Pricing starts at $34,495 in Canada, $32,100 in the US.
The Carnival replaces the Sedona as Kia’s minivan.
Luxury, refinement, features, design, and technology – it’s all here.
The Hyundai Motor Group has been relentless with new launches over the last 18 months, across its three main automotive brands. Kia’s offensive has, so far, included midsize SUVs and the all-new Carnival minivan. All three of these vehicles have elevated Kia’s status from a mainstream-affordable brand to a premium mainstream affordable automaker. And when it comes to premium, the LUV is tops.
The Luxury Utility Vehicle, a fancy way to describe the loaded minivan, is the first convincingly high-end minivan. Yes, Touring, Limited, Pinnacle, and other top trims from other brands deliver a serious level of features but the Carnival is the only minivan to ever see itself be elevated beyond its rather mundane segment.
Premium styling, features, and room
To look and take in all visual aspects of the Carnival’s design, both inside and out, is to get a glimpse of Kia’s multiple efforts. At the very least, this is entirely true with the reviewed SX trim. Both EX versions are also privy to a characterful upscale grille, 19-inch wheels, and LED lights throughout. The lower LX versions are more “pedestrian” but still fairly bold and aggressive overall.
The new Kia Carnival is handsome and, with little hesitation, the most attractive in the segment. Kia’s California design studio paid as much attention to cabin, in particular the dashboard. The EX+ and SX are gifted a pair 12.3-inch displays for a very Mercedes-Benz look where the two screens are joined to create one large continuous piece. To complement this, Kia’s integrated all controls, save for two useful knobs, into a piano-black glossy surface that once more is ultra-premium. Factor in pure leather seats, features like a Bose audio system, and the power-operated heated and cooled 2nd row VIP lounge captain seats and this is the luxury limousine of minivans.
However impressive the SX might be, it is not the version to consider. The massive seats cannot be removed and are so heavy that they are extremely difficult to manually move. As all other versions include seating for eight, they are all more family-friendly. Above all, the LX+, at $37,995, features alloy wheels, power side doors and tailgate, heated seats and steering wheel, making it the version we believe is the wisest option. If more tech is desired, the EX+, priced at $45,295, is the right choice.
Either way, the new Carnival is the roomiest minivan in the segment. With the 3rd-row up, the typical bin-like area can hold over 1,100 litres of stuff. Unfortunately, a precise volume rating for the space behind the 2nd-row is not available however we figure it to be 2,500 litres, or average. All seating positions are generous, even in the third row. As for storage as a whole, the Carnival is not quite as generous as some of its classmates.
One powertrain, two wheel drive, four-wheel comfort
No matter the trim, all 2022 Kia Carnivals are motivated by 3.5-litre V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. With 290 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, and despite its 4,800 lb curb weight, the van is alert. It’s also incredibly smooth and refined. In truth, the Carnival is as or more comfortable than every other minivan in the segment.
Part of that is how responsive the powertrain is. With the sole possible exception of the occasional 1st – 2nd gear hunt when taking off from a standstill, the 8-speed is always minding its own Ps and Qs. The V6 is the more powerful of its type in the segment but it and the transmission are constantly dealing with the Carnival’s weight. This explains the recorded 12L/100km fuel consumption average. In our opinion, this is as good as it will get as more city driving will result in a greater thirst for fuel. Effectively, reaching 14L/100km is to be expected in winter.
Another limitation is the absence of AWD. In this segment, especially as the Carnival wants to be considered a luxury SUV alternative, this is a miss. Not to mention that two of its competitors offer the feature. It could be argued that its considerably lower pricing opens up a considerable budget for top-notch winter tires.
An incredible entry in a dying segment
Even now, a few days after returning the 2022 Kia Carnival, we remain awestruck and surprised by how positive the initial impressions were. To an extent, it could be easy to suggest everyone shopping for a minivan to drop everything and head over to a Kia dealer and sign on the dotted line for a Carnival.
Based on the drive, the content, the design, the new Carnival trumps the others. Then comes pricing which, at between $7,500 and almost $10,000 less than its competitors, makes Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler Pacifica seem overpriced. But, and there’s a but…
The new Carnival is, like the Telluride and Sorento, almost too good to be true. The excessive amount of wind noise at only 90 km/h reminds us that some corners were cut when this minivan was conceived – there’s no other way to explain how so much is included for so little. As well, Kia’s (and the Hyundai Motor Group) unsteady medium to long-term reliability continues to be doubtful and for some models, worrisome.
The final point is why, as much as we love the Carnival, we could not recommend it for any period longer than 36 months. If it’s a long-term relationship that your family is looking for, consider the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey.