AUTO REVIEW: Kia Carnival Has Come to Town With New Look, Surprises

By Barry Spyker

The 2022 Kia Carnival (Kia Motors/TNS)

(Tribune News Service/TNS) — Many of us family types have lusted after the neighbor’s smart, brutish SUV and yearned for the day we can put the minivan years behind us. Sure, they’re functional and convenient for hauling around the grubby-fingered tykes, but they tend to be dull and stodgy as a school bus.

Here’s another way to go. Kia has reinvented its Sedona minivan for 2022, repurposing it as an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle, with a wink to Mazda) and sneakily disguising it to look like an upscale SUV. With big wheels, broad grille and LED lights with daring zig-zag running lights, it surprised my relatives at the airport who were expecting a minivan.

“Isn’t that the new Carnival?” asked someone standing nearby.

Why, yes it is, but don’t be fooled by its SUV appearance. It’s all minivan when it comes to seating for as many as eight, power-sliding side doors and two tons of versatility. With dual video screens in the second row and a middle seat that converts to a snack table, one might dare say this MPV is a carnival of fun. Sorry, cornucopia?

The Carnival, first to wear Kia’s futuristic new logo, is slightly more powerful than the Sedona (by 14 horses) yet stingier on fuel, and it’s more capacious thanks to its new chassis and longer wheelbase.

Each Carnival gets a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, which is ample power in most situations. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic that is smooth and accurate in its gear selection.

It can tow up to 3,500 pounds but it is front-wheel driven; all-wheel-drive is not available. Look to the Toyota Sienna if AWD is a priority. Also, a hybrid version is not available, either. Check out the Chrysler Pacifica’s plug-in hybrid for that.

Carnival can get to 60 mph in around 7 seconds and has good pull across the power band, meaning it can charge up the on-ramps and punch past the slower traffic on the turnpike.

Around town or on the open road, it delivers a smooth and comfortable ride. A basic strut and multilink suspension setup keeps it well composed on corners and does an adequate job of smoothing out rough patches and railroad tracks.

Drivers can select from three drive modes: Normal, Eco and Comfort. Eco limits power and even AC performance to squeeze out a couple more mpg, while Comfort lightens the steering feel. Under the best circumstances, expect fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway for a combined figure of 22 mpg — all of which are a tad better than Sedona.

As with all minivans, the best stuff is inside. Open the standard hands-free sliding doors and discover attractive two-tone leather seating for seven or eight, depending on the trim. Multiple seating configurations are possible, including a second-row sliding center seat that gives parents easier access to a youngster. Or that same seat can spin around and convert to a table for snacks and games.

On the top-trim SX Prestige, the second row rules with two reclining, heated/ventilated VIP seats with power adjustments for headrest and extendable leg rests. The two top trims have a twin-screen rear entertainment system, too, loaded with games and ready for streaming. One caution: The protruding screens make installing a rear-facing car seat an ordeal.

Third-row seats are easy to reach and, surprisingly, can accommodate even six-footers. With the 7-seater you can walk back there, too. And no one has to feel left out of the conversation: Communicating is easy-peasy with a cabin intercom. A camera system also helps monitor the little rascals in the rear.

A tri-zone climate control keeps everyone comfy, and rear rows have manual window shades, too.

Behind the third row is 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space, a few cubes more than the Sedona but not as much as Pacifica and Honda Odyssey. Fold the seats flat and remove the second-row seats (not possible in all trims) and there’s a cavernous 145 cubic feet. Other trims have 89 cubic feet.

Up front, seats are supportive and spacious from head to shoulder to toe, and are 10-way power adjustable with 2-way lumbar function. Materials are high-quality and have a superb look and fit.

The top trim has a dual-screen dashboard with 12.3-inch digital gauge display and another for the infotainment system. It’s intuitive and easy to use, though sometimes sluggish. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and nine USB chargers are planted throughout the cabin.

Topping off the optional-goodies list on the SX Prestige are dual-pane sunroofs that tilt and slide and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.

Kia’s highway driving assist heads the list of Carnival safety features. It keeps the vehicle a safe distance from others and keeps it in lane. It also includes lane watch, which shows the turning lane when the turn signal comes on. Other features include pedestrian and cyclist detection, front and rear parking sensors, and both rear-occupant and safe-exit alerts.

The 2022 Carnival, with its power-sliding doors and roomy, versatile interior, is indeed all minivan. The beauty of it is that nobody has to know.

2022 Kia Carnival SX

MSRP: $41,595

Includes navigation, 8-passenger with removable second-row seats, power sliding doors and lift gate, 19-inch black alloy wheels, dual rear entertainment screens, Kia Drivewise technology package, parking sensors and surround-view monitor

What’s all the excitement about? A rebranded Sedona, the Carnival has SUV looks up front, hands-free power sliding doors and ultra-versatile interior with multiple seating configurations.

Powertrain: 3.5-liter inline V-6 engine good for 290 hp and 262 pound-feet of torque; mated to 8-speed automatic

How’s the performance? Smooth and comfortable, well composed on corners, and adequate acceleration with 0-60 mph in 7 seconds

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined

Photos by Kia Motors/TNS

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