Don’t be distracted by all the three-row crossovers crowding your feed. And ignore the fact that General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and many others have exited the minivan segment. The few minivans that remain are at the top of their game. The new Toyota Sienna is a 30-plus-mpg hybrid with optional all-wheel drive. The Honda Odyssey drives better than most SUVs we can think of. And the Chrysler Pacifica comes with freakin’ throw pillows in its top trim. Kia’s Sedona minivan has never been a major player here, but the new 2022 Carnival that’s launching into this competitive arena is looking to change that.
Not only does the Carnival have a new name and Kia’s attractive new logo, its design looks fresh and modern. After the Pacifica’s mid-cycle refresh, the Kia is a contender for best-looking van. The textured grille makes a strong first impression, and the interesting shiny C-pillar trim is an upscale touch. We don’t fully buy into Kia’s assertion that it looks more like an SUV than a van, but as minivan aficionados we like the unapologetically boxy shape.
The interior transformation is even more impressive. All modern minivans have capacious cabins packed with stuff, but the Kia’s crisp-looking display screens and upscale materials take it to a luxury-car-adjacent level. (Quilted pillows like the Chrysler’s would really complete the vibe.) Our high-spec SX test car came with eye-catching Tuscan Umber brown leather upholstery.
Kia’s form-over-function approach inside is questionable in a kid hauler, though, and we do wonder how that nice leather and all the shiny gloss-black plastic trim will hold up to abuse from children over time. Plus, the top SX Prestige model’s recliner-style VIP Lounge second-row captain’s chairs aren’t as appealing as you’d think. With heating and cooling and an ottoman for your feet, these power-operated chairs are opulent but impractical, as they’re heavy to slide around, have clunky adjustment controls, and aren’t really all that comfortable. We’d pass on the La-Z-Boy chairs in favor of the lesser trim levels’ more conventional seven-passenger captain’s-chair setup or eight-passenger arrangement that adds a middle seat in the second row. Third-row space and comfort are good; you won’t find a three-row crossover that accommodates adults in the wayback nearly as well as a minivan.
The Carnival’s interior storage isn’t quite as generous as what you’ll find in other minivans. It has a perfectly acceptable number of cupholders and console compartments, but the new Sienna has more shelves, cubbies, and storage solutions than an IKEA. Vans usually ace our ping-pong ball storage test, but the Kia fell short of the Toyota in this realm, with storage space for just 37 percent of the balls we could stuff into the Sienna’s bins.
Okay, enough about the stuff in the back. The driver’s seat of the Carnival is the place to be, as this van rides and handles well. Its steering is properly weighted, and the suspension tuning strikes just the right ride balance, neither pillowy nor firm. We liked the brake-pedal feel much better than the hybrid Sienna’s. The Carnival tops the Sienna, Pacifica, and Odyssey in both skidpad grip (0.82 g) and braking distance from 70 mph (173 feet).
Under the hood is a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 good for 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s a good match for this 4644-pound van. It powered the Carnival to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, quicker than all-wheel-drive versions of the Sienna and Pacifica and just half a second behind the group’s drag racer, the Odyssey. Even better is the V-6’s refined demeanor, as it’s quiet and smooth yet makes a nice noise in the upper parts of the rev range when pushed. The eight-speed automatic transmission executes prompt downshifts, making the Carnival feel responsive when merging or passing on the highway.
The lack of a single powertrain option may be a bummer to some, as the Kia comes only with front-wheel drive and doesn’t offer a hybrid option like the Toyota and the Chrysler. Its EPA combined fuel-economy estimate is 22 mpg, which matches the Odyssey and nonhybrid Pacifica but pales in comparison to the hybrid-only Sienna’s 36 mpg in front-wheel-drive form.
The Carnival does make up for the lack of breadth in its lineup with attractive pricing. Its starting price of $33,275 for the base LX is thousands less than a comparable Sienna LE, and while the Chrysler and Toyota easily top $50,000 with all the options, the Carnival SX Prestige comes in at just under $48,000. Our SX test car, which was also well equipped despite lacking some of the Prestige’s extra features, strikes us as even more of a bargain at $42,770. If you’re shopping for a minivan right now—and if you have kids to haul around, you should be—the Carnival is a worthy competitor to consider as the minivan wars continue to rage harder than ever.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io