2022 Kia Carnival: There’s No Shame in Being a Minivan

Strong points
  • Great value for the price
  • Comfortable & high tech
  • Looks good
Weak points
  • No all-wheel-drive option
  • No hybrid option
Full report

While Xennials and Millennials mainly remember being hauled around in a Pontiac Trans Sport, Ford Aerostar, Dodge Caravan, or even a Mazda MPV (if your parents were weird) generations who attended soccer practice after that most likely got there in the back of an SUV.

The minivan isn’t dead, but it often resurfaces on the premium side of things with tons of amenities and an often-hefty price tag that makes you think twice before choosing this kind of vehicle.

Kia brought back the Sedona and rebranded it as the Carnival. However, executives in South Korea dressed the whole operation as a new SUV launch. Of course, we don’t need to tell you that this newcomer has minivan written all over it. Even if Kia tried to make the Carnival look mean, the twin sliding doors kind of give it away.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

So, why categorize the Carnival as an SUV? There are so many SUVs out there, why not just call it a “cooler” minivan?

We spent a week at the wheel of the Carnival SX, a minivan that bears a slew of premium bits to entice families into sticking to the sliding-side-door lifestyle.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

Shiny armour, loaded interior

The 2022 Kia Carnival is dressed up to do the town, with chrome accents made to help the car avoid looking “plasticky” like other minivans on the market. In the front, futuristic headlights flank a large grille for that more aggressive look automakers seem to go with nowadays.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

Stepping inside the Carnival is the first thing that makes the vehicle appealing to anyone who wants to drive it, big or small. It’s low to the ground, so you don’t have to climb in, and the interior is as impressive and spacious as it should be for this type of vehicle. You’ll have to climb pretty high (physically, and on the pricing ladder) to find a three-row SUV that offers anything close to this level of passenger volume.

The dazzle continues in the dashboard, which features a large band of chrome that connects the space horizontally. The rest of the dashboard is typical of recent Kia models: a well-assembled blend of piano black and silver plastics garnished with a mix of analog and digital commands. Our tester was fitted with the huge dual-screen setup composed of a fully-digital 12.3” instrument cluster and a 12.3” infotainment screen.

Photo: Kia

Although Kia’s UVO system is full of functionality and quite fast, it isn’t the simplest or the most intuitive system. However, the screen orientation towards the driver and the clear graphics make it a useful tool once you get used to it. The digital cluster is even more useful, with features such as the blind spot monitor that pops up in the middle of the speedometer to give you a look at your blind spot while you are backing up or making a turn.

Photo: Kia

The party truly heats up in the rear. The Carnival can be fitted with two captain chairs in the second row, which are straight out of your living room. The automaker calls them “VIP lounge chairs”, as they fully recline and even have a LA-Z-BOY-type footrest. These chairs move forward and backwards, as well as side to side.

Photo: Kia

The rest of the Carnival is pretty standard minivan fare, with easy fold third row seating and plenty of rear cargo space in every direction. You’ll get 1,139 litres behind the third row, which is more than the Toyota Sienna (with 949 litres) and the Honda Odyssey (with 929 litres). The maximum cargo volume tops the charts at 4,110 litres.

Good performance, with one missed opportunity

The 2022 Kia Carnival gets its motivation from a 3.5-litre V6 engine that serves 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. So far, so good. The combo provides plenty of get-up-and-go to haul the family around. Unfortunately, all that cavalry is channeled exclusively to the front wheels. And, lord knows, when the winter comes, all-wheel drive (AWD) becomes a necessary safety element for a family hauler. And if the Carnival is going to compete with SUVs, an AWD option is a basic weapon - but we'll get to that later.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

Otherwise, the Kia Carnival handles itself like a minivan should, but with a tiny bit more finesse in the corners. Braking is surprisingly good, considering the 4,000 pounds the Carnival has to carry when empty.

The SX model we tried rang the bell at just over $48,000 before delivery, which offered a considerable amount of equipment.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

Kia tries hard to make the minivan ownership experience appealing by putting an SUV (or "Life Utility Vehicle", as they call it) sticker on their new model. But the fact of the matter is, the Carnival is a cooler minivan and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Although gorged with substance inside and out, it missed a good opportunity. If you think about it, how many people buy a front-wheel-drive-only, three-row SUV? Not many. If Kia wants to tackle rivals like the new Sienna minivan, as well as the army of three-row SUVs out there, AWD is an asset they may want to consider.

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