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Sunday Drive: Is it a minivan or not? The new 2022 Kia Carnival

By Craig and Deanne Conover - | Oct 16, 2021
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An exterior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An exterior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An exterior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An interior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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A view of the engine in the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An interior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An interior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.
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An interior view of the seven-passenger 2022 Carnival.

During the past few years, Kia has been making great strides and introducing new and exciting vehicles to the U.S. market. A case in point is the new Telluride, debuting for the 2020 model year, that dealers could not keep in stock.

After this kind of success, why not re-create the minivan? It’s been an American staple for large families since it was introduced in 1984 with the Plymouth Voyager. These were hugely successful vans built on a passenger car platform that would haul a lot of people and yet still fit into a standard garage.

Hitting peak sales of over 1.4 million units in 2000, this segment of the market has slid since then with annual sales now just over the 500,000 mark. This is most likely due to the creation of the SUV and everyone’s mad dash to own a vehicle that can go more places and still function as a people mover.

Kia, with a fantastic history of making something just different enough in the market to appeal to many buyers, has reworked what was known a year ago as the Sedona minivan and is now called the Carnival MPV.

Our first impression? What a great name. It brought images to mind of something fun to be in and drive; it could have been a sports coupe for all we knew. Then there was the MPV designation — just what does that string of letters stand for?

Well, Kia has not only reimagined what a minivan can be but also renamed it a “multipurpose vehicle.” To be honest, we had to agree with that sentiment, as minivans do everything from hauling the kids to soccer practice to bringing home a load of sheetrock for finishing the basement.

After spending only a few minutes with the Carnival, it was evident that the week was not going to be the same as we spent with other minivans in the past. About the only parts of the Carnival that were similar to a traditional minivan were the sliding side doors and the way the rearmost seat folded into the floor. Other than that, it was way more SUV-like that anything else.

The new Carnival, or MPV, is definitely going to change the way minivans are viewed. First off, it is very hard to tell from the exterior that it is actually a minivan. Most folks who questioned us wanted to know what kind of SUV we had for the week. That right there was a testament to the new design as there has been a kind of stigma for some people who didn’t want to drive something that looked like a minivan.

We were able to appreciate this design even more when our son JaCoby and his wife, Hailey, brought the grandkids down to see the new MPV. They are now at a point in life when, with two young ones, they need more space for traveling or just heading out with the kids to drive up the canyon. The new Carnival is loaded with space to put things, and, even better, enough tie downs in the back seats to accommodate up to five car seats at one time. We discovered this as JaCoby was crawling through the vehicle trying to figure out where to put the kids.

The middle seat in the second row is designed to slide forward and backward independently of the other seats and comes with car seat tether points, providing that extra place for another seat. As the two of them looked at it, they determined that Mom could sit in one of the second-row seats and get to both kids easily because they would be offset from one another. This seat would also come out if desired or even turn into a table for the rear passengers. What a great design!

The Carnival also drove more like a car than a large SUV. We enjoyed the fact that it was easy to get in and out of tight places even though it was 203 inches long (16.9 feet).

Powering this new model is a 3.5-liter gasoline engine that provides 290 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque. We found the MPV to have plenty of get up and go during our week of traveling more than 350 miles. Even on the freeway, it had no problem with 80 mph speeds. We managed a very nice 21.2 mpg for the week with an EPA estimate of 22 combined.

On the safety side, the Carnival was loaded with the new Kia Drivewise Driver-Assist technology that includes forward collision detection and avoidance, blind spot monitor and avoidance, rear cross path detection and avoidance, lane keep assist and smart cruise control with stop and go.

In fact, the smart cruise control would recognize the speed limit changes, and if we had it set at 5 mph over the current limit, it would automatically adjust to the new limit but continue to cruise at 5 mph above it. This is a first for us with this kind of setup; usually, luxury autos simply recognize the new limit and adjust to that without taking into account the former setting.

Great features included on the SX trim that Mom and Dad are sure to enjoy are the dual-screen rear entertainment function that will keep the kids occupied on longer trips, an all-around view monitor when backing and — most importantly — the heated seats up front were also ventilated.

After a week with the Carnival, we feel Kia has again hit a home run. From the name to the design, the Carnival will be the new leader in how an MPV should look and drive.

Base price: $41,100

Destination charge: $1,175

Price as driven: $42,770

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