With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who never experienced the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Just don’t call me a minivan.
That pejorative never passes the lips of Kia’s advertising people or resides anywhere in the brand’s press releases. Nope. The new Carnival is an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle.
Obviously, that’s because the powers at South Korea’s Kia likely are convinced that a minivan description amounts to the kiss of low sales, if not death, for their new creation. Never mind that any objective assessment, reiterated here, enshrines minivans as the most useful passenger vehicles on the planet.
But Kia would like to convince everyone that the Carnival is an extension of their own Telluride, which now is the hottest crossover sport utility vehicle on the market. In fact, it is designed to resemble that crossover, though few people will be fooled.
Crossover SUVs threaten to overwhelm the vehicle market in the United States, if not the world. An example is Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, which has abandoned traditional sedans in favor of its four crossovers: Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator. Other manufacturers are in the queue.
Over in the minivan corral, the numbers are few: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager — all worthy competitors. You also can count smaller passenger vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram Pro-Master City and Nissan NV200. In 2020, minivans accounted for less than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States.
Kia entered the minivan skirmish in 2002 with the Sedona, which was called the “Carnival” in other world markets. It lasted into 2021 and now has been replaced in the U.S. by the all-new 2022 Carnival.
In the top-line version tested for this review, the Carnival is a fully rendered MPV with such amenities as second-row recliner seats and built-in entertainment screens. It has reasonably comfortable (especially for smaller humans) third-row seats that flip-fold both forward and backward into the floor to increase cargo space.
It’s a big vehicle, with 168 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, which expands to 87 cubic feet with the third row folded. At 16 feet 11 inches long, it’s only four inches longer than the Telluride. But it looks and feels much bigger, with 208 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the Telluride’s 188. The Carnival also is 278 pounds heavier.
But it’s anything but porky. Its suspension system and tires deliver a smooth and quiet ride, and the handling is crisp and balanced with responsive steering. Of course, you don’t want to fling it around curves as if it were a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Audi RS-3.
The Carnival is powered by a 290-hp V6 engine with gasoline direct injection that makes 262 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is not yet available.
Even with a curb weight of 4,760 pounds, the Carnival can be punched to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to independent tests. It also can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The EPA rates the Carnival’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/26/22 mpg. There are no hybrid versions yet, which would enhance fuel economy. All of the new Toyota Sienna versions feature hybrid power trains, and the Chrysler Pacifica offers a plug-in hybrid.
There are five versions, or trim levels, of the Carnival: the LX, with a starting price of $33,275, including the destination charge; LXS, $35,275; EX, $38,775; SX, $42,275, and the tested SX Prestige, $47,275.
The SX Prestige was so luxurious and well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof with dual front and rear openings, that it listed only one option: Astra Blue Paint at $495, which brought the as-tested price to $47,770. Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. One notable: Safe Exit Assist, which sounds a warning and locks a rear door after a stop if the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear.
The Carnival also features blind spot cameras that switch on with the directional signals and replace the speedometer and tachometer; forward collision avoidance; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance; lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
- Model: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige four-door multi-purpose vehicle.
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6, gasoline direct injection; 290 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/ cargo volume: 168/40 cubic feet (87).
- Weight: 4,760 pounds.
- Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $47,275.
- Price as tested: $47,770.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Kia