As the mom of three, I can technically do without a third row.
In fact, we recently purchased a pickup truck as our daily driver/family car. But the time is quickly approaching when the grandparents who live with us will also need to ride with us, and there’s nothing like a minivan for easy in-and-out for everyone involved. So, we’ve been talking about what to get when that time comes. Having recently driven two different competing vehicles, I was excited to experience the new kid on the block, the 2022 Kia Carnival, which has a starting price of about $32,000 and tops out at about $46,000.
The Very Best Dash
My husband and I both fell in love with the 2022 Kia Carnival driver’s display and infotainment system. The seamless integration of both in a super clean dashboard felt very calming. There is zero clutter, and the infotainment screen doesn’t stick up above the dash. The camera display quality for the backup camera was top-notch, and we both really loved the blindspot camera views in the driver’s display.
It is clear from the design and features that this is a brand new vehicle. Kia didn’t take the Sedona and ask what they could change or add to make it cooler than before. They scratched it completely and designed a whole new vehicle. I think this contributes to the uncluttered feel of the dash and center console… new tech isn’t just added on, it’s at home.
Less Minivan. More SUV.
While Kia doesn’t call this vehicle either, it’s pretty obvious from the sliding doors and interior layout that this is a minivan. But it’s not obvious from the outside or from the driving experience. And this is one of the things we loved about the Carnival. On the outside, it looks more like a full-size SUV. It is a little more squared off, and the trim and accents are very strategically placed to give it that big SUV look, while still affording passengers with a low ride height for easy entry and exit.
A True Multipurpose Vehicle (Hello, Tow Capacity!)
Thanks to the flexibility of the Carnival, I can totally see this MPV being way more than a family hauler. The back seats go down very easily and I feel like that added cargo space just screams “Take me to Costco!” The V6 engine gives the vehicle plenty of get-up-and-go so you don’t feel like you’re driving a little van. We got to drive it in some pretty heavy rain and wind during a tropical storm on the Texas gulf coast and this multipurpose vehicle (MPV) did great! I was also impressed by the vehicle’s ability to tow up to 3,500 lbs. That means you could haul a small popup camper or a small boat without a problem. If you’re not sure what that looks like, this is a super handy guide.
Related: Toyota Sienna vs. Chrysler Pacifica vs. Honda Odyssey: How Do These Minivans Stack Up in the Ultimate Showdown?
Why We Wouldn’t Buy the Prestige
Our first impression of the VIP seats in the second row of the Prestige model was that they were amazing. Game changers even. Then we tried to enter the third row and discovered there is no quick slide and release for the VIP seats. You have to manually slide them forward (and most of the time we had to actually sit in the seats to get them to slide) then use the power recline button to very slowly lean the seats forward to allow someone to enter, then use the button again to set the seatbacks to the upright position. That, or third-row passengers have to crawl in and sneak down the middle, which doesn’t work great when car seats are installed in the second row.
Next, we figured out that to recline the VIP seating and put up the footrests (oh so comfy!), the seats need to be pushed toward the middle of the vehicle and all the way back against the third row. This renders the third row completely useless.
I say all of this not to complain (seriously, those seats are so comfy I could nap in them!) but to point out that they won’t be practical for a family that needs the third row. And this is the reason why we would step down to the LX trim level and choose the 8-passenger configuration for more flexibility for our family.
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We all know it’s the woman who picks the car, but it really helps if the family vehicle is something dad likes too. I’m a truck girl myself. I picked out our truck, and these days I hardly get to drive it because my husband loves it. I’ve been telling him I really wanted to check out the Kia Carnival before we decided on a 3-row vehicle to replace our sedan, and I was shocked that he ended up liking it even more than I did. Over and over on our trip, he praised the Carnival and all the thoughtful touches and features Kia included. He liked it enough that I think he might not mind driving it now and then so I can drive my truck. 😉
Disclosure: Kia loaned me the Carnival for this trip so I could experience using it like we would for a family vacation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.