Minivans are the vehicle of choice for large families or anyone transporting seven or eight occupants on a regular basis.
For 2022 Kia’s Carnival replaces its aging Sedona minivan (or CUV cross-over vehicle) and shies once again from labeling the replacement a minivan, calling it a MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) due in part to its flexibility in seating.
It boasts an aggressive, brawny SUV-like appearance, with best-in-class horsepower, best-in-class passenger and cargo room, a new powerful engine, and 3,500 pounds of towing muscle. It competes on price with easily with similarly equipped competitors, like Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Pacifica – the minivan big three.
We tested the Carnival SX Prestige, top trim above LX, LXS, EX and SX with an extra $495 for Astra Blue paint.
It’s an attractive front-wheel drive family hauler (no all-wheel drive option) and is the first Kia sold in the United States to showcase the company’s modern new logo on its sculpted hood. With an extended wheelbase, it’s longer and wider than the Sedona it replaces.
The overall handling was adequate when not driven aggressively, as it was designed to carry precious cargo, like children. The power sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle are enhancements that families will love.
The ride was comfortable with MacPherson struts in front and multi-link suspension in the rear, but transmission hiccups occurred occasionally at lower speeds.
In addition to standard advanced driving safety aids, The Kia Carnival has a blind spot monitor with live video of adjacent lanes, rear occupant alert, safe exit assist, surround parking sensors with nose-in front views, curve and speed limit assist and LED lights.
These features and Carnival’s lighter and stronger body helped earn it a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The cabin is visually upscale with our seven-passenger test-drive (eight is an option with a bench second row) displaying burnt-orange Tuscan Umber seats and door trim, gloss-black materials, aluminum accents and tan headliner and pillars. Third row seats tumbled easily into floor wells for extra cargo space.
All seating positions were comfortable, with second-row captain chairs configurable into V-shaped VIP lounge seats for viewing entertainment screens behind front row seats accessible with wireless Apple and Android devices that can be charged in-cabin.
Drivers manipulate a 12.3-inch dashboard touchscreen or summon features/info with Kia’s UVO (voice) system, like navigation, weather and Amazon-Alexa or Google-Assistant.
Additional cabin technology included viewing rear passengers, even at night, a cabin intercom and relaxing “nature sounds,”
At a Glance
LIKES: Looks, power, versatility, price, luxury, technology, safety
DISLIKES: Transmission hiccups, no all-wheel drive option
BOTTOM LINE: Should considerably improve sales in declining minivan market
Fact File: KIA Carnival SX Prestige
3.5-liter, V-6, direct injection, GDI
290 hp at 6,400 rpm
262 ft.-lbs. at 5,000 rpm
8-speed automatic w/Sportmatic
19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway
19-gallon tank, regular
0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.