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2022 Kia Carnival long-term update: Road tripping in our easy-to-like minivan

The Carnival is one swell ride for road trips, but... it's a mighty big vehicle for urban areas. I'll explain.

2022 Kia Carnival long-term
The Carnival is a super-duper excellent road tripping machine.
Sean Szymkowski/Roadshow

I've been the chief steward of Roadshow's long-term 2022 Kia Carnival since its arrival, and I have to say, it's a joy to have around. Minivans are a great way to haul cargo and people, full stop. And with the way this minivan looks, why would you get some ordinary, frumpy crossover?

Not only does the Carnival excel at hauling things -- 36 bags of mulch, by the way -- it's awesome at hauling people. This last bit in particular shined earlier this summer when I took our Carnival to the lake for a July 4 weekend bash.

Long-term 2022 Kia Carnival

Three dozen bags of mulch? Easy peasy.

Sean Szymkowski/Roadshow

On the long stretches of freeways, the Carnival gobbled up miles like no one's business. The ride is enormously comfortable with little disruptions inside the cabin, save for a few jostles from some good ol' fashioned Ohio potholes along the way. I used this opportunity to let the Highway Driving Assistant technology do its thing, and to me, it remains the most impressive hands-on-the-wheel operation out there. HDA combines active steering and adaptive cruise control, but drivers must keep their hands on the wheel as the car handles some of the work. The system drives like a shockingly well-behaved human on the highway with natural braking and steering movements. I never once caught it wanting to veer into a different lane or riding the shoulder, and that inspires a lot of confidence with the system engaged. Any time I thought I'd be able to behave better if traffic clogged along the way, I found myself following too close for comfort, while the HDA's judgement was better all along. Hey, sometimes you just want to get to the beach with your people, you know?

As a side note to underscore how well HDA performs, I also used the system on a separate trip heading west one day in the pouring rain. I was far more cautious this time as sheets of water hit the windshield and I waited for the system to struggle. It never did. 

Our Carnival handles cargo like a champ, especially if you decide to drop the third row of seats. Bags of snacks, beverages, coolers, swimming gear, you name it -- the Carnival has space for literal days. On the way home, with everything stowed away once again, the Carnival was a lovely place to be after sitting in the sun for hours. Front- and rear-seat passengers get their own climate settings to tinker with, so depending on who fried the most out in the sun, no one has to bicker over it being too warm inside the van.

So. Much. Room.

Sean Szymkowski/Roadshow

Meanwhile, the 3.5-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic combination worked very well together and I never found myself wanting more power. It's worth noting my fuel economy average is currently just over 27 mpg right now, which outdoes the EPA estimate of 22 mpg combined by a long shot. Even though there was a lot of highway driving involved, I haven't seen the figure trend downward after subsequent weeks motoring around in the city.

Lovely trip aside, there was a minor bump in the road during my time so far, and it's not the Carnival's fault in the slightest. The three-row minivan doesn't fit very well in tight parking garages, so I have to admit my mistake: I scraped a pole. After a brief stint in the shop and about $1,700 out of pocket, the Carnival is good as new again.

As for any general imperfections, it's hard to find a flaw so far. My colleague Steven Ewing already pointed out how silly it is that Kia's high-end infotainment systems don't support wireless Apple CarPlay, though the lower-end systems do. Given our tester's nearly $50,000 as-tested price price, it's a confusing omission. Also, the piano black trim smothered over the center stack isn't my favorite. Fingerprints and dirt stick to the finish with ease, and I can't imagine what it looks like when there's a Carnival full of children onboard.

We've got plenty of testing to do as we continue to enjoy van time around the Midwest, so stay tuned for more updates.