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2025 Kia Carnival First Look: Available Hybrid Gives Kia's Minivan a Fighting Chance

A tough front end and new tech helps, too

2025 Kia Carnival front
  • The 2025 Carnival gets refreshed exterior styling.
  • A hybrid powertrain is now available.
  • New infotainment interface and advanced driving systems are also coming.

Despite its fourth-place position in our ranking of all minivans, we think the Kia Carnival is a solid pick in its own right. Compared to other minivans, however, the Carnival isn’t nearly as refined, and it lacks a killer app that could make it stand out in the field. But the upcoming refresh could tip the scales in the big Kia’s favor. The 2025 Kia Carnival sports a boldly designed new face with sharp new daytime running lights, and the new Dark Edition swaps the bright exterior trim for darkened elements. But the biggest news is reserved for what’s driving the wheels.

2025 Kia Carnival profile

Hybrid powertrain option: A game changer?

The Carnival will continue to come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 287 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque — negligible drops of 3 hp and 2 lb-ft compared to last year’s model. We don’t expect performance to be noticeably changed, so expect a 0-60 mph time of 8.3 seconds if you need to make a hasty getaway from the school dropoff zone.

If you step up from the base LX model, you can check the box for the Carnival’s newly available hybrid powertrain. Pairing a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a 54-kW electric motor and six-speed automatic transmission, the Carnival Hybrid pumps out a respectable 242 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. We don’t have estimated fuel economy figures yet, but the hybrid-only Toyota Sienna delivers 35-36 mpg in the EPA’s combined cycle, so figure that the Carnival should earns about that as well. If these numbers are on the money, the Carnival Hybrid could be about 50% more efficient than the standard model.

2025 Kia Carnival front interior

A sharp interior but what about those controls?

We like the current Carnival’s modern interior design that mixes physical and digital buttons, but we are less impressed by the haptic controls, which require quite a bit of driver attention to operate effectively. Kia has gone back to the drawing board with the 2025 refresh, returning with a far slimmer center stack. The single control panel appears to incorporate haptic climate controls flanked by audio system volume and tuning knobs. We’ll reserve final judgment about the increased use of haptic controls until we try them out for ourselves — it’s possible Kia improved their functionality and usability — but on the surface, it’s not a step in the right direction. Thankfully, the Carnival’s voice assistant can interface with the climate control, so there’s hope yet for distraction-free temperature adjustment.

Some steps up in tech

The 2025 Carnival’s tech enhancements start with a standard 12-inch touchscreen, increased from 8 inches in the current model. (A 12.3-inch screen remains available as an upgrade.) The infotainment system is updated to the new Connected Car Navigation Cockpit operating system, which features over-the-air update capability. You can also option a new head-up display and a digital rearview mirror that displays the image from the rearview camera right in the mirror — useful if you’ve packed so much luggage that you can’t see out the back.

On the safety front, the Carnival now offers front cross-traffic warning with emergency braking, evasive steering intervention when attempting dangerous lane changes, and Highway Driving Assist 2, which consists of upgraded versions of existing advanced driving systems.

2025 Kia Carnival rear three-quarter view

Edmunds says

The refreshed 2025 Carnival has a handful of new add-ons that give the minivan a fighting chance. But it's the forthcoming hybrid variant that seems poised to shake up the segment.