- Premium-level interior finishes
- Doesn’t look like a minivan
- Solid and confident handling
- No hybrid or all-wheel-drive option
- Upgrading second-row seats cut space
- Not as much cargo space as some rivals
Vehicle Type: The Kia Carnival is a minivan with seating for up to eight people.
Price Range: Pricing for the 2022 Kia Carnival ranges from $33,275 to $47,275, which includes destination, but is before options or taxes.
Powertrain: The Kia Carnival is offered with a single powertrain. It’s a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque.
An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard.
The Kia Carnival steps in for 2022 to take over for the long-running Kia Sedona minivan and brings strong styling, a shockingly premium interior, and solid handling to the family-hauling segment. Kia made the decision to style the Carnival for people who wouldn’t normally gravitate toward minivans. In terms of styling, it’s far closer to the brand’s ultra-popular Telluride crossover than it is to other minivans.
Kia offers the Carnival in five trims for its maiden model year: LX, LXS, EX, SX, and SX Prestige. The Carnival is targeted at new car buyers that want a minivan with more attractive styling and a long warranty. It competes with the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Pacifica. Given its SUV-like styling, it could even compete with the Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride, given the right buyer.
The Carnival offers a compelling mix of style, substance, and safety features, all of which should appeal to family buyers and people with young children. Despite that, gaining access to the most desirable features requires stepping up trim levels, which adds to the Carnival’s bottom line and makes it feel like less of a bargain.
Overall Score: 8/10
Safety Features: 9/10
The 2022 Kia Carnival earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The rating includes Good scores in all crashworthiness categories and Superior scores for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the Carnival.
Standard driver assistance features include a blind spot collision avoidance system, rear cross-traffic alerts, a driver attention warning system, lane keep assist, lane following assist, rear occupant alerts with ultrasonic sensors, safe exit assist, a rearview camera system, forward collision warnings, and a parking sensor system.
Available features include a surround-view monitor system, front and rear parking distance warnings, highway driving assist, a cabin camera system, a cabin intercom system, a quiet mode that shuts down audio to the rear seats, and navigation-based smart adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
The Carnival tops out at around $47,000, which is just less than the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica. While it’s tempting to think the three are comparable, it’s important to remember that the Carnival is not offered with a hybrid powertrain or all-wheel drive.
Though it takes stepping up trim levels to get desirable features in the Carnival, there is no denying that the van feels and looks premium, inside and out. Kia did a great job at giving the Carnival a good set of standard features, clean and upscale styling, and nice interior finishes.
Kia offers a few ways to add options without moving up an entire trim level, but they don’t net the same features. There’s a $1,500 rear-seat entertainment package and a $2,000 package for the LX trim that adds upgraded seating accommodations. Beyond that, most options are related to accessories, towing upgrades, and lighting systems.
Tech Features: 8/10
The Carnival comes standard with front and rear air conditioning, an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition, six speakers, and two floor console-mounted USB ports.
Available features include a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD Radio, eight-speaker audio, a Bose 12-speaker audio system with subwoofer, third-row USB ports, wireless smartphone charging, and a smart power tailgate with hands-free.
Kia’s infotainment system is one of the easiest to use in the automotive business. It’s far from the most colorful or the fanciest, but that’s part of its charm and a big part of what makes it less distracting for the driver in motion.
The Carnival is a minivan for people who don’t like minivans, but it’s still an extremely practical and easy-to-use vehicle. Its low floor and large door openings make loading people and gear extremely easy, and though it’s not as roomy as some of its competitors there is still plenty of space for cargo behind the second-row seats. Total cargo space behind the second-row seat lands at 40.2 cubic feet.
Optional "VIP lounge" seats in the second row offer a reclining function and fold-out leg rests. They take up space and don’t allow adults to fully recline as a result. Even so, kids get a kick out of the feature – and they should, because the third-row seats are tight for all but the youngest passengers.
The Carnival matches the Toyota Sienna with a tow rating of up to 3,500 pounds. That’s enough for a small trailer or boat and should keep weekend drivers happy
Styling & Design: 8/10
The automaker calls this an MPV (multi-person vehicle) and strongly notes that the Carnival is not a minivan, despite its classification as such and the fact that it’s got sliding doors (hint: It’s a minivan). Despite the confusing nomenclature, the new Carnival really is styled unlike any van on the market today. It’s got strong lines, a muscular grille and front end, and its large wheels make it look far more aggressive than other family haulers.
Inside, Carnival is gorgeous, especially when equipped with the available interior colors, such as orange. The contrast gives the Carnival’s interior an exciting look, and while it isn’t for everyone, the cabin can feel cave-like without the pops of color.
Even without the fancy second-row seating features, the Carnival’s rear cabin area is comfortable and well designed. There’s plenty of space to move between the seats and when the dual sunroof is equipped the cabin feels open and airy.
Driving Experience: 7/10
There’s no hybrid or all-wheel-drive option for the Carnival, which many people won’t mind. The traditional V6 gives the Kia strong acceleration and responsive driving dynamics, which stands in contrast to the Toyota Sienna’s hybrid powertrain, which can feel sluggish at times. The Carnival’s gas engine is also quiet and refined, and stays mostly out of the way, both around town and on the highway. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and works well with the engine.
Despite its size, the Carnival feels responsive on the road and maintains its composure when things get curvy. The ride is controlled and comfortable, and the van feels as if it could cruise effortlessly on the highway all day. The van can, however, feel harsh over broken pavement and on rougher roads.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for the Kia Carnival land at 19/26/22 mpg city/hwy/combined. Those numbers improve on the Carnival’s predecessor, but only by a bit. They’re also significantly lower than some of the Carnival’s rivals, but it’s hard to compare when the best performers are hybrids.
The Kia Carnival is not available with a hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain option, which sets it well behind the mpg ratings of the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica. That said, many will find the improvements in driving dynamics to be worth the fuel economy penalty.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The base Kia Carnival LX starts at $33,275 after destination, and comes with 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic lights, LED daytime running lights, second-row puddle lamps, seven-passenger seating, cloth upholstery, a six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, sliding second-row seats, front and rear air conditioning, an eight-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD Radio, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition, an integrated modem, six speakers, a floor console media port with two USB ports, third-row USB, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, power windows and door locks, a smart key system with push-button start, hill-start assist, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alerts, a driver attention warning system, lane keep assist, lane following assist, a rear occupant alert system with ultrasonic sensors, safe exit assist, a rearview camera with guidelines, a rear parking distance warning system, and forward collision avoidance with recognition for cars and pedestrians.
The $35,275 LXS, or LX Seat Package trim adds synthetic leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, eight-passenger seating, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The $38,775 Carnival EX adds 19-inch wheels, eight-passenger seating, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, tri-zone automatic climate controls, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight speakers, a power tailgate, a front, and rear parking distance system, forward collision avoidance with car/pedestrian/cyclist detection, an in-cabin camera system, an in-cabin intercom system, a quiet mode that blocks sound to the rear seats, and navigation-based smart adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go.
The $42,275 Kia Carnival SX brings artificial leather upholstery, a power-adjustable passenger’s seat, memory seating functions, ventilated front seats, a dual-screen rear entertainment system with streaming media capabilities, and hands-free sliding side doors.
The range-topping $47,275 Carnival SX Prestige brings dual LED headlights, LED fog lights, a dual power tilting and sliding sunroof system, a 12.3-inch LCD panoramic center gauge display, leather upholstery, second-row heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system with subwoofer, and a highway driving assist system.
If we were shopping for a new Carnival today, we’d opt for the mid-range EX trim. It brings a wealth of features that make the minivan truly luxurious without bringing the additional costs of stepping all the way up to the top SX Prestige trim.