2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival Test Drive Review: The Camouflage Minivan

by Jake Lingeman

The Kia Carnival is the South Korean brand's new minivan, but Kia's new people hauler looks more like a rugged SUV. And that's exactly what the company was going for. Its marketing specialists found that people love the space of a minivan, and the driving dynamics, but there's a certain segment of the US population that just can't cross that bridge to become a minivan owner.

That's obviously silly, minivans are not only more useful than anything south of a pickup truck, but entrants to the segment like the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica now look cool too. But not as cool as the Carnival, which was built from the ground up to fool the haters. Even its commercials feature cool young people doing cool adventurous things. There isn't a child in sight.

But a good minivan needs to be more than just stylish. To that end, the Kia Carnival brings a new 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V6 to the party to do the heavy lifting, it boasts seating capacity for eight, and has a massively versatile cabin with sliding and removable second-row seats. It packs the latest Kia Drive Wise safety tech too which means that, in theory, this could be the perfect all-rounder. The only things missing are available all-wheel drive and a hybrid variant, but Kia sent us a Carnival to review to see if these factors are even relevant to most buyers in the USA.

🚙What’s New For The Kia Carnival?

The 2022 Kia Carnival is an all-new arrival and takes over from the outgoing Sedona. It's one of the more masculine-looking minivans in the segment, an attribute that could serve it well against rivals like the Chrysler Pacifica. The Carnival is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 hp, making it more powerful than the 276-hp 3.3-liter V6 that was used in the Sedona. It rides on the same N3 platform that's used by models like the new Sorento SUV and K5 sedan. Similarly wide to the Sedona, the Carnival does, however, have a longer wheelbase and body.

Minivans are all about versatility and the Carnival does not disappoint. It can seat up to eight occupants and, depending on the configuration, offers second-row VIP lounge seating. With 145.1 cubic feet of space behind the first row, there is plenty of space. A much more advanced van than the Sedona, the Carnival is offered with technologies like a blind-spot view monitor, cyclist detection, navigation-based smart cruise control, a surround-view monitor, a digital instrument cluster, and wireless phone charging.

Pros and Cons

  • The most stylish minivan around?
  • Smooth ride
  • Strong acceleration for a large minivan
  • Excellent cabin materials
  • All three rows offer spacious seating
  • Well-priced
  • Only one powertrain
  • No AWD option
  • Available lounge seats not as great as they look
  • Cargo space beaten by key rivals

Best Deals on Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$32,100
LXS
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$34,100
EX
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$37,600
SX
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$41,100
SX Prestige
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$46,100

Kia Carnival Minivan Exterior

Minivans are built around maximizing cabin space which doesn't always lead to alluring proportions. However, Kia has done a wonderful job of transferring its current design language to the Carnival. This is anything but a dumpy, boring minivan. The wide, modern interpretation of the tiger-nose grille and distinctive LED headlights give it an assertive stance. Geometric-shaped tail lamp detailing gives the rear-end a modern look, and the rear light bar stretches across the width of the body. Kia says that the rear skid plate garnish is one of several details designed to give the Carnival an SUV-like appearance. The base trim comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, a C-pillar garnish in silver, power-sliding rear doors, and a rear spoiler. Further up in the range, the Carnival gains 19-inch wheels, dual LED headlights, LED fog lamps, power-folding mirrors, and satin chrome finishes. The top trim has a power sunroof.

2022 Kia Carnival Front View CarBuzz
2022 Kia Carnival Rear View CarBuzz
2022 Kia Carnival Aft View CarBuzz
See All 2022 Kia Carnival Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The new Kia Carnival's ample dimensions are immediately apparent. Its 121.7-inch wheelbase is concealed in a body with a length of 203 inches. With the side mirrors extended, it is a substantial 89.2 inches wide. The height varies between 68.5 and 69.9 inches depending on whether or not roof rails are equipped. The ground clearance is just 6.8 inches, a reminder that this is a multi-purpose vehicle and not an SUV. In terms of curb weight, the base LX without any options comes in at 4,376 pounds, but the Carnival weighs as much as 4,727 lbs in top-spec SX Prestige guise.

  • Length 203.0 in
  • Wheelbase 121.7 in
  • Height 68.5 in
  • Max Width 78.5 in

Exterior Colors

Kia's range of available colors will differ depending on which trim you choose, but an eight-strong palette exists across the lineup. For the base LX, the standard color choices are Silky Silver, Deep Chroma Blue, and Panthera Metal. Aurora Black Pearl becomes available if you choose the LX with the Seat Package, but this adds $2,495 to the bill. Snow White Pearl is a $495 option on its own. Flare Red also requires the Seat Package but this upgrade costs $2,000. Other colors available to the Carnival include Astra Blue and Ceramic Silver, available from the EX onwards. Again, some variances in price and restrictions apply; upper trims can't be had in Silky Silver, for instance.

  • Snow White Pearl
  • Aurora Black
  • Ceramic Silver
  • Astra Blue
  • Flare Red
  • Deep Chroma Blue
  • Pantera Metal
  • Silky Silver

Kia Carnival Performance

The Carnival is larger than the Sedona externally but it's grown under the hood as well. Out goes the previous 3.3-liter V6 and in comes a new 3.5-liter V6 engine with specs of 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, and there lies one of the Carnival's most significant drawbacks: no all-wheel-drive version is offered. Rivals like the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna are both offered with an AWD option. If this doesn't bother you, not much about the Carnival's performance will. Independent testing revealed a decent 0-60 mph time of seven seconds which is similar to what those aforementioned rivals will achieve, although the Honda Odyssey has proven to be slightly quicker than all of these vans in the real world. It's a similar story when it comes to towing capacity; the Carnival's 3,500-pound maximum matches that of the Toyota Sienna.

2022 Kia Carnival Driving Front Angle KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Instrument Cluster KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Engine Bay KIA

Engine and Transmission

The Kia Carnival has one of the most powerful engines in its segment. Its 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 GDI engine delivers 290 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. No other powertrain is offered, though, so buyers will have to be happy with this setup. This powertrain does what it needs to do with minimum fuss, allowing you to get on with the task of transporting the family and their paraphernalia around. There's enough power for merging onto the highway confidently, while the transmission is smooth and town driving is pleasant. The V6 is also refined, only making its presence known when it is fully extended, although we imagine this won't be happening too often in a vehicle of this kind.

  • Engine
    3.5L V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

From the pilot's chair, the Carnival feels cavernous. Look in the rearview and there's about 15 feet of space before you get to the back window. For a second we thought it might handle like the full-size-SUV it's pretending to be. But it doesn't. The Carnival has a small turning radius, allowing us to make three-pointers without knocking over mailboxes.

The 3.5-liter V6 is strong with 290 hp. It bests the Pacifica by three, the Sienna's new hybrid powertrain by 45 and the Odyssey by ten ponies. That makes it best in class. The Smartstream 3.5 is a new powerplant, and also sees work in the company's bigger vehicles like the new K8 and the Sorento.

It's both smooth and quiet in the Carnival with an eight-speed transmission. And like most of Kia's other products, the minivan has drive modes for all situations. Sport mode sharpens things up across the board. The throttle is more sensitive and the gears hang on longer before shifts. It doesn't sound half bad at full tilt either. Eco brings everything down and shifts come earlier. Normal and smart adapt to your driving style, but we'll remind you that this is a minivan, and it's not going to feel "sporty" using the common definition.

The steering is soft and easy, which makes those three-point turns snappy, but it did feel more direct than we were expecting.

We used the adaptive cruise control often, with the lane keeping and centering on as we took a few-hour round-trip jaunt. The Carnival still bounces between the lines a little, though so far the only company to eliminate that ping pong effect to a comfortable degree has been Cadillac. It feels especially weird when pulling up to a stop, when it makes minor adjustments until the last second.

2022 Kia Carnival MPV Gas Mileage

Once again, the Kia Carnival closely matches segment rivals in this area. The new Carnival returns EPA gas mileage estimates of 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined. By comparison, the Honda Odyssey will return 19/28/22 mpg, making it slightly more economical on longer trips. It must be noted, though, that the Toyota Sienna, which is only available as a hybrid, is considerably more efficient than these V6-engined minivans - it will return 36 mpg combined. The Carnival has a 19-gallon gas tank so will be good for a range of about 418 miles in mixed driving conditions.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 19/26 mpg
* 2022 Kia Carnival LX FWD

Carnival Interior

This is a make or break area for any minivan. These vehicles are all about comfortably moving a large family around, after all. The Carnival does a wonderful job of doing just that with a spacious, modern interior finished in high-quality materials. The design itself is really classy too. Like other minivans, the Carnival crushes most three-row SUVs in terms of third-row space; even adults can comfortably ride all the way at the back, and even the base model comes with power-sliding rear doors for easy access. Other features include front and rear air conditioning, second-row seats that can slide and are removable, blind-spot monitoring, and driver attention warning. Higher-spec versions get a rear entertainment system and even available VIP lounge seats with a power reclining function and leg extensions.

2022 Kia Carnival Dashboard KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Central Control Panel KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Climate Control KIA
See All 2022 Kia Carnival Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Carnival can seat seven or eight, depending on configuration, and with seven occupants, those in the second row can slide together, or apart. The killer here is Kia's new VIP seats in that second row, which feature footrests and a first-class-like recline function along with heating and cooling. The 8-seater package includes a second-row middle seat that can fold down into a table/drink holder when not in use.

The Carnival's second row doesn't fold flat like its competitor from Chrysler, which is hugely useful when using the van for yard or construction work. However, it is removable, leaving a flat load floor that will fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood, barely. We scratched the interior plastic with it, but those panels are relatively cheap to replace. The seats are heavy too, and you need to find space for them in your garage, but the capability is there if you need it.

Overall the Carnival has best-in-class passenger space with 168 cubic feet. The third row feels a little tight for an adult, but you do get extra legroom with the sliding second row - up to 35.6 inches of it. Additionally, with the seven-passenger version, you can just walk between the seats to get back there, otherwise the second row slides and folds for access.

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 40.9 in
  • Rear Leg Room 40.5 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.5 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The base LX has a polyurethane-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, but all other versions replace this material with real leather. Similarly, a metal paint door garnish makes way for black high-gloss garnish on upper trims. On the LX, cloth upholstery in Off-Black/Gray two-tone is standard, but Kia's SynTex imitation leather is available in the same color scheme for an added cost, along with Off-Black/Saddle Brown. The mid-range EX and SX get SynTex upholstery as standard, while the top-spec SX Prestige boasts genuine leather upholstery. Another color choice - not available in cloth - includes Off-Black/Tuscan Umber.

Carnival MPV Trunk and Cargo Space

Behind its third row, the Kia Carnival provides trunk space to the value of 40.2 cubic feet. This space is not long but it's especially deep, so if you don't mind stacking things on top of each other, it can accommodate a fair amount of luggage. By comparison, the Toyota Sienna has 33.5 cubes of space behind its third row and the Chrysler Pacifica has 32.3 cubes. With the 60/40 third-row seats folded, cargo space grows to a generous 86.9 cubes, which is ample space for a few large suitcases. This remains bigger than the Sienna (75.2 cubes) but the Pacifica is a bit better (87.5 cubes) with its second row folded. With both the second and third row folded, the Carnival offers a total volume of 145.1 cubes. With its rear VIP lounge seats, the Carnival SX Prestige's second row can't be folded so maximum cargo space here remains at 86.9 cubes.

There are numerous storage options in the cabin for smaller items. A floor console with a center armrest and cupholders (for those in the second row) is standard, as is a multi-function second-row center Free Mode Seat on some trims - when not in use, it can be converted into a table with cupholders. Besides the door pockets, there is another storage space to the left of the front passenger. Those in front have easily accessible cupholders, and third-row occupants have cupholders as well. Map pockets are another useful touch for storing tablets, books, and similar items.

2022 Kia Carnival Dashboard 1 KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Second-Row Seats KIA
2022 Kia Carnival Cargo Capacity With Third Row Down KIA

Carnival Minivan Infotainment and Features

Features

The base Kia Carnival LX comes with features like a front/rear air conditioning, a 4.2-inch TFT LCD trip monitor, a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, power-sliding rear doors, automatic cruise control, push-button ignition, a rearview camera with parking guidance, rear parking sensors, lane following assist, and blind-spot monitoring. That's a decent spread of features for the entry-level trim, but the EX adds some useful amenities that most will want. These include heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, sunshade blinds for the second and third rows, tri-zone automatic climate control, wireless device charging, and a power tailgate with hands-free opening and an auto-closing function.

The next step up is the SX. This trim boasts power-folding wing mirrors, a 115V inverter, increased power lumbar support for the driver's seat, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and ventilated front seats. Offering a more opulent experience is the SX Prestige. This model enjoys a power sunroof, LED technology for the interior lamps, second-row VIP lounge seats with a powered relaxation mode, heating and ventilation for the second row, a heated steering wheel, and a blind-spot view monitor.

Infotainment

The new infotainment system looks great with an eight-inch screen as standard featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Base models also get a four-inch digital cluster while higher trims feature a 12.3-inch touchscreen display that sweeps toward the driver and connects to the information display.

As for usage, the graphics were clean and the system reacted quickly to our taps, switching from CarPlay to media, and then back to the navigation screen on our SX Prestige trim tester. There are a couple of main screens of icons to swipe through, it'll all feel very familiar to anyone using a modern phone. It also came with a booming Bose premium sound system, with 12 speakers and volume compensation based on speed. Base models get six speakers, while mid-spec derivatives get eight.

Our SX Prestige trim also included the rear-seat entertainment package. The two screens can get things like Netflix and YouTube when connected to Wi-Fi. Some games came preloaded too, which the kids loved, but they can't really reach the screen when strapped into their child seats. Still, a good road trip time killer.

New Kia Carnival Problems and Reliability

The 2022 Kia Carnival minivan is a new arrival and at the time of writing, J.D. Power had yet to issue a quality and reliability rating for the minivan. However, despite being new to the market, the Carnival has already been recalled once for a potentially leaky fuel rail tube. We'll know more about the Carnival's reliability once it has been around for a bit longer.

On a positive note, Kia's warranty is exceptional. The Carnival is covered by a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty (including roadside assistance) and an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. An anti-perforation warranty runs for five years or 100,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Carnival Safety

Both the IIHS and the NHTSA have yet to conduct a crashworthiness review of the 2022 Kia Carnival. We'll let you know once this changes and a safety rating becomes available.

Key Safety Features

Every 2022 Kia Carnival MPV is well-stocked with several passive and active safety systems to protect occupants in the event of a crash or to prevent a crash from occurring in the first place. The airbag suite includes full-length curtain airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, and seat-mounted side airbags in front. The minivan also gets electronic stability control, hill-start assist, and vehicle stability management.

Driver-assistance technologies extend to blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, driver attention warning, lane-keep assist, lane following assist, rear occupant alert, an auto-hold function for the electronic parking brake, forward collision avoidance, and automatic cruise control under the Kia Drive Wise nomenclature. While a rearview camera with parking guidance and rear parking sensors are standard, upper trims have a surround-view monitor as well as a blind-spot view monitor. Pricier models also get highway driving assist, cyclist detection, front parking distance warning, reverse parking collision avoidance, and navigation-based smart cruise control with a Stop & Go function. Parents will appreciate a cabin camera that displays a feed of passengers in the second and third rows, although this isn't equipped to the base LX.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2022 Kia Carnival a good car?

If you weren't already on the "minivans are cool" bandwagon, the 2022 Carnival MPV should be the tipping point. Kia's design team is on a roll and this MPV - if you don't want to use the other term - blows everything else away. But only if you want rugged. If you want elegant, we'd say the Pacifica is the way to go.

The powertrains of all the main players are close enough to be a wash, this is a minivan after all, but only the Toyota Sienna and Pacifica offer all-wheel drive or hybrid power plants. We'll also note that the Sienna is hybrid-only and has a combined mpg of 36.

This is the first year of the Carnival, which is always a bit dicey, but from what we've seen this is a winner. Its starting price is $32,100, making it the second cheapest above the Honda Odyssey's price of $32,090, barely. The Pacifica is the most expensive in the group, starting at $35,820. Like all Kias, the Carnival is great value. And now it just became the toughest-looking minivan on the market.

🚘What's the Price of the 2022 Kia Carnival?

The price of the 2022 Kia Carnival minivan is a big part of what makes it so appealing. The base LX-model Kia Carnival has a price of $32,100, just $10 more than the cheapest 2022 Honda Odyssey. This is followed by the LXS (LX Seat Package) at $34,100, the EX at an MSRP of $37,600 and the SX at $41,100. The range-topping SX Prestige-spec Kia Carnival will cost $46,100. These prices exclude any options and the destination charge of $1,175.

2022 Kia Carnival Models

Kia's new Carnival is available in a choice of four trim levels: LX, EX, SX, and SX Prestige, with a mid-spec trim called the LX Seat Package making it five available configurations. Regardless of the trim you choose, power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower. Front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are common across the lineup.

The entry-level LX misses out on niceties like leather upholstery, automatic climate control, and a power tailgate, but it still has a lot to offer at a wallet-friendly price. This model comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, power rear sliding doors, LED headlights, a six-way manual driver's seat, front/rear air conditioning, and an eight-inch audio display unit.

The LX Seat Package (LXS) gets access to a greater variety of exterior paints, but also upgrades from cloth to SynTex upholstery, gives the driver 10-way power seat adjustment, heated front seats, seating for eight, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and blind-spot monitoring.

The EX is identifiable by its larger 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, it gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment suite with Navigation and SiriusXM, eight speakers, wireless phone charging, tri-zone climate control, open-power wood graphic trim, cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, front park sensors, and highway driving assist.

Near to the top of the range is the SX. This model gains a black finish for its 19-inch wheels, LED fog lamps, and acoustic glass for the front doors. The interior receives some welcome upgrades like an eight-way power front passenger seat, a driver's seat memory system, ventilated front seats, and a dual-screen entertainment system.

Finally, the SX Prestige is undoubtedly the most luxurious model of all. It has pure leather upholstery and posh VIP lounge seats in the second row - these seats can recline and are heated. The Prestige boasts a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a blind-spot view monitor, and a heated steering wheel.

See All 2022 Kia Carnival Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Carnival trades on well-equipped trims rather than packages, with most remaining options limited to standalone items. These include a tow hitch for $575 and illuminated door sill plates for $310. A rear-seat entertainment system is available for $1,500.

🚗What Kia Carnival Model Should I Buy?

The Carnival has five trims, LX, LX with Seat Package (adds 10-way heated seats with lumbar adjustment and leather trim on the wheel and shifter), EX, which adds the 12.3-inch screen with navigation, power tailgate, adaptive cruise, SX adds chrome, the rear-seat entertainment package, surround-view monitors and two plugs, and finally, the SX Prestige that adds the dual sunroof, VIP seats and a bunch of other stuff.

The EX seems to be the one to go for here. As much as we like those first-class lounge second-row seats, we'll most often be driving, or at least riding shotgun. So we'll take the big screen, tri-zone climate control, and its handful of driver assistance features. It also keeps you under $40K.

2022 Kia Carnival Comparisons

Kia Telluride CarBuzz
Toyota Sienna CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Carnival290 hp19/26 mpg$32,100
Kia Telluride 291 hp20/26 mpg$31,990
Toyota Sienna 189 hp36/36 mpg$34,460

2022 Kia Carnival vs Kia Telluride

Kia designed its 2022 Carnival minivan to look more like an SUV, so how does it measure up against an actual crossover SUV like the company's hot-selling Telluride? At the time of writing, the 2022 Telluride hadn't yet been announced, but it shouldn't be vastly different from the still-fresh 2021 model. Starting at $32,190, the Telluride has almost exactly the same starting price as the Carnival. The Telluride can also seat eight occupants but the Carnival provides much more space - the latter has over four inches of extra legroom in the third row and nearly double the amount of cargo space behind the third row. In terms of versatility, the Carnival can't be beaten. However, the Telluride is still a more butch-looking vehicle, offers the option of AWD, and has a higher towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. It all depends on your needs, but both the Telluride and Carnival are superb family vehicles. If, like most, you'll be spending more time on the road than off it, the Carnival is a smarter buy, and now no longer looks like you aren't as cool as the crossover gang.

See Kia Telluride Review

2022 Kia Carnival vs Toyota Sienna

Toyota introduced an all-new Sienna for the 2021 model year and it has impressed us with its efficient hybrid powertrain, spacious interior, and smarter looks. The Carnival's V6 is more powerful, sounds better, and ensures more potent acceleration, but the Sienna's hybrid is unbeaten for efficiency - it returns a combined 36 mpg in FWD guise. Unlike the Kia, the Toyota can be specified with an AWD system. The base Sienna is a bit better-equipped as it comes with three-zone climate control, a power driver's seat, and a power liftgate; then again, it's more expensive than the Carnival LX. The Kia fights back with more cargo space regardless of whether the rear seats are upright or folded, and the Korean van's cabin does come across as a bit posher on its upper trims. We prefer the stylish and well-rounded Carnival overall, but the Sienna's efficiency and available AWD system could tempt shoppers away from the Kia.

See Toyota Sienna Review

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