“Minivan” has unfortunately become a bit of a four-letter word amongst the car-buying public. It’s something that some buyers strive to avoid, while others recognize the unmatched utility. You can tell by that last bit that I’m a fan. While I’ve only owned one, a 2005 Honda Odyssey, I’ve really enjoyed the press loaners I’ve had over the years. Sometimes too much. I got a chance to check out the 2022 Kia Carnival “MPV” recently and had a lot of thoughts. Is Kia’s “don’t call me a minivan” minivan as good as it looks?
First, some details. The Carnival has minivan-like features like “Slide-Flex Seating System”, “multi-purpose interior” and “practical family-focused innovations”. However, if you <CTRL> <F> the Carnival’s main page and you will not find the term “minivan”. It’s an MPV, thanks. The term “MPV” is used 17 times on the main landing page but is never defined. We’ll just assume it’s short for “multi-purpose vehicle” like the old days!
So, Kia goes out of their way to make sure you know that this is not a minivan. They specifically note that the “SUV-inspired design” is “a radical departure from the usual.” Ironically, the SUV is far more “usual” than a minivan these days, but I’m not a marketing person. Whatever it’s called, it’s a good looking thing. It comes in a pretty good variety of trim levels as well.
The bottom spec LX starts at a reasonable $32,300 and gets a ton of standard stuff like:
- Cloth interior
- Seven-passenger seating with second-row captain’s chairs
- Eight-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Seven USB ports (3 front, 2 middle, 2 rear)
- Six-speaker stereo
- LED headlights
- 17-inch wheels
- Power-sliding rear doors
- Proximity entry
- Push-button start
So for not that far over thirty grand, you can have a pretty sweet
minivan MPV. However, us journalist types rarely get the base model, and Kia ramped our tester up to the top trim SX Prestige. It has literally everything, but some highlights specific to the top trim include:
- Leather upholstery
- Heated steering wheel
- Second-row lounge-lizard reclining captain’s chairs (with heating and ventilation)
- A large 12.3-inch driver information display
- Dual sunroofs
- 12-speaker premium stereo system
- LED interior lighting
Here, check out the window sticker for yourself.
Base price to base price, you’ll be ponying up another $14,000 for the SX Prestige over the base model. The drivetrain is exactly the same, so, is the extra luxury worth it? Let’s check it out, is this near $48,000 MPV worth its sticker price?
I mean, take a look at that sucker, it’s a good looking vehicle. I don’t really care what it’s called, it’s objectively handsome. It sports a front end that aligns with most recent Kia stuff and the only real clue that it’s a minivan (MPV) is the channel for the sliding rear door.
The Carnival generally does live up to the “SUV-inspired” design, begrudgingly. With 6.8 inches of ground clearance, it looks beefy. That’s .4 inches more than a 2022 Sienna and a massive 1.7 inches more than the latest Pacifica minivan. Whether this is actually good off-road will have to happen during a follow-on test, but suffice to say, the Carnival looks really good.
It’s chunky yet elegant, much like myself.
Pretty much every new Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis come with a bangin interior, but the Carnival kicks it up a notch. The Tuscan Umber over Off-Black Two-Tone leather has a lot of personality, it’s up to you whether you think the extroverted orange is your thing. I can guarantee you that it’s massively comfortable though.
The VIP middle row is a game changer, it reminds me of those ultra-luxury vans you see in Japan. Well I’ve seen them online, I haven’t been. They are heated, ventilated and have leg extensions to let you, or the family max out and relax. You can even slide them left and right to provide better access to the rear seats (or separate two warring siblings). It’s a given that the kids will be fighting over them on a long rip.
Legroom is impressive regardless of what row you end up in with 41.1 inches up front, 40.5 inches for the middle row, and 35.6 inches in the third row. So, even grown adults can sit in every seat and be pretty comfortable. Cargo room is ample with 40.2 cubic feet behind the third row and a massive 86.9 cubic feet with the 3rd row folded down. That’s pretty incredible, you can make a Home Depot run in the Carnival with the 2nd row in place.
Max cargo space is 145.1 cubic feet and that means that those three cargo numbers for the Carnival (40.2, 86.9, and 145.1) beat the Odyssey, Sienna, Pacifica, and even Kia’s last minivan, the Sedona.
You can have any engine you want in the Carnival, as long as it’s a 3.5L six-cylinder. The 3.5L is a staple in the lineup and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. I’d rate the power output of 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque as more than adequate for daily driving. The Carnival will hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds which is sport compact car level acceleration circa the mid-1990s. Plus, with a 19/26 mpg city/highway EPA-rating it’s pretty economical too. That’s important these days.
Another Hyundai/Kia staple is the blind spot system that pops up a view of adjacent traffic next to you in either the speedo or tach. Some of the more recent vehicles I have driven, including some new Genesis models have not had them on both side, may be chip-related. This top spec Carnival did have it and it was great.
The Carnival really is more than the sum of its parts, with little things like the rear-view “stop hitting each other” camera and a ton of smart little touches included that make the Carnival a great choice for any family. Or just a van lovin buyer.
Regardless, it’s a fantastic vehicle and does everything you could ever want a family hauler to do. Even the $48,000+ SX Prestige is worth the price of admission. So, go check out the 2022 Kia Carnival and you’ll find one of the best minivans on the market, and yes I’m going to end this review calling it what it is.