2022 Kia Carnival: Embracing its MPV Status

Published on December 8, 2021 in Test Drives by Miranda Lightstone

Alright, we’re going to admit it: We love minivans. There’s no denying it. Not only are they practical, but these days manufacturers are making them fun to drive, attractive to look at and so loaded with tech gadgets and comfort features that sometimes they are nicer to be in than your own living room.

But, heaven forbid anyone hear you say that dirty, dirty word: Minivan.

So, KIA is here to help. Instead of naming their all-new Carnival *whisper*minivan*whisper* as such, it is instead an MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle). This immediately takes away the soul-sucking properties - we swear.

The Most Minivan Non-Minivan Ever

The real beauty behind vehicles like the KIA Carnival are their practical attributes. From the sliding side doors to the cavernous trunk and fold-flat seats, nothing will ever offer as much usability as a… multi-purpose vehicle. Especially if your family has multiple children or you spend lots of time carting around items.

Now, over the years these types of cars have evolved immensely. When Chrysler relaunched the Pacifica nameplate a few short years ago, it took the segment by storm and gave a whole new meaning to luxury in those vehicles. From multiple screens to diamond-quilted seats and pillows for passengers (with matching stitching), it took multi-purpose coddling to a whole new level.

Well, the Carnival is here to shake things up once again. 

Truthfully, inside it doesn’t have the high-end feel that the FCA product did, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is immensely comfortable. The moment my son got into the second row captain chairs, he announced he preferred it over the Chrysler Pacifica. Despite a lack of screens and no games to play, he immediately loved it.

Photo: Julien Amado

Why? Because he had control over his space. The captain’s chairs in the second row are basically front-seats that not only adjust electronically (something he hasn’t experienced before in a second-row minivan), but they also recline to almost fully flat with an extendable foot/leg rest that also heats up when the heated seats are engaged.

Made me want to sit back there when I saw how comfortable he was!

Other fun attributes that bumped up the Carnival’s popularity in his mind were the ability to control his sunroof electronically, as well as the shade screen. And when he tried out the third row, it was just as roomy and comfortable (minus the recliner seats), with nice big windows.

SUV-like Design for Greater Appeal

KIA describes the Carnival as being the ideal blend between a minivan and an SUV - and they aren’t wrong. Even from the outside it’s hard to tell at first which segment the Carnival is really meant to fit into. While it has the pseudo shape of an SUV, it’s low-slung and stretched out in the rear like a minivan. The exterior features are masucline and modern, with a great patterned chrome detailing that is also found inside the vehicle, to really tie it all together.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

While there’s nothing overly fancy or incredible about the outside look, what’s nice about it is the classic feel to it. This isn’t a look that’s going to get old quickly. Years from now, the KIA Carnival will still look fresh on the road today - which is more than can be said for certain other models in the segment.

Inside that SUV feel remains. Unlike other minivans on the market, the centre stack feels more trucklike than van-like with the shifter in its proper place, and a really nice modern look to the big infotainment screen and drive selector modes. The subtle mauve/purple tone to the screen and gauge cluster is a really nice touch to the overall look of the cockpit and something we absolutely loved about the interior. The patterned chrome accent (mimicked from the exterior look) that trails along the dash from the steering wheel to the passenger’s side is also a really slick touch to tie in the interior and exterior together.

Photo: Julien Amado

In terms of onboard entertainment ease-of-use, just like Hyundai, KIA features one of the easiest-to-use systems on the market today. With simple menus and user-friendly interfaces, whether you are using onboard features or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the entire thing is a breeze.

One of our very favourite gadgets is KIA’s take on the same feature found in the Chrysler Pacifica, except here it’s called the Passenger View. Essentially it shows a video of the rear seats on the big screen upfront so you can check on the kiddos without having to look behind you. There’s also a nifty little “Passenger Talk” that means you can talk normally to your passengers (even in the third row) and they will easily hear you via a microphone over the driver’s seat and your voice being piped through the speakers to them.

Yelling at the kids that you WILL pull this car over is a thing of the past. Now you can say it low and menacingly and they will get the hint much more quickly (and hear you) - we promise.

But How Does it Drive?

Now, when it comes to mini…. We mean multi-purpose vehicles, it’s not about the performance as much as it is about the comfort. In terms of how the Carnival felt on the road: it was uber comfortable, no matter the road surface.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Equipped with a 3.5L V6 the Carnival produces a healthy 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. For a multi-purpose vehicle this is spot on and right where it should be. It feels adequately powered for all situations, without being so incredibly thirsty that filling up at the pumps is a terrifying experience.

In fact, over our week with it, we were pleasantly surprised with how miserly it actually was with sipping fuel. After a whole week of a good mix of highway and suburban stop-and-go, we came away with 10.1L/100km as the final fuel rating. For such a large vehicle with a rather large engine, that’s more than alright.

And while there are drive modes available - Normal, Eco, Smart, Sport - it’s best to just leave it in Normal and let it do its thing. And if you’re wondering what that Smart mode is: Essentially, the KIA monitors your driving style and adjusts the vehicle’s performance and output based on your daily driving habits and routines (more highway, more stop-and-go, etc.).

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

The MVP of MPV

Yup, we’ll continue to admit it: We love minivans. And while the Honda Odyssey wore the No.1 spot for years, Chrysler and now KIA are creeping up on its coattails. Honda’s got to rethink not only its design, but its drive to compete with these newcomers who are ready and able to take that top spot away from them.

KIA has come so far these past few years, and not just with the Carnival, across its lineup. The Carnival simply proves that KIA is not messing around, and they are hungry to take over every segment they attack.

Test drive report
Test model 2022 Kia Carnival
Trim level SX
Price range $34,795 – $48,595
Price as tested 48 595 $
Warranty (basic) 5 years/100,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 12,0 / 8,9 / 10,1 L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Chrysler Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna
Strong points
  • So much space!
  • Beautiful dash design
  • Comfort for all!
Weak points
  • As the driver, you don't get to enjoy the recliner second-row seats
  • You'll want the top trim which can be pricy
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 Better than I expected, but could get high with lots of suburban driving
Comfort 4.5/5 Top-notch comfort, regardless of row
Performance 3.5/5 Spot on performance you'd expect from a minivan
Infotainment 4.5/5 Beautiful to look at and super user-friendly
Driving 4.5/5 Even though it's a large vehicle, it drives very well, even in suburban settings
Overall 4.5/5 Truly is the multi-purpose vehicle it's branded as being
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