, I had the three-seater configuration in the middle row.
Access to the third row is done through a lever that throws the second outboard seats forward, including the seatbacks. I found that you can seat eight adults inside of this van with some level of comfort. My tester had the Passenger View with Night Vision, along with the Driver & Passenger Talk functions. These features alone help keep tabs of the ruffians – I mean, passengers – in the back two rows. I will admit that the Night Vision piece is a bit eerie to look at.
Front seats are big and supportive. Second-row seat comfort is also pretty good. I heard the third row seats were just fine.
Aligned with the marketing Kia has been pushing for the Carnival, there is definitely an SUV-like driving position. I can confirm that there is a Telluride (remember #VOTY19?) vibe from the driver’s seat. The driver has an actual shifter to operate the transmission, located on a full center console – not a knob or a set of buttons! My tester had a combination of analog and digital instrumentation, along with a wide 12.3-inch infotainment screen.
The UVO-controlled infotainment screen serves as a hub for the most entertainment options on this tester. You can integrate your smartphone through one of the USB ports up front, it will not let you send content to the dual rear seat screens connected to the front seatbacks. Those screens can be mirrored for streaming content from their devices, either through a USB cord or wirelessly. In total, there are eight speakers where sound from the front infotainment system is heard.
Powering the Carnival is a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels only. The performance of this driveline is pretty good. I found no hesitation when I need to pass or enter onto the highway. For fuel economy, I averaged 21.6 MPG.
There is an expectation that an MPV must have a ride quality that won’t disturb the passengers behind you. I am happy to report that the ride quality is pretty smooth. The suspension absorbs bad road surfaces without complaint. The Carnival’s handling did exhibit a soft side when it came to cornering and evasive maneuvers. It is well behaved as expected in an MPV (see, I did not write the word “minivan”…oops!).
Steering was also on the soft side with a good on-center feel. You can change the weight of the steering system by selecting the Drive Mode button to Sport or Smart. The turning radius was good overall. The brakes are fine, with solid stops in normal and panic situations. Pedal feel was fine with decent response to the wheels.
For all of this, my 2022 Kia Carnival SX tester came with a sticker price of $42,770. This model is one of five Carnival trim levels, starting from $32,100. If you’re looking for the VIP Lounge Seats that recline like a private jet and the fully digital instrumentation display with the blind spot screens that pop up in the dials when you flick the turn signal, then you would have to step up to the SX Prestige model.
Whether you buy into Kia’s marketing speak about this being an MPV rather than a van (or, a minivan, at that), you have to give the Carnival a very good look. It is a wonderful people mover for families of all ages.
It also will prompt you to revisit what a family vehicle is supposed to be from your point of view. As much as we were sold on the SUV being a better solution for families with more than two children.
In all, I must say how impressed I was with this sharp-looking family vehicle. It will more than do the job, while giving you a choice against getting an oversized, overpriced, and not-as-utilized-as-it-should-be Wayzata Tractor.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Kia America
All photos by Randy Stern