2021 Kia Carnival at a glance
|Up to eight
|3.5L V6 engine
|Up to 3,500 pounds
|Dual 12.3-inch screens, wireless Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging, Bose® sound system, Advanced smart cruise control with navigation assistance.
|Price as tested (estimated Canadian)
Kia Canada provided a 2022 Carnival and a full tank of gas for this review
Something comes along and challenges the status quo now and then, much as the 2022 Kia Carnival challenges us about the minivan. As a concept, the minivan has been around for almost 40 years, longer if you include MPVs from Asia and Europe. It’s a tried and tested formula that is popular with families and contractors alike. The 2022 Kia Carnival brings the worldwide nameplate to North America and stylistic features that might make minivans relevant again. Of course, there’s stiff competition against this upstart, including a fuel-sipping hybrid from the segment-standard Toyota Sienna. But the 2022 Kia Carnival comes out strong, adding to a long list of recent winners coming out of the Kia company.
The Minivan for the Social Era
Try as they might, companies have struggled to make minivans attractive to folks. They’re a vehicle of necessity. We buy them because there’s nothing else on the market that combines everyday functionality with passenger space. Kia decided to use SUV styling as their approach, bringing the traditional shape of the minivan roaring into the 21st century. It grabs looks everywhere you go, getting comments in the parking lot at Costco, shopping at the mall, and even when refueling. Kia has outdone themselves with LED bar lighting on the rear and a massive front grille. These features are every bit the Instagram minivan in your driveway.
It carries on into the interior, too. This test model sits at the top trim, replacing standard analog dials with dual 12.3-inch driver and infotainment system screens. Haptic touch is the game’s name, with most buttons replaced by touch surfaces on the center console. Thankfully, media and volume controls are still buttons or dials, a nice touch. But, overall, the 2022 Kia Carnival feels modern, like how people in the ’60s might have envisioned family vehicles in 2022. Kia positioned the Carnival as a visual hit with the Instagram/Snapchat generation compared to its rivals. And for this author, it’s a refreshingly attractive take on minivan styling.
A Road Tripping Machine
The hallmark of any minivan worth its salt is how it handles the extended family road trip. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to stretch the legs of the 2022 Kia Carnival on several occasions, loaded both times with kids and a dog. Kia has refined the 3.5L V6 engine and eight-speed transmission to the point of being nearly impossible to hear at highway speeds. Not because the road noise is loud, either, as the 2022 Kia Carnival SX does an excellent job of isolating passengers from the outside noises. As the driver, the Carnival gives you a more fun SUV-like driving experience than some other minivans, without losing the comfort and ease-of-use minivan owners expect.
While there’s plenty of space in the rear for luggage or cargo, visually more than other minivans, the 2022 Kia Carnival’s most prominent shortcomings are in the passenger cabin. Roominess in the third row is tighter than other minivans, so adults may find it uncomfortable in a long drive. In addition, while the third-row seats fold flat into the floor, the second-row seats don’t. The lack of folding second row isn’t a deal-breaker, though, because you get executive-style lounger seats in their place. Those loungers are beasts to remove, though. A rear DVD system is missing from our test vehicle, which is unique to Canadian models. Any 2022 Kia Carnival SX models have a dual-screen system with DVD, streaming, and USB. Canadians can get the same system installed by the dealer for an extra $2,534 MSRP.
The 2022 Kia Carnival is a Modern Circus
Someone commented during our review that once you hit three kids, you’re a traveling carnival. Perhaps that’s the inspiration for the name. Either way, the 2022 Kia Carnival SX is a potent modern vehicle packing a lot of features into a reasonable MSRP. At $48,595 Canadian, this top-trim minivan has all the modern features the family needs and some you didn’t know you needed. Wireless charging and screen-streaming via your phone. Fast, responsive, and beautiful 12.3-inch infotainment screen. Strangely helpful ambient noises for when you just need to chill the passengers. A rear camera to see who you’re talking to, with night mode, and a comm system to amplify your voice.
Kia’s infotainment system at the center, which remains easily the most accessible and powerful available today. It’s been boosted with bright colours and modern UI without feeling overwhelming or foreign. A kick-activated rear tailgate is a plus when your hands are full of groceries, but the same feature is missing from the side sliding doors. Despite all the modern technologies in this great engine and transmission, fuel economy is still no better than average. AWD would be a nice plus, missing from the 2022 Kia Carnival as well. It’s these few items that prevent an otherwise stellar minivan from being essentially perfect.
Bringing the Carnival Home
Now the jokes begin. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you tell people you’re driving a Carnival or watch them try to keep a straight face afterward. Still, once you get into the 2022 Kia Carnival, you realize this is no joke. Kia again has a winner on their hands, and they’ve delivered a product that stands firm against its Japanese and domestic competitors. With a price point that undercuts the competition by thousands of dollars and easy-to-use technology, the 2022 Kia Carnival SX will fit most families well. There are very few reasons not to make this your next minivan – unless you need AWD or a hybrid drivetrain – and it’s hard not to recommend.
The next time you take the family for a ride, why not make it a Carnival?