“I look like a rock star queen driving this minivan,” said no one, ever.
But the Kia Carnival is working to redefine how people see the minivan, starting with a name change. Yep, we’re moving on from minivan to something called a “multipurpose vehicle,” or MPV And it makes sense when you learn what this car is all about.
The term “minivan” was adopted in the 1980s when minivans were designed with only family transportation in mind: A van, but smaller and easier to drive. The Kia Carnival MPV is much more versatile with its bold lines, cargo volume, a V6 engine, and 3,500 pound towing capacity. Language evolves over time, so shifting to calling this new class of people mover a multipurpose vehicle versus a minivan is OK with me — especially since “minivan” seems like such a dirty word these days. Let’s see if this MPV, starting at $32,100 (or $46,100 for the model I drove) catches on.
I got to drive two different trims: the SX ($41,100) and the SX Prestige ($46,100). These are the top-of-the-line trims, and I highly recommend splurging on the Prestige. You’re not going to regret it.
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Regardless of what we’re calling it, I think the Kia Carnival is a winner.
As a current owner of a 2013 minivan, I constantly go back and forth on what’s next — another minivan, or something a little classier? The Kia Carnival, though, made me sit up and take notice.
Before I test drove the Carnival, I was 1,000 percent convinced our next car would not be a minivan. Now, I’m not so sure. Gone are the days of bulky, blocky vans that make you cringe to look at them. The modern MPV has what it takes to not just look good but to feel good, no matter what you’re doing — serving as the certified soccer mom carpool or hauling the boat to the lake for the weekend.
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The Name’s Not the Only Thing That’s New
The Kia Carnival, which replaces the Sedona, is the first Kia to be rolled out with the new Kia logo. New name, new logo. Kia is definitely moving forward and appealing to the next generation of car buyers.
At the same time, they’re keeping the features — and the price points — that we’ve come to expect from a Kia. If you’re going to keep a certain part of your heritage, the price and fun features are the things to keep. The Carnival is slightly larger than the outgoing Sedona — 1.6 inches longer and 0.4 inches wider. The vehicle height is the same, but that little bit of added space is great for legroom and better storage dimensions.
What Does It Cost?
There are four available trim levels: the LX, EX, SX, and SX Prestige. I tested both of the top trim levels: the SX (in Astra Blue) and SX Prestige (in Ceramic Silver). Here’s what you get for each trim:
- LX, base model. 17-inch wheels, daytime running lights, intermittent wipers, hidden rear wiper, locking fuel door, 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, voice recognition, six-speaker audio system, 2 USB ports in every row, 4.2 inch trip computer display, smart key, cloth seats, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way adjustable passenger seat, 7-passenger seating: $32,100
- EX, adds 19-inch wheels, roof rails, 12.3-inch touch screen, SiriusXM, navigation, 8-speaker audio system, wireless phone charger, tri-zone temperature control, synthetic texture seats, 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, 8-passenger seating, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, power-operated liftgate, in-cabin intercom: $37,600
- SX, adds rear seat entertainment system, 2 additional 2nd row USB outlets, 2 115V power inverters, 8-way adjustable passenger seat, 8-passenger seating: $41,100
- SX Prestige, adds dual power tilting and sliding sunroofs, full LED headlights, 12-speaker Bose audio system, 12.3-inch LCD dash cluster, auto-dimming rearview mirror, genuine leather seats, 7-passenger seating, heated steering wheel: $46,100
- Add a mandatory destination charge of $1,175 for all trims
Engine, Towing Capacity and Other Specs to Know
- 3.5-liter V6 engine
- 290 horsepower
- 262 lb-ft torque
- Fuel economy: 19 city / 26 highway / 22 combined. That’s comparable to the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica.
- 19 gallon fuel tank
- 3,500 pound towing capacity, which is enough for a trailer, boat, or camper.
- Front-wheel drive only; Kia has received some early criticism for not rolling out an AWD option, so it will be interesting to see if they respond. Kia does offer other vehicles if AWD is a must-have.
The Kia Carnival is very smooth and feels very stable to drive. The large steering wheel, large display, and comfortable driver’s seat make this a good fit for carpool lines, errands and longer road trips/adventures. It handles similarly to other late-model minivans on the market or a crossover SUV, since it doesn’t sit very high off the ground.
That said, I might slot it above most of the competition. It has a tough-to-beat starting price and tons of options that will make it a practical luxury for any family without breaking the bank. It’s going to put the heat on the big names in the minivan — sorry, MPV — game, like the Odyssey or Sienna.
Standard Driver Assist and Safety Features That Have Your Back
Standard safety features:
- Forward collision warning
- Pedestrian detection
- Automatic forward emergency braking
- Blind-spot warning
- Rear cross-traffic warning
- Collision avoidance
- Lane-departure warning
- Lane-keep and -center assist
- Automatic high beams
- Driver attention monitoring
- Leading vehicle departure alert, which lets you know when the car in front of you has moved away from a stop light
Upgrade to the Prestige trim and you’ll get:
- Enhanced forward collision warning
- Cyclist detection
- Intersection detection that will stop the car if there’s oncoming traffic
- Navigation-based cruise control
- Automatic stop-and-go for traffic
- Automatic slowdowns for curves
- Level 2 driver assist technologies, which take some of the burden of driving off the driver while sill keeping them active
- Advanced blind-spot monitoring
Who should drive the Kia Carnival?
- Families, young or old, that are too cramped for an SUV or just want some space
- Business owners who need the cargo room
- Frequent road trippers/adventurers
The Carnival will have tremendous appeal to millennial parents. Millennials grew up with technology and expect cutting edge convenience. The fact that this won’t look like the other minivans but offers the same conveniences (gotta love those sliding doors and dual screens!) will be a huge selling point for parents who need the functionality of a minivan but aren’t ready to completely dump their desire to be hip and stylish.
Three Days, Two MPV Models and These are My Favorite Features:
I did a three day drive with both the SX and the SX Prestige, and I learned as much as I could during this quick, get acquainted visit with these two vehicles. I’m sure there are things I love about the Kia Carnival that I just don’t know yet, but I’ll share some of the features I discovered that really make this car pop for me.
- The rear seats in the SX Prestige model. These rival business-class airline seats and would be a game changer for family road trips. The recline quite a lot and have a foot rest. They also shift from side to side so you can increase the space between the second row seating. Anyone with two or more kids knows extra space is a good thing.
- 12.3-in. touchscreen display with navigation and modem. The larger screen is a really nice upgrade.
- Dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system with streaming media and device mirroring. This is another feature that would be huge for longer trips with kids.
- The sporty, bold, trim. This might be a people mover but the bold trim really elevates the Kia Carnival.
- Flexibility and ease of configuring the seats. Whether you’re hauling six kids (the SX seats 8) or supplies from the Home Depot for a home improvement project, it’s easy to make the rear space be what you need it to be.
- The clean, almost minimal design. This multipurpose vehicle is nicely loaded with bells and whistles while maintaining a very neat, streamlined aesthetic.
- Blind-Spot monitor. You’ll see a live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster when you put on your turn signal.
- 9 USB ports (7 standard); 2 power outlets (12V); 2 inverters (115V); and wireless phone charger. This is huge for me. We live in the age of being plugged in and Kia is showing us they get it.
- In-cabin camera and intercom. Want to speak to someone in the third row without yelling or find out why it suddenly got quiet back there? Boom.
- Hands-free power sliding doors, hands-free power tailgate with auto closing, and one-button (key fob) all-door open/close function.
- Surround view monitor utilizes four cameras to provide a 360-degree perspective, enhancing driver confidence in tight parking situations.
In a nutshell, the Kia Carnival just felt good. It did everything I needed it to do — and then some. It’s comfortable and way cooler than a minivan. Here’s hoping the name change catches on!
Disclosure: I test drove the 2022 Kia Carnival SX and the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige. I was part of Kia’s media drive to launch their latest addition to the Kia lineup of vehicles.