Look, we know crossovers and SUVs are all the rage right now, but there's so much to love about the humble minivan. That's why we've added a 2022 Kia Carnival to the Roadshow long-term test fleet, to spend the next 12 months proving that minivans are still the de-facto choice for buyers who need to move lots of people and lots of things without sacrificing anything in the way of comfort or convenience features.
Van with a plan
Kia insists on calling the Carnival an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle, but this big boy is 100% minivan. The 2022 Carnival replaces the Sedona in Kia's lineup and you can basically think of it as a different take on the excellent Telluride SUV.
With its stylish headlights, slim taillights and great attention to detail, the Carnival is yet another home run for Kia in terms of design. No matter how you feel about the Carnival's sliding doors, there's no denying this is one seriously attractive van and that goodness extends to the comfortable and well-appointed interior, as well. We've tested the Carnival in itsand grades and both left us seriously impressed.
No matter the trim, the 2022 Carnival is powered by a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 with 290 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the only driveline option available and while there's plenty to like about this powertrain, it's worth mentioning competitors like the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna offer hybrid power and all-wheel drive.
How we spec'd ours
For our year of testing, we went with the "go big or go home" theory and ordered a fully loaded 2022 Carnival SX Prestige. The Carnival itself starts at $33,275 including $1,175 for destination, but the top-end SX Prestige comes in at $47,275 delivered and it's packed with just about everything you could want in a modern minivan. Add in Astra Blue paint ($495) and carpeted floor mats ($200) and the test car you see here stickers for $47,970 delivered.
That's a lot of money for a family hauler, but consider everything you get for the price. We're talking LED exterior lighting, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, heated and cooled first- and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel... the list goes on. The SX Prestige also has Kia's full suite of driver-assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and the company's Highway Driving Assist that combines the use of those two technologies. Features like an attention monitor, blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree camera system, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert are included, as well.
But the real big reason we went for the SX Prestige? The seven-passenger seating arrangement. The second row is comprised of two individual captain's chairs that not only slide forward and backward, but inboard and outboard, too. Kia calls these the VIP Lounge seats because they can recline and even have leg-rest extensions. Seriously, folks, the back seats in this minivan are more comfortable and enjoyable than what you'll find in some six-figure luxury cars. How could we pass up that kind of pampering over a year of testing?
So far, so good
We've had our 2022 Carnival for less than a month and the honeymoon phase is treating us well -- mostly. We like the stout power of the 3.5-liter V6, even if this van isn't exactly quick. The eight-speed transmission is smooth and nicely behaved -- and even with our tester's 19-inch wheels, the Carnival rides like a dream on the highway, with little in the way of wind or road noise and a nicely damped suspension.
More than the way it drives, what we love about the Carnival is how nice it is inside. The orange-and-black leather upholstery of our tester looks and feels premium and the Carnival overall has great fit and finish. The front seats are comfy as heck, we love how much room there is in the back with the third row folded and pretty much all of our editors are already putting in requests to sign the Carnival out for road trips.
Gripes? Not many to speak of right now. We dig the crisp graphics of the 12.3-inch infotainment display and Kia's native tech is plenty easy to use, but we wishand could connect wirelessly. The only other small annoyance has to do with the too-sensitive automatic headlights, which will quickly turn on and off based on small changes in ambient light, which is kind of annoying when you're driving on overcast days or driving on a freeway with lots of underpasses. Auto low-beams are awesome, but not when they're constantly flashing other motorists.
With fewer than 1,000 miles on our Carnival's odometer, that's about all we have to say about this great-looking van for now. Rest assured, we have plenty of ways to put this to the test over the next 12 months, so stay tuned for more updates in due time.