2022 Kia Carnival is a reminder that minivans are actually very cool
Kia's swanky Sedona replacement has a bunch of tech and a ton of space, and it looks downright luxurious, too.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
I'm not really sure when or why the word "minivan" turned into the bellwether of all things uncool. All I know is, Kia's seven-page press release for the 2022 Carnival doesn't mention the words "van" or "minivan" once. That's lame. This thing is rad as hell.
Instead, Kia calls the Carnival a "multi-purpose vehicle" that plays in "the unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler," which is just a super-vague and meaningless way of saying "you guys, it's a minivan," but I digress. Making its debut Tuesday, the 2022 Carnival is the replacement for the outgoing
van, wearing the nomenclature that Kia uses in other countries.
Kia first unveiled the Korean-spec Carnival last year and not much changes for the US version. Our Carnival -- which I'm totally pronouncing as "car-ne-vahl," by the way -- gets a new grille and wheel designs, both of which look awesome, and work well with the van's bold styling and boxy shape. Without a doubt, this is a seriously attractive vehicle -- minivan or otherwise -- and it totally leapfrogs the
in terms of design. The 2022 Carnival is also the first US product to wear Kia's new logo, which you can see in the thin, full-width taillights.
That great style carries over to the interior, as well. There's a lot of familiarity here; the 2022 Carnival shares a lot of its cabin design with the
SUVs. But that's hardly a bad thing. Metal air vents accent a handsome dashboard, and the cabin really pops with the optional orange leather.
A hallmark of any minivan is its excellent functionality and the Carnival definitely doesn't disappoint. Kia notes the van's 168.2 cubic feet of passenger space and 145.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row are best-in-class figures, though the removable second-row seats won't be quite as easy to ditch as the Stow-N-Go chairs in the Chrysler Pacifica. The Carnival offers seating for eight passengers, and the second-row middle seat can slide forward and backward or be converted into a table.
On top of that functionality, spec it correctly and the Carnival can be downright fancy. There are optional VIP Lounge seats for the second row that have power controls, wing-out headrests and leg extensions, which look hella comfy. Naturally, these VIP chairs are heated and cooled, and I kind of feel like I should take a nap in one while someone drives me around to really get the full experience.
As for cabin tech, the Carnival comes standard with an 8-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but you can option a larger 12.3-inch central screen, as well as a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The Carnival supports Bluetooth pairing for multiple devices and there are as many as nine USB ports available across all three rows, along with two 110-volt outlets.
Every Carnival comes standard with forward-collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and a driver attention monitor. On top of that, buyers can option the Kia Drive Wise suite, which adds adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera and Kia's Highway Driving Assistant that combines the lane-keeping and adaptive cruise systems for easy-breezy freeway time.
The 2022 Carnival will only be offered with one powertrain: a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. With 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, the Carnival is competitive within the minivan class in terms of output, and it can even tow as much as 3,500 pounds, though its EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 19 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined aren't all that great. However, the Carnival will only be offered with front-wheel drive, giving the all-wheel-drive Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna an edge in wintry climates. Those minivans offer more efficient hybrid powertrain options, as well.
Really, the only things separating the Carnival from a midsize SUV are its sliding doors and an inch or two of ground clearance, and honestly, if that's what turns you off, you ought to rethink your priorities. With its great tech, super-spacious cabin and bangin' looks, the Carnival is a minivan that makes a cool statement. Look for it to hit Kia dealers in the coming months.