CHATHAM, Mass. – “Looks can be deceiving.” “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” These might be cliches in the American idiom, but unless you noticed the adjacent front and rear-door handles, the new Kia Carnival could easily pass as a modern, large sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The lines are two-box sculpted low along the slightly elongated hood in front of the windshield and then on a downward slant from there to the rear liftgate which appears like two pieces (glass and solid panel) – very SUV like.
What it does not look like is a minivan, thus fulfilling the most obvious desire of the company in creating what they are calling a MPV – a multi-purpose vehicle. And like all its other recently introduced vehicles, Kia has produced a MVP (most valuable player) for the auto-buying consumer.
Inside the long (203 inches, four longer than a Ford Explorer, six less than a Ford Expedition), sleek Astra Blue metallic 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige were comfortable leather-wrapped seats for seven with all the room, versatility and conveniences of a very up-to-date people-and-their-stuff conveyance (otherwise known as a minivan).
Carnival MPV Filled with Standard ADAS
The Carnival might not overtly look like one, but in providing better accommodation for people than the best SUV, it acts like the best of the minivans on the market.
Choose your seating capacity – seven or eight in technology-filled cabin
Depending upon the version you choose, the Carnival can be had with either eight or seven-passenger seating capacity. We spent the week in a Carnival SX Prestige model which meant standard — what Kia dubbed — VIP lounge chairs in the second row.
Like those for the front passengers, these leather-encased thrones are ventilated and heated with power controls for adjustment, wing-out headrests and leg extensions for ultimate vehicle comfort. Enhancing relaxing in these seats is the dual-screen rear-entertainment system.
The eight-passenger configuration provides “Slide-Flex” seating, allowing multiple configurations including a sliding second row center seat which, when in the forward-most position, allows the front passenger easy access to a baby or child riding in it. This center seat also converts into a functional table.
The cabin is airy thanks to large windows all around (those in the doors, front and rear, open) and twin, large moonroof.
The Carnival’s technology features go well beyond electrical seat adjustments starting with the hands-free operation of the liftgate and both side doors. Wireless smartphone charging, nine USB ports, as well as an infotainment system which can be controlled through touch-sensitive buttons on the dash or 12.3-inch color display or (heated) steering-wheel buttons or voice activation (by either driver or front/second-row passengers).
Communication between passengers throughout the large interior is facilitated by an intercom system while the front-seat occupants can keep an eye on activity in the rear thanks to an interior camera which uses that large dashboard display as its monitor.
Of course, a sophisticated navigation system along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio/information services and streaming audio are part of the infotainment system (with Bose Premium Audio pumping the sound through 12 speakers) which can offer other features through Kia’s UVO telematics (including linking your smartphone to the Carnival’s navigation to provide further information about a destination when you arrive).
There are way too many useful, thoughtful and innovative features within the comfortable cabin of the Carnival to detail in this short space; essentially, Kia has produced a vehicle with features rivaling the most sophisticated minivan/people movers on the market today. The infotainment system, like that of all new Kia products, is one of the best – period – operating with ease, simplicity and clarity.
New Kia platform provides a solid base
The Carnival shares the same Kia global platform from which the new K5 sedan and 2021 Sorento SUV evolved. It is a front-wheel drive (FWD) platform (all-wheel drive is not available on the Carnival) with a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower and 252 pounds-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission completes the drivetrain package.
Modern technology and engineering combine to allow this powertrain to produce more than adequate performance for daily driving, whether merging onto a highway and then passing slower traffic or moving through the slalom of suburban crowds. In addition, the Carnival is capable of handling trailers up to 3,500 pounds.
In addition, fuel economy is very good for a vehicle of this size and capability. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Kia Carnival at 22 miles per gallon in combined city (19 mpg) and highway (26 mpg) activity; I saw an average of 27 mpg during my week in the MPV and I did nothing special to achieve this result. Regardless, an excellent result for this type of vehicle (and far better than any gasoline-fueled SUV of this size).
A suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) equal to the rest of the package
Bringing the Carnival to a halt is a four-wheel, anti-lock brake (ABS) disc-brake system with 12.8-inch rotors (vented up front, solid in the rear) and an electronic parking brake (EPB). These components are the basis for many of the advanced driver-assistance features (ADAS) which the company calls Kia Drivewise Driver-assist Technology.
Included in this group are:
Forward collision avoidance
Blind-spot collision-avoidance assist
Parking distance warning – forward and reverse
Parking collision warning
Smart cruise control
Highway driver assist
Lane-keeping assist and lane-following assist
Blind-spot view monitor
Rear cross-traffic collision avoidance
Automatic high beams
Rearview and surround-view camera/monitor
Driving the Carnival is relaxing, comfortable and reassuring. It is a large vehicle, but with all its technological assists, large windows all around and responsive underpinnings, an easy one to motor regardless of traffic and road conditions.
The MPV can be your MVP
The Carnival range is extensive with five versions of the MPV available to allow you to tailor it to your needs and pocketbook. The LX model comes in at $32,100 while the FULLY equipped, luxurious SX Prestige version we sampled, one which provides a sumptuous environment, tops the range at $46,100 ($47,700 as tested including destination and the Astra Blue metallic paint). This is a very competitive number, putting it on par with the best of the midsize SUVs and minivans on the market.
Trying to decide between a minivan and an SUV can be perplexing. If your needs tip a bit more towards the people-carrying end of the spectrum, with less of an emphasis on go-anywhere all-wheel-drive capability, the 2022 Kia Carnival would be a perfect choice. Your neighbors will probably think you bought an SUV, but you will know you bought the right vehicle for you.