2022 Kia Carnival should convince even the biggest minivan naysayers Featured

Posted On Wednesday, 21 July 2021 02:34 Written by
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The 2021 Kia Carnival has all the high points of a minivan, but is styled more like an SUV to distinguish it in the segment. The 2021 Kia Carnival has all the high points of a minivan, but is styled more like an SUV to distinguish it in the segment. Photo courtesy of Kia

Minivans are sort of a love-it-or-hate-it thing in the automotive world.

Many people might say they hate minivans, but a vocal minority are minivan lovers.

With the completely new 2022 Kia Carnival, a reinvention of the vehicle formerly known as the Kia Sedona, the Korean automaker is hoping to turn some of those haters into members of the minivan fan club, and create potential customers.

After some time tooling around in this family-friendly ride, I’m back with a full report on how the Carnival measures up, as it takes on the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Voyager on the minivan battleground. 


What stands out about the 2022 Kia Carnival is its handsome styling, words that are rarely (if ever) spoken about a minivan. Kia has used a smart SUV-like design on the exterior design, and you will not be embarrassed to have this minivan in your driveway. In fact, people might not even realize it's a minivan until they see you opening the sliding doors.

The front end is particularly pleasing, with an eye-catching grille and smooth, flowing headlight design, and luxury-style look. 17-inch alloy wheels are standard, and the EX model I tested had 19-inch machine finished alloy wheels.

As nice as the exterior is, where the Carnival really hits a home run is on the interior design and all of its functionality. The interior quality and design of the Carnival is the best you'll find on any current minivan. There is a ton of room throughout the vehicle for either 7 or 8 passengers. And you’ll get loads of cargo space, with a versatile number of ways it can be configured — the hallmark of a great minivan. This family-friendly approach is key to success.

Controls up front are very well-designed and easy to use. Seating is quite comfortable (moreso than it rivals) and there are plenty of USB ports throughout.

The rear seats of the Carnival fold fully into the floor (they call it a “sinking seat”), which is a big help for cargo space. The Slide-Flex Seating System features sliding and removable second-row seats. This means you get a ton of cargo space. The Carnival offers 40.2 cubic feet with all seats up, and up to 145.1 cubic feet with third row down and second-row bench seat removed. 

Seating for 7 or 8 is offered depending on middle row setup (bench or reclining captain’s chairs). Families, especially larger ones, would be wise to choose the bench setup. Third row is tight but good for kids. The Carnival claims best-in-class for passenger and cargo room.

Comforts include heated front seats, tri-zone Automatic Temperature Control, second and third row sunshades, and a leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob. While the Carnival is not a luxury ride, at times it definitely feels like one.

Another nice option is the panoramic sunroof.


Minivans are not known for their performance ability, but the Carnival aims to challenge that rule. Acceleration is strong, with a decent 0 to 60 time of just over 7 seconds, considering the vehicle’s size and weight.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter, V6 engine; paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Numbers are 290 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, which are best in class.

The Carnival is a Front-Wheel Drive vehicle, with no AWD option (something the Pacifica and Sienna do offer). Drive Mode Select lets you choose between Normal, Eco, Sport and Smart options.

Handling is strong, and the Carnival corners well, is responsive to driver input, and is generally enjoyable to drive … at least more enjoyable than the competitors in this segment.  Some road noise gets into the vehicle, but it's generally quiet. There is on occasion a bumpy ride on rougher roads, but nothing overly harsh.

Towing ability is 3,500 pounds.

There is no hybrid offering at the moment for the Carnival, which is worth mentioning because the Pacifica does offer a hybrid version, and all Sienna minivans are hybrids now.


Kia brings its “A” game when it comes to the technology and safety features in the 2022 Carnival.  It's a truly modern and up-to-date experience and looks great, as you would expect from the latest brand new minivan.

The Carnival’s infotainment setup is particularly strong, including a sharp-looking dual-display setup with digital gauges and an optional 12.3-inch center touchscreen with Navigation (8-inch screen is standard). The large screen is great for showing all camera angles in tight parking situations.

Pairing your phone to the vehicle is a very simple process, and so is using the voice commands. The Navigation system proved quite accurate in my testing. 

The massive screen features menu options for everything from navigation to phone use to voice memos to radio and much more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, and a rear-seat entertainment system (where different movies can plan on each screen) is included on higher trims. A 12-speaker Bose stereo is limited to the top SX-Prestige trim.

The Carnival features Kia’s UVO Link system (with a 1 year-trial), and 3 months of satellite radio before a subscription is required. Wireless phone charger is also available.

Many safety features are standard, including automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. There is also a rearview camera with Dynamic Guidelines. A “Driver Attention Warning” also keeps you on your toes, there is a Rear Occupant Alert, as well as Leading Vehicle Departure Alert.

You get dual front advanced air bags, dual front seat-mounted side and full-length curtain airbags, LATCH system for child seats and Electronic Stability Control.

One interesting option is the interior camera monitoring system, which shows camera view of rear seating on the center touchscreen, even offering a night vision mode. This is a great option for parents seeking evidence of bad behavior. (“Don’t make me turn this car around!”). Another feature called Passenger Talk allows the driver to communicate with the back rows without yelling.


The Carnival officially lists its fuel mileage as: 22 combined/19 city/26 city. In real-world testing, I averaged 19 mpg overall in the Carnival.

These numbers are a tad bit low for the segment, slightly behind Pacifica and Odyssey, and of course lower than the 36 mpg you’ll get in the Sienna hybrid. But the drive quality is better in the Carnival than in all the above.


The 2022 Kia Carnival I tested was priced just under $39K, and the Carnival starts around $32K for the base model. A fully loaded Carnival can reach $46K or more.

The four main trim levels are: LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige.

While the high end is a bit pricey for those on a budget, the lower end is quite reasonable for the classy and versatile vehicle you are getting with the Carnival, and the reliability and dependability of Kia continues to impress. It’s hard to top the 10-year/100,000 powertrain warranty. 


The 2022 Kia Carnival is a bold new entry into the minivan arena, and competitors should be looking over their shoulders. This family-friendly ride is attractive and doesn’t even look like a minivan, which by itself is a big boost. Add in a bevy of cargo space, versatile design, strong tech features and decent power, and you have the recipe for success with this new offering.


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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2022 Kia Carnival 
  • Price as tested: $38,775 (Starts around $32K)
  • Best feature: Versatility, tech capabilities, cargo space
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Minivan buyers who want the latest, greatest version of this often-maligned vehicle type
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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