What Is It?
Crossovers and SUVs reign as the most popular family vehicles in America. But one vehicle segment far exceeds the people/cargo carrying abilities of these market leaders — the minivan. After falling out of favor with post-millennium American consumers, a scant few minivans remain available in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why Kia does not promote the brand-new Carnival — a replacement for the Sedona minivan — as a minivan. Carnival features bold styling, innovative features, a spacious interior and the latest high-tech safety equipment. And although it may function like a minivan, the 2022 Kia Carnival is a multipurpose vehicle, or MPV.
Kia provided us with a 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, painted in Astra Blue. The SX Prestige sits at the top of the Carnival lineup and comes lavishly equipped with a long list of standard features. The only additional option on the test vehicle was its blue paint, bringing the window sticker to a total MSRP of $47,770. Competitors to the Carnival include the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.
The 2022 Kia Carnival gets built on Korea-based automaker’s latest N3 platform, which also underpins the new K5 midsize passenger car as well as the Sorento SUV. The new platform makes extensive use of ultra-high-strength steel. More lightweight with better sound absorbing and insulating materials, the N3 gives this revamped minivan — oops, MPV — a quieter ride with improved driving dynamics versus the outgoing Sedona.
Fashioned at the Kia Design Center in Irvine, California, the new Carnival features many cues that first appeared on the brand’s latest SUVs. These styling details give this people mover a more rugged appearance, and it works. Up front sits a modern version of Kia’s familiar “tiger nose” grille that integrates with new signature LED running lights and slim headlights.
The aggressive look of the 2022 Kia Carnival gets further emphasis via bold wheel arches and a character line that runs the length of the vehicle connecting the headlights and taillights. A bright C-pillar treatment gives the Carnival a unique look that reinforces its SUV styling. Black 19-inch alloy wheels add to the Carnival’s attractive appearance.
At the rear of the 2022 Kia Carnival, unique LED taillights help the vehicle stand out from other people movers, and the lights stretch across the full width the hatch. The valance below Carnival’s aft bumper resembles a skidplate — designed to underscore the SUV motif.
Under the Hood
A 3.5-liter V6 engine powers the 2022 Kia Carnival, producing 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque — a bump of 14 horsepower and 14 lb-ft of torque versus the 3.3-liter engine in the outgoing Sedona. Power gets directed to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy numbers are reasonable for such a large vehicle — the EPA reports 19 mpg city / 26 mpg hwy / 22 mpg combined. The Carnival has a tow rating up to 3,500 pounds.
As the top trim in the Carnival lineup, the SX Prestige features soft, stylish leather seats. The center console has plenty of storage space, multiple USB ports and a wireless charging pad. Occupants up front can easily access the seat heating and cooling controls located between them, as well as a switch for the heated steering wheel.
The top-level Carnival SX Prestige comes with a 12.3-inch center display that neatly integrates with an additional 12.3-inch driver display to give the MPV a high-tech look. Features can be accessed via a touchscreen display; a home button brings up a menu that can be swiped to show additional screens. We appreciate the additional physical buttons below the display for quick, easy access to the navigation and radio, including volume and tuning knobs.
The 2022 Kia Carnival has an available cabin camera and intercom — a great monitor for parents who want to ensure harmony among rear-seat progeny. The camera view displays all rear seats, and the intercom makes it possible to address occupants without shouting above the audio system — or sibling rivalries. The Carnival also features an ultrasonic sensor that alerts the driver if doors get locked with a person or animal still in the vehicle.
VIP Lounge Seats
Perhaps the ultimate back seat, Carnival’s VIP Lounge Seats could be the location of choice during a long road trip. Not only are these second-row seats heated and cooled, they slide back to provide massive legroom. Then with the push of a button each seat can be reclined with an extendable footrest. Although the VIP seats do not have enough space for tall adults to fully stretch out, they are still comfortable. The seats are hardwired into the floor, so they don’t slide out of the way for access to the third row. Those relegated to the back row have to crawl between the two second-row seats. The ideal setup? Fold the third row into the floor and move the VIP seats rearward as far as they will go to maximize legroom.
The Carnival SX Prestige comes with a rear-area entertainment system featuring dual display screens that can be operated individually. Rather than tying to a DVD player, the system can mirror a mobile device or stream media through Netflix or other services by connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Spacious Cargo Area
The 2022 Kia Carnival offers plenty of cargo space even with all seats in place, including a deep well to secure all types of cargo. Third-row seats easily fold individually — stowing or restoring can be accomplished with one hand. Seats fold flat into the floor to create a large cargo space. An additional cool feature: The Carnival’s tailgate can be set to close automatically, so if both hands are full there’s no need to push a button or pull down the hatch.
On the Road
As a minivan — oops again, MPV — the Carnival is designed to carry families (or teams) safely and comfortably. Quite frankly, the fact that the 2022 Kia Carnival drives so well is an unanticipated bonus. This MPV has plenty of power on tap and a smooth-shifting transmission that provides seamless acceleration. Whether driving around town or at freeway speeds (and beyond), this new people mover feels solid and confident with an appreciably quiet ride. Thanks to a spacious interior, comfortable seating and plenty of pep, Carnival is an excellent choice for a family road trip or as a daily driver.
With wind howling in from Lake Michigan, the Chicago area in February can be quite chilly. The 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige we drove in the area works well as a winter vehicle. Seat warmers and a heated steering wheel deliver toasty temps quickly after startup, and the cavernous cabin heats promptly as well. Thankfully roads were not snow covered during our testing; we would anticipate that the Carnival would be quite capable in slippery conditions, thanks the vehicle’s heft and front-wheel drive configuration.
In today’s market, the typical American family vehicles have become the SUV and crossover. Although these vehicles do get the job done, none can compare to the versatility of a minivan. The 2022 Kia Carnival SX becomes a prominent challenger to the shrinking minivan segment with high-tech features, luxurious seating and an impressive level of cargo and people-hauling practicality. Add excellent drivability and appreciable performance to that list and the Carnival makes an excellent choice for those in need of a minivan — we mean MPV.