Modern minivans must reinvent themselves and be creative if they hope to curb their steady extinction as sport utility vehicles (SUV) keep ruling the market. This is what the all-new 2022 Kia Carnival is trying to do as a fresh replacement for the Sedona in Canada.
The company says it’s inspired by SUVs but calls it a “Life Utility Vehicle” (LUV). We doubt this acronym will catch on, but Kia’s effort is commendable. Following a full week behind the wheel of the Carnival, here are 10 things we like or dislike about it.
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We Like: Cheap Price
While our top-line SX tester retailed from $48,595 plus destination and delivery, the Carnival starts at $34,795, which is just $800 above the redesigned 2021 Sorento, another three-row Kia (with much less interior space, of course). Every other minivan out there is more expensive, including the value-focused Grand Caravan ($37,995) that’s now sold as a Chrysler.
We Dislike: Base LX Trim
Looking at the specs and equipment details, the entry-level Carnival isn’t so appealing after all. There are no heated front seats and steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, multi-zone climate control, 110V power outlet, power sliding doors or roof rails—all convenient and desirable features for Canadian families.
It’s best to select at least the LX+ trim starting at $38,295. Add an extra $4,000 for the EX model that comes next.
We Like: Bold, Modern Looks
From Kia’s new logo to the large, redesigned grille to the eye-catching, chicane-style LED daytime running lights, the 2022 Carnival looks quite modern. The bold design and stance, with slightly taller ground clearance and hints of the Ford Explorer from certain angles, somewhat hide the fact that it’s a minivan. EX and higher models have a bit more attitude with their stylish 19-inch wheels.
We Dislike: Too Much Bling
The bold looks come with an overabundance of chrome and other metal-like finishes. You can see it all around on the outside, but also inside especially on the dashboard. The Carnival SX shows more restraint with black-painted wheels, but a Sport package or Nightfall Edition would be preferable.
We Like: Safety First
Kia isn’t fooling around when it comes to safety, which is covered by a host of advanced systems including Lane Keeping and Following Assist, Smart Cruise Control, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist, Parking Distance Warning, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with available Junction Turning. The available Blind Spot Monitor on the instrument panel is pretty useful, too.
We Dislike: No AWD
Is it too much to ask for a hybrid variant to rival the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica? Maybe. Or maybe not. The Sorento offers one, you know. But more importantly for Canadians, why no all-wheel drive option? For the LUV of Kia, a FWD-only Carnival isn’t a very convincing alternative to SUVs.
Incidentally, all models share a new 3.5-litre V6 engine. Output is rated at 290 horsepower along with 262 pound-feet of torque, both up from the Sedona’s 3.3-litre V6. Mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, the Carnival achieves a combined 10.6 L/100 km, exactly like the standard Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey.
We Like: Multimedia Interface
The standard eight-inch or available 12.3-inch centre display in the 2022 Carnival proves user-friendly thanks to its driver-oriented design, beautifully sharp graphics and easy-to-use infotainment system. The only real good reason to turn to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is if you don’t have navigation, which is exclusive to the two most expensive trims. What’s more, the camera allowing the driver to keep an eye on second- and third-row occupants offers a clean view.
We Dislike: Touch-sensitive Controls
On the flip side, the touch-sensitive controls located below the centre display are not driver-friendly. Sure, they look nice as they blend in with the black trim panel, but they can be tough to find and use without taking your eyes off the road for more than a quick glance. Even after you get used to their location, some distractions are bound to happen while driving.
We Like: VIP Seating
Exclusive to the seven-passenger Carnival SX, the luxury captain’s chairs in the second row are first-class stuff. They can slide fore and aft as well as from left to right to optimize interior space. The cushions are fairly comfortable, too. You can not only recline the seatbacks, but also deploy the legrests for maximum relaxation. Now, who gets the chance to sit there on a family road trip? That’s the big question.
We Dislike: Minivan-like Handling
The more powerful engine is nice, but the Carnival is still a big minivan that weighs as much as 2,140 kilograms (4,718 pounds). You can feel it while accelerating from a standstill and particularly when attacking corners. The ride is compliant thanks to the McPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, but handling is by no means car-like. There are other three-row vehicles that provide a lot more fun behind the wheel.