Hundreds of new car varieties are available today, but surprisingly few excel at carrying 7-plus passengers or large cargo while maintaining a comfortable, carlike ride. The vehicle type that has done this best is the minivan, although the incredibly utilitarian people mover has fallen out of favor with American car shoppers. Perhaps that’s why Kia decided the brand-new Carnival — a replacement for the Sedona minivan — should not be referred to as a minivan. Carnival features bold styling, innovative features, a spacious interior and the latest high-tech safety equipment. And although it may act like a minivan, the 2022 Kia Carnival is now a multipurpose vehicle, or MPV.
“The Kia Carnival is here to disrupt a staid segment and proves once again what is possible when conventions are shattered,” said Sean Yoon, president & CEO of Kia Motors North America and Kia Motors America. “With its SUV-like character, our new multipurpose vehicle delivers a combination of premium design, intelligent packaging, and an abundance of innovation. For these reasons, the Carnival is the first vehicle to proudly wear our all-new Kia badge,” Yoon enthused.
The 2022 Kia Carnival is built on Kia’s latest N3 platform, which also underpins the new K5 and Sorento. More lightweight with better sound absorbing and insulating materials — as well as extensive use of ultra-high-strength steel — the new platform gives this revamped MPV a quieter ride with improved driving dynamics versus the outgoing Sedona.
Fashioned at the Kia Design Center in Irvine, California, the new Carnival features many cues that first appeared on the brand’s latest SUVs in order to give the minivan — we mean MPV — a more rugged appearance, and it works. Up front sits a modern version of Kia’s familiar “tiger nose” grille that integrates with new signature LED running lights and slim headlights.
The SUV-like styling of the 2022 Kia Carnival gets further emphasized with bold wheel arches and a character line that runs the length of the vehicle connecting the headlights and taillights. The bright C-pillar treatment gives the Carnival a unique look that reinforces its SUV styling. Available 19-inch wheels add stature to the overall look.
On the road, unique LED taillights help the Carnival stand out from other people movers, and the lights stretch the full width across the back of the MPV. The rear valance below Carnival’s bumper resembles a skidplate — designed to underscore the SUV motif.
The 2022 Kia Carnival is available in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige. All are front-wheel drive and powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine.
The LX is the entry trim in the Carnival lineup, with a base price of $32,100. And although entry level this Carnival comes well equipped with 7 passenger seating, an 8-inch touchscreen display, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, front and rear air-conditioning, multiple USB ports, pushbutton start, hands-free sliding rear doors, LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. Forward collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and a rearview monitor are also standard.
Priced at $37,600, the Carnival EX upgrades the LX with artificial leather trim, an 8-way power driver’s seat, 8-passenger seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, wireless phone charger, an 8-speaker audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a multi-function middle seat in the second row that can be moved forward and back or folded to create a table. The EX also gets a cabin camera with intercom to better monitor activities in the aft rows.
With a base MSRP of $41,100, the Carnival SX includes all the EX features and adds ventilated front seats, a power passenger seat, a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, LED fog lights, a matte chrome grille, roof rails, 19-inch alloy wheels with black finish, a 110-volt power outlet, parking collision avoidance and a surround-view monitor.
The top-level trim of the Carnival lineup, the SX Prestige gets priced at $46,100. Upgrades over the SX include leather seat trim, 7-passenger seating with second-row VIP lounge seats, heated and ventilated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, a Bose 12-speaker premium audio system, a power sunroof, LED interior lights, a blind-spot view monitor and dual LED headlights.
A 3.5-liter V6 engine motivates all versions of the 2022 Kia Carnival producing 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque — a bump of 14 horsepower and 14 lb-ft of torque versus the 3.3-liter engine in the current Sedona. Power gets directed to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy numbers are quite reasonable for such a large vehicle — the EPA reports 19 mpg city / 26 mpg hwy / 22 mpg combined. The Carnival has a tow rating up to 3,500 pounds.
During our test drives, we spent most time in the Carnival SX and SX Prestige trim levels. Both are luxurious with larger display screens and attractive materials. The MPV has plenty of storage room in the center console, as well as three USB ports plus a pad for wireless charging so all devices will stay powered.
The 12.3-inch display integrates well with Carnival, and in addition to being easy to operate, Kia provides physical buttons for quick access to features such as navigation, map and radio. In the top-level SX Prestige, the dashboard is further enhanced with an attractive and configurable 12.3-inch driver display.
The digital driver display in the SX Prestige also integrates one of our favorite Kia features — the blind-spot view that appears whenever a turn signal is used.
The available cabin camera and intercom in the 2022 Kia Carnival are a great feature for parents who want to ensure everyone is getting along in the rear seats. The camera view displays all rear seats, and the intercom makes it possible to talk to the passengers without yelling above the audio system — or sibling rivalries. The Carnival also features an ultrasonic sensor that alerts the driver if doors are locked with a person or animal still in the vehicle.
Thanks to the flat floor, the 2022 Kia Carnival has plenty of room for three in the second row. For added versatility the middle seat slides forward for easier access to very small children. Alternatively the seatback can be folded down, which turns the bench seat into individual bucket seats with a convenient table between. Access to the third row is easy – the second-row seats fold and slide forward for quick aft access
The third row is where a minivan (or MPV) really shines compared to a crossover or SUV. The 2022 Kia Carnival has plenty of headroom and legroom for third-row passengers, with cupholders and available USB ports to ease the burden of being relegated to the third row. The available rear sunroof also helps alleviate and claustrophobia.
Perhaps the ultimate back seat, the VIP Lounge Seats in the Carnival would be our seat of choice for a long road trip. Not only are seats heated and cooled, they slide back to provide massive legroom. Then with the push of a button each seat can be reclined with an extendable footrest. Although the VIP seats do not have enough space for an adult stretch out, they are still comfortable. Because these seats are hardwired into the floor, they do not slide out of the way for access to the third row — so those relegated to the back row will have to crawl between the two second-row seats.
Standard on the SX and SX Prestige, the 2022 Kia Carnival’s entertainment system provides dual display screens that can be operated individually. Rather than tying to a DVD player, the system can mirror a mobile device or stream media with Netflix or other services by connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The 2022 Kia Carnival provides plenty of cargo space even with all seats in place, including a deep well to secure all types of cargo. Third-row seats easily fold individually — stowing or restoring can be accomplished with one hand. Seats fold flat into the floor for a large cargo space, and second-row seats can be removed to handle even more gear. (Note that the VIP seats in the SX Prestige are not removable.) One additional cool feature: the tailgate can be set to automatically close, so if both hands are full there’s no need to push a button or pull down the hatch.
Family haulers such as the 2022 Kia Carnival are typically designed more for passengers than the driver, although we were pleasantly surprised at how nice this big MPV drives. The vehicle has plenty of power on tap, and with a quick, smooth-shifting transmission acceleration is surprisingly satisfying.
Whether driving around town or at 80 mph on the freeway, the 2022 Kia Carnival feels solid and confident with an appreciably quiet ride. Thanks to its spacious interior and comfortable seating, Carnival would be an excellent choice for road trips.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is how well the 2022 Kia Carnival handles winding back roads of the Pacific Northwest. Steering is decent, and while the Carnival looks as if it should wallow in corners, the MPV feels stable without exhibiting much body lean. Although we wouldn’t go so far to say it’s fun to drive, the Carnival has enough brio to say it wouldn’t be a penalty to have it as a daily driver.
Granted, the default American family vehicle has become the crossover. Although crossovers do get the job done, none can compare to the versatility of a minivan. However, the term minivan has such a stigma that most consumers won’t choose one, so perhaps Kia made a smart move to distance the Carnival from the term. Whatever you call it, the 2022 Kia Carnival offers a comfortable and roomy interior, attractive styling, a long list of standard features and impressive drivability to make it one of the best MPVs (or minivans) on the market.
Pros: Spacious and comfortable interior; pleasant piloting; great value.
Cons: Limited access to third row with VIP seats; lack of AWD.
Bottom Line: Kia may not call the Carnival a minivan, but the Korean automaker just raised the minivan bar.