The 2022 Kia Carnival is Kia’s brand-new minivan that wants to make you think it isn’t a minivan. And while the sheet metal might make it look more like a Chevrolet Traverse from some angles, there’s no doubt that this big box still rides, drives and feels like a minivan from the inside. Still, the valiant effort from Kia designers to try and bring folks into the minivan segment by way of SUV-like exterior design is a smart one in a crossover-hungry world.
Kia also draws you in with a mountain of tech and potential for extremely cool features like the Mercedes-like wall of screens in the dash and VIP Lounge second row (or, alternatively, the unique "Captain Kirk" seat of the eight-passenger Carnival). The interior is slathered with piano black trim, haptic-touch buttons and beautiful patterned plastic, which does good work at imitating metal trim. It’s all far more upscale and luxurious than you’d find in other minivans (especially the Honda Odyssey), and that’s exactly what Kia needed to do to compete against the sumptuously updated Chrysler Pacifica and the classy Toyota Sienna now on the market. All the glitter and glitz fall away with the Carnival’s powertrain, though, as Kia doesn’t offer any green options like its competition. If high fuel economy isn’t a priority, though, the Carnival deserves a place on your shortlist.
What’s new for 2022?
The Carnival is an all-new model for 2022. It replaces the outgoing Sedona as Kia’s minivan offering.
The Carnivals pictured on this page represent the nicest you're going to find. Both the SX and SX Prestige (pictured above) are the range-topping models, and with them you get improved materials quality and far more equipment. Keep this in mind before expecting to see multiple big screens and VIP Lounge seats in a $33,000 base van -- you can't even get those on the regular SX, they're Prestige only. Still, there's not as much of a drop-off in terms of quality and ambiance as you'll find in various Toyota Sienna trim levels, and every Carnival has a more upscale look and feel than the appliance-like Honda Odyssey. We should also note that although most of the Carnival's "wow" features are available in other minivans, none offer the same number of them in the same place.
The standard infotainment set-up consists of traditional analog gauges and a user-friendly 8-inch touchscreen that does look a bit cheap in a housing clearly intended for something bigger. That would be the 12.3-inch screen that arrives with the EX trim. The gauges get swapped out for the all-digital instrument panel in the SX Prestige only. Both SX trims gain seatback touchscreens (much like the Chrysler Pacifica) that includes Netflix and YouTube apps, plus Kia's Sounds of Nature white noise programs (parents of small kids will know why this is a big deal). All Carnivals include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while most have access to a wireless charger and multiple USB ports per seating row. The SX and SX Prestige have 115-volt inverters — one on the back of the center console and one in the rear cargo area — for accessories with a standard two- or three-prong plug.
Buyers choose between seven-seat or eight-seat configurations like all the other minivans, but that's where the comparisons stop. The eight-passenger configuration we review in more depth here (bottom two photos above) features a unique center seat that slides far forward and all the way back to the third row and beyond. This can be handy when trying to stuff as many car seats as possible aboard, or just to create unique seating and cargo configurations. There are then two seven-seat configuration. The first one basically removes the eight-passenger's middle seat and adds in-board armrests to the remaining captain's chairs. The second one, exclusive to the SX Prestige and pictured above, are dubbed VIP Lounge seats due to their massive recline and pop-up footrests. This would be a great choice for families with older children.
The Carnival has a smaller third row than its rivals. Legroom is just 35.6 inches, which is about 2 inches less than the next smallest, the Toyota Sienna, and 3 inches less than the Pacifica, which is the clear winner for full-house comfort. That third row is still plenty acceptable, and although the others are roomier, you may not actually notice.
Kia quotes the best cargo capacity in the business at 40.2 cubic feet behind the third row. Kia also (just barely) wins the overall interior space wars at 145.1 cubic feet, but the Odyssey is nearly tied. Unfortunately, you can’t have the VIP seats and all that cargo room, since those seats don’t fold flat, and they’re not removable either. Slide them forward, and you still have a large, flat space, but it’s a real utility downer compared to other minivans with more flexibility. If you need the space, skip the SX Prestige. The eight-passenger SX is pictured below with its unique middle seat pushed all the way back.
Kia keeps it simple with the Carnival and only offers one powertrain configuration. It comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels. The Carnival has more horsepower than other minivans, but not by a wide margin. All-wheel drive is not available.
Fuel economy is respectable at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. That’s right on par with the rest of the V6-powered minivans out there, but you will be burning substantially more gas than if you chose the hybrid-only Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid.
Out on the road, the engine feels torquey, and is happy to spin the front wheels from a stop at full throttle. The engine sounds good, too, mostly quiet in normal running, but issuing a controlled growl under hard acceleration. The Carnival feels swift and never left us wanting when merging onto a busy highway with a short on-ramp.
It steers confidently, with a nice weight building up in the tiller through corners. The suspension is slightly on the taut side, giving a good feel of the road, with the downside of transmitting more road noise into the cabin — it’s a big box, and it sounds like one. You can have more fun swinging it around than a comparable SUV, but the Sienna is still the best-handling minivan. Long highway trips are pleasant due to the Highway Drive Assist doing most the work for you, and the Bose audio system is great for masking the road noise that intrudes into the cabin. The Carnival will leave you feeling refreshed after covering a ton of ground, which is just what a minivan needs to do.
What other Kia Carnival reviews can I read?
Our first experience behind the wheel. We provide initial impressions and all the details about the van you might want to know.
An in-depth review of the eight-passenger Kia Carnival and it's unique, second-row sliding middle seat we dub the "Captain Kirk chair."
If you like specs, here’s where you’ll find the Kia Carnival compared to all the other minivans.
Pricing for the 2022 Kia Carnival can be found below, broken down into the available trim levels of LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige. All include the $1,175 destination charge.
- LX: $33,275
- EX: $38,775
- SX: $42,275
- SX-Prestige: $47,275
For family duty hauling lots of folks around, both the LX and EX are great values. The LX includes many essentials, and the luxuries added by the EX are worth the extra coin. Notable features for the EX include 19-inch alloy wheels, rear sun shades, eight-passenger seating, leatherette seats, long-sliding rails for the rear seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a power liftgate, tri-zone climate control, and most important of all, many of Kia’s neat in-cabin tech features. These include the Cabin Camera (view of rear rows in the screen), Cabin Intercom, Quiet Mode (turns off rear speakers for sleeping occupants) and adaptive cruise control with Kia’s sublime Highway Drive Assist.
The SX Prestige adds all of the high-class luxury features — the VIP seats are standard — but only go for this trim if maximum utility takes a back seat to maximum luxury.
You can find a full breakdown of features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
Most of the important features come standard on the 2022 Carnival. Driver assistance features on the base LX include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot warning w/collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert w/collision avoidance, rear parking sensors, rear occupant alert, and a “safe exit assist” feature that watches for cars approaching from the rear when exiting into a street. Stepping up to higher trims unlocks features such as forward collision avoidance for cyclists, front parking sensors and Highway Driving Assist. The SX-Prestige gets the enhanced blind-spot warning system featuring a live camera feed that won our 2020 Technology of the Year Award.
The 2022 Carnival was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received top marks for its crash worthiness and forward collision avoidance tech. Its standard headlights received a "Poor" rating, though, while the SX Prestige got the best-possible "Good" rating.