Sometimes you just need a minivan.
SUVs can’t match them when it comes to their sheer volume, particularly for chores like carting four full-size suitcases and two carry-ons, not to mention two parents about to take their first post-pandemic vacation. That’s a lot, but the 2022 Kia Carnival minivan can handle my parents’ frequent changes of clothing. And it does so with a heavy dose of style.
The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona in Kia’s lineup, and comes on strong with a boxy crossover look that seems right at home alongside the incredibly popular Kia Telluride. Even twenty-something valets seem to like it, and who would have thought they’d be impressed by a minivan?
But it’s hard not to be captivated, for it’s clear that Kia did its homework.
Offered in ascending LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige trim, the Carnival wears styling details that help you forget what you’re driving, such as the crisp lines on the clamshell hood, the flashy side window trim, and rear skid plates. But there’s no mistaking it once you climb inside.
The SX Prestige that Kia provided for a weeklong test drive was generously equipped, and carried a base price of $46,100, a $14,000 premium above the $32,100 base model.
Once ensconced, you’ll find this is one cavernous Carnival, with 168 cubic feet of passenger space and as much as 145 cubic feet of cargo space. LX and SX Prestige models come with seven-passenger seating, while the EX and SX have eight passenger seating. Second-row seats can slide back and forth and are removable. The third row folds into the floor. Heated front seats are standard on all but the LX, where they’re optional. Second- and third-row heated seats are standard on the SX Prestige. As you might expect, base models are covered in cloth, while EX and SX models have fake leather. The SX Prestige gets the real thing.
All Carnivals come with an 8-inch touchscreen display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is wireless when the dual rear screen package is offered. Built-in Wi-Fi and wireless charging are also offered, although there are up to nine USB ports and two 110-volt outlets.
And it’s filled with thoughtful touches that parents will appreciate.
A rear-occupant alert system employs ultrasonic sensors that alerts you if a child, person or pet remains in rear seats after you’ve shut off and locked the vehicle. There’s also an in-cabin intercom for conversing with those in the rear. And you can keep an eye out for what’s happening back there, thanks to an in-cabin camera that includes night vision.
As you’d expect with a family hauler, there’s a generous array of standard safety gear, including forward collision avoidance assist, blind-spot avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, parking distance warning, lane-keeping assist, high beam assist, and driver attention warning.
Powering this mobile parental palace is a double-overhead-cam 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel-drive is not offered. But it can tow a reasonable 3,500 pounds. It’s rated by the EPA at 22 mpg in mixed driving, which the test car returned after nearly 300 miles of test driving.
The V-6 engine provides enough muscle to move this minivan with the requisite grunt. Overall performance is well-balanced, with a comfortable ride and controlled body motions over bumps. The Carnival remained unruffled during cornering, and road noise was minimal up front. The same isn’t true in the second row, where passengers volunteered that the Carnival had a lot of road noise. They also complained about seat comfort, with the second row Captain’s chairs proving to be too firm. Yet the driver’s seat seemed the ideal combination of comfort and support. Controls are logical and easy to use, and Kia’s infotainment user interface is easy to use, thanks to its intuitive design.
If there’s one thing that needs changing, it’s the rear tailgate. A beep sounds when it’s open, and keeps beeping annoyingly until you close it. This is safety overkill and exasperating.
But overall, the Carnival is a big improvement from the Sedona, thanks to its sharp looks, spacious interior, good performance and up-to-date tech. It’s so good, in fact, you may not even mind that it’s a minivan.
2022 Kia Carnival
Base price: $32,100
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6
Horsepower/Torque: 290/262 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 19/26 mpg
Observed fuel economy: 22 mpg
Fuel required: 87 Octane
Length/Width/Height: 203/78.5/69.9 inches
Ground clearance: 6.8 inches
Payload: 1,440 pounds
Cargo capacity: 40.2-145.1 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds