If automakers were eligible for a "Most Improved" award, we would make a strong case for Kia. Up until about a decade ago, the South Korean manufacturer produced sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs that looked and felt as cheap as their bargain-basement price tags suggested. But the 2011 Optima sparked a renaissance for the brand, one that continues to this day with the luxe Telluride and K5. Not one to rest on its laurels, Kia is turning its disruptive attention to one of the most unfairly maligned segments — the family-friendly minivan. So for 2022, the Sedona is out. Say hello to its replacement, the 2022 Kia Carnival.
2022 Kia Carnival
- Most powerful engine in the class
- Leads minivan class with 3,500-pound towing capacity
- Lots of tech and features for the price
- SUV-like styling helps it stand out in a crowd
- Unlike some rivals, the Carnival won't be available with a hybrid powertrain
- All-new model replaces Kia Sedona
- Kicks off the first Carnival generation
Though its styling is certainly unique, the Carnival has a rather conventional powertrain. Rather than switch to a hybrid powertrain like the Toyota Sienna, or offer a plug-in hybrid to compete with the Chrysler Pacifica, the Carnival uses a typical gasoline engine. With 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, Kia can claim the segment's most potent engine, but only just. The Honda Odyssey is 10 hp in arrears, and the Pacifica has only three fewer ponies. The engine routes power to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Like most minivans, the Kia Carnival can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Kia has gone to great lengths to ensure the Carnival's cabin is just as impressive as its interior. A number of visual elements, including the dashboard and arrangement of the center stack, are short and long, emphasizing the Carnival's width and, by extension, the sense of available space.
In a word: loaded. The plethora of standard driver assistance and safety systems includes automatic lane centering, forward collision mitigation and automatic rear braking. You even get a nifty blind-spot monitor feature that can keep you in your lane if you try to cross over the marker and a vehicle is in your blind spot. Kia also gives you the option to add onto those essentials. Upper models feature items including a blind-spot camera, a 360-degree camera, and navigation-based adaptive cruise control, which slows your speed proactively when you approach a curve.
The EPA estimates the 2022 Kia Carnival will return 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway). This is roughly on par with the V6-powered Odyssey and Pacifica but well below the Sienna's whopping 36 combined mpg. There's also the Pacifica Hybrid, which features a plug-in powertrain with a useful 32 miles of EV range and 30 mpg after the battery is depleted.
While we liked the Kia Sedona, it always lacked the presence and features of its rivals. With strikingly good looks, a premium interior loaded with lots of tech, and a wealth of standard and optional features, the 2022 Kia Carnival offers a value proposition that could prove tough to beat.