First Drive: 2022 Kia Carnival Delivers on Comfort and Practicality

This all-new minivan has the features and capability to be a formidable competitor

2022 Kia Carnival front

The new 2022 Kia Carnival is being positioned as an SUV-minivan mashup. Kia seems to endorse the misconception that it’s a blow to people’s egos to be seen in a minivan. So the automaker is calling the Carnival a multipurpose vehicle and taking styling cues from its family of SUVs as much as possible in the hopes it will trick people into buying a . . . minivan.

Not since 2005 to 2008, when General Motors tried to improve sales of its class-trailing minivans (the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, and Saturn Relay) by hailing their SUV-ness, has an automaker gone through such pains to cast its minivan as an SUV-like vehicle.

That’s silly. In our first drives of the 2022 Kia Carnival, we found it to be a comfortable, powerful, versatile, and competitive vehicle that should sell on its own merits, regardless of what it’s called. It’s a big improvement over its predecessor, the Kia Sedona—which came in behind almost all its competitors in our evaluations of ride, handling, and comfort.

MINIVAN ROAD TESTS

The minivan basics are all here: two big sliding side doors; flexible seating for seven or eight passengers; a giant well behind the third-row seat, so you can carry luggage for those passengers; easy access; and good visibility. Pretty much everything that many similarly sized SUVs don’t offer.

Kia makes it simple, for now, to configure a Carnival. There’s one powertrain, only front-wheel drive, and five trim levels. 

The all-new 2022 Kia Carnival is now on sale, and we purchased an EX trim version for our test program. But we also rented an uplevel SX version from the automaker for early impressions. Our first-drive findings are based primarily on the tested model we purchased.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the Carnival is available to you below. Once we complete 2,000 break-in miles, we’ll put the Carnival we purchased through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

If you haven’t signed up yet, click below and become a member to access this full article and all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

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What we bought: 2022 Kia Carnival EX
Powertrain: 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
MSRP: $37,600
Options: Astra Blue paint, $495; carpeted floor mats, $200
Destination fee: $1,175
Total cost: $39,470

What we rented: 2022 Kia Carnival SX
Powertrain: 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
MSRP: $41,100
Options: Ceramic Silver paint, $495
Destination fee: $1,175
Total cost: $42,770

CR's Take

“It is so practical; it’s a shame people don’t like minivans.” That sentiment from one of our testers sums up not just the category but also the Carnival. Name change and styling tricks notwithstanding, the Carnival comes across as an extremely versatile and pleasant vehicle. It’s powerful, roomy, comfortable, user-friendly, and equipped with all the latest connectivity and advanced safety features. Unlike the Sedona it has replaced, the Carnival is no bargain basement choice; rather, it’s a formidable minivan competitor.

5
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