Design | Comfort | Technology | Performance | Safety | Fuel Economy | Pricing
Kia is no stranger to minivans, selling the US-market Sedona over three generations since its debut in 2002. However, the automaker would maybe prefer you forget the past, which is why it replaced the outgoing minivan with a family hauler called the Carnival (adopting the global name already used in other regions). In fact, Kia is so devoted to minimizing the Sedona’s influence that it doesn’t even call the 2022 Carnival a minivan at all.
Instead, the automaker would have you call it a “multi-purpose vehicle,” a buzzword that invokes a crossover more than a van. Disguising a mini’s van-ness isn’t a new idea. The Chevrolet Uplander and its Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay, and Pontiac Montana SV6 siblings adopted a long snout and lower cladding that GM claimed gave them SUV styling. But where those frankly hideous, lethargic minivans failed, the Carnival succeeds – this Kia family hauler is handsome, versatile, and comfortable, regardless of what you call it.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Kia Carnival SX|
290 Horsepower / 262 Pound-Feet
|Fuel Economy:||19 City / 26 Highway / 22 Combined|
|Base Price:||$32,100 + $1,175 Destination|
Gallery: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Review
The 2022 Kia Carnival enters a market wherein the minivan segment is dwindling, its former consumers migrating to SUVs by the, um, vanfull. As such, Kia adopted a blocky, upright stance for its MPV, hoping to capture some attention from shoppers who might otherwise choose a crossover. If reactions from bystanders are any indication, the automaker succeeded – after I took delivery of the Carnival, my neighbor said, “I didn’t know they made SUVs with sliding doors.” Kia achieved this crossover parity by emphasizing the Carnival’s length and width, not its height.
A nearly flat body line runs from the headlights to the taillights, incorporating the track of the sliding door along the way. This surfacing detail also makes the hood look longer, flatter, and less droopy than other vans. The intricately styled headlight elements are exposed, rather than hidden under transparent plastic, and the Kia tiger-nose grille recalls the Seltos small crossover. A skinny, full-width taillight and satin silver “skid plate” trim appear around back, helping the Carnival look less top-heavy.
The most divisive styling feature is a kinked hockey stick of metallic trim appearing aft of the sliding door and wrapping around the rear windows that helps the C-pillar look a bit swoopier. The unfortunate side effect is a set of comically tiny third-row quarter windows, which neither roll down nor pop out for ventilation. The satin-aluminum trim is also a bit fiddly-looking, with hexahedron surfacing that not everyone likes – though I personally love it.
Inside, this SX model gets beautiful tan and black SynTex upholstery (Kia calls it Tuscan Umber), with front bucket seats separated by a fixed center console that houses a traditional shift lever. The console preempts a traditional minivan’s pass-through functionality, but it’s undeniably a comfortable place to rest your arm, with plenty of storage to boot. Materials quality is generally pretty impressive, with soft-touch materials on the console, door panel uppers, and dash fascia. Hard plastic appears liberally in the rear cabin, but that’s common (and even welcome) in this class of vehicle, which has to endure the rigors of hockey carpool.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Kia Sedona
- Seating Capacity: 8
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3 / 3
- Cargo Volume: 40.2 / 86.9 / 145.1 Cubic Feet
The 2022 Kia Carnival is near the top of its class in terms of passenger comfort. The SX trim has supportive front bucket seats that are heated and cooled, and that aforementioned console adds a bit more comfort and familiarity to those trading in a crossover. The SynTex upholstery does a great imitation of genuine leather, feeling as nice as the actual hides found in the Honda Odyssey. Space up front is exemplary, with more head and shoulder room than any of its competitors – the Chrysler Pacifica ties the Carnival in front legroom, resting at the top of the class.
Middle-row space is likewise impressive. The Odyssey offers more headroom and the Toyota Sienna more legroom, but the Carnival excels otherwise. Shoulder room in particular is a nice win, allowing the Kia to accommodate three people comfortably in the supportive second row – individual fore-aft and recline adjustability helps each of those folks find a pleasant seating position, and the center seat also folds forward to create a small table with cupholders. The Carnival’s third row does well enough too thanks to a high seating position and reasonable headroom that allows adults to sit upright with plenty of leg support.
At 40.2 cubic feet, seats-up cargo space is the best in the segment as well, beating out the Odyssey’s 38.6, the Pacifica’s 32.3, and the Toyota Sienna’s 33.5. Flipping the third row into the floor opens up 86.9 cubes, which beats out its competitors again. Removing the second-row seats is a cumbersome task that requires strong arms and lots of finesse, but it reveals an impressive 145.1 cubic feet of cargo room, more than a Chevrolet Suburban. A few little cubbies in the cargo well help keep stuff organized, too. Suffice it to say, families won’t have to leave much behind on long road trips.
However, the Carnival’s pogo-stick rear axle might lead to some carsickness on those vacations. The minivan feels undersprung in back, with pavement undulations introducing themselves to the bumpstops – and that’s with the Carnival almost completely unloaded. Excellent dampers prevent those abrupt body motions from lasting long, but they’re still a bit gut-wrenching on a long freeway drive. The athletic Odyssey is far more composed in such situations, although the Kia is undeniably quieter.
- Center Display: 12.3-inch touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 4.2-inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: No
Like every new Kia, the Carnival makes use of a very intuitive infotainment system shared with Hyundai. The SX model I drove features a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a wireless charger appears in a little binnacle in the center stack. All three rows offer USB-A charging, with second-row power points appearing on the console and front seatbacks, while the third row gets a pair of outlets – one on each side of the car. This tester lacks the SX Prestige’s digital instrument display, instead relying on a pair of analog gauges with a 4.2-inch multi-information screen between them.
Compensating for the driver’s pixel deprivation is a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment with a children’s menu preloaded with YouTube Kids and Pinkfong Baby Shark apps. Users can also log into certain services like Podcasts, Twitch, YouTube, and News Reader, as well as access the Kia’s native audio sources and Sounds of Nature function. Furthermore, connecting to in-car Wi-Fi allows passengers to cast videos from smart devices to the entertainment system, with each screen able to play from different sources. In fact, if families play their cards right, they won’t have to interact with each other at all on long drives.
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6
- Output: 290 Horsepower / 262 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
The Kia Carnival is thoroughly average in terms of performance, though it’s hard to expect too much of anything with sliding doors in the stoplight grand prix. The engine doesn’t sound particularly happy at full throttle, but it comports itself well otherwise, dispatching aggressive freeway merges with little drama. The eight-speed transmission doles out intuitive and smooth shifts, and with the drive selector set to Sport, it even proactively downshifts on hard braking.
Anyone looking for a minivan that can corner is bound to be disappointed. Instead, expect the Kia MPV to offer safe, predictable handling thanks to those well-tuned dampers and a robust structure. Light steering imparts zero feel, but it’s nice when weaving through a parking lot, and the front wheels respond accurately to inputs at the helm. Brakes are likewise adequate, gripping hard and sure.
Kia doesn’t offer the Carnival with all-wheel drive, a curious omission given its crossover-like styling and marketing campaign. If snowy weather is regularly in the forecast, buyers might prefer the Chrysler Pacifica or Toyota Sienna.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick
The 2022 Kia Carnival comes standard with a long list of safety features. A few segment exclusives include Rear Occupant Alert, Safe Exit Assist, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance that works both when backing out of a driveway and pulling away from a parallel parking space. Also standard is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and collision prevention, lane-departure warning, lane-keep and lane-follow assistance, and automatic high beams.
The EX, SX, and SX Prestige also get adaptive cruise control, bicyclist detection, and Highway Driving Assist. However, HDA was less elegantly tuned in the MPV than it is in other Kia and Hyundai products. The system occasionally got confused by right turn lanes and freeway exits, attempting to follow the outside white line away from the intended lane of travel even if the driver puts up a fight. I still used the feature with every long drive, but it didn’t inspire as much confidence as in other cars.
- City Fuel Economy: 19 MPG
- Highway Fuel Economy: 26 MPG
- Combined Fuel Economy: 22 MPG
The 2022 Kia Carnival gets 19 miles per gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined per the EPA. In spite of their higher 28-mpg highway ratings, the Odyssey and Pacifica earn the same 19 city and 22 combined as the Carnival. Meanwhile, the hybrid-only Toyota Sienna achieves 36 mpg across the board, while the Pacifica plug-in hybrid gets 30 mpg combined to go along with its 32 miles of EV-only range.
In a week of traffic-intensive driving, the Carnival SX achieved only 17.2 mpg in total, as indicated on the trip computer. One mostly downhill 22-mile stretch yielded 23.1 mpg, so we think owners will have a hard time matching their new van’s EPA rating in normal driving.
- Starting Price: $32,100 + $1,175 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $42,275
- As-Tested Price: $42,770
Kias no longer sell merely on the basis of a low starting price, but the Carnival still impresses me with its overall value. Starting at $33,275 (including $1,175 destination) for the Carnival LX, this SX tester starts at $42,275, with the only added cost being the $495 Ceramic Silver paint. At $42,770, there aren’t many other vehicles in the minivan segment that offer as much as the Carnival SX, particularly considering its massive interior and pleasant styling.
The Honda Odyssey Touring starts at $42,500 and features an even more reconfigurable interior, thanks to a second row that can be a three-across bench; two individual bucket seats; or a two-across bench skewed to the left, right, or center of the vehicle. The Chrysler Pacifica Touring L is cheaper than the Carnival at $39,120, while all-wheel drive models cost $42,115. And the Toyota Sienna XLE is a bit less expensive than them all at $39,750, but buyers will have to sacrifice a removable second row and lots of power to get the hybrid four-cylinder’s improved fuel economy.
If neither all-wheel drive nor an electrified powertrain are a priority, however, it’s hard to recommend against the Carnival. Its impressive interior comfort and bold styling help the MPV rise above its middling fuel economy and class-average driving experience, with plenty of on-board technology to keep everyone informed and entertained. After decades of mere adequacy, the new Kia minivan is worth adding to the shopping list.
Carnival Competitor Reviews
Gallery: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Review
2022 Kia Carnival SX