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2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review

(KIA)



Estimated read time: 10-11 minutes

There are two types of progeny-schlepping parents: those who love minivans and those who loathe them. Kia has set its sights on making lovers out of the haters with the SUV-inspired Carnival. Dubbed a "multi-purpose vehicle" by the manufacturer, the Carnival is spacious and stylish. It's an excellent entry into the minivan segment. If you're not considering the Kia Carnival simply because it's a van, you're missing out.

Browse all Kia Carnival listings on KSL Cars.

*KSL Cars does not endorse any vehicles. The views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not reflect the views or opinions of KSL.com or its employees.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review
Photo: KIA

Price and value

The MSRP range for the 2022 Kia Carnival is $32,300-$46,300. It is available in five trim levels, with a suite of standard features that include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, as well as lane-keeping assist technology. Some of the major differences in trim levels are noted below.

● LX: $32,300

8-inch touchscreen display with rearview monitor

Power sliding rear doors

● LX Seat Package: $34,300

Power driver's seat with power lumbar support

8-passenger seating with second-row center free mode seat

Heated front seats

● EX: $37,800

Passenger View and Passenger Talk in-cabin camera and intercom

Smart power liftgate

Parking distance warning

● SX: $41,300

Surround-view monitor

Ventilated front seats

LED fog lamps

● SX Prestige: $46,300

Dual power tilting and sliding sunroofs

Second-row VIP lounge seats

Blind-view monitor

The Kia Carnival is an excellent value, especially in the EX and SX trims. Even at the SX Prestige top trim, it's a great value given all the luxury and refinement you experience for the price. And, as with all Kias, you get their industry-best warranty with coverage up to 10 years and 100,000 miles on the powertrain.

Performance

Vans, err, MPVs aren't sold on the premise of being high-performance vehicles that are interesting to drive, but in this case, the Carnival did pretty well. The Carnival always had enough oomph to do what I needed, and it did it smoothly. The nice powertrain and refined attitude that the Carnival gives off made it a surprisingly great place to spend time. You'll look forward to trips to the grocery store just as much as you will a road trip to your favorite vacation spot.

Engine

The Kia Carnival is equipped with a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 that produces a best-in-class 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. A touch more power would be welcome, but for being front-wheel drive, this V6 delivers its power in a very smooth and linear way. It didn't leave me digging for the power I needed going up hills, merging or passing on the freeway.

Fuel efficiency

We drove the Carnival for about 300 miles in a pretty even combination of highway and city driving, over which it returned fuel economy right in line with the EPA estimates of 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Not bad considering the size of the vehicle and its larger V6 engine.

Drivetrain

The Carnival does not have an all-wheel-drive option. AWD minivans are rare, and the Carnival continues the front-wheel-drive van tradition. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic transmission that worked really well with the V6 engine, providing smooth, intuitive upshifts and downshifts and power delivery.

Acceleration and handling

The Carnival is very refined and smooth to drive. Acceleration is decent, clocking a 0-60 mph time in seven seconds as tested by Car and Driver. The steering feel is really nice, too. Not too loose nor too heavy, it's just right (like Baby Bear's porridge). I always felt that the Carnival responded in a pleasing way to my inputs and it genuinely felt enjoyable to get behind the wheel no matter where we were going.

Braking

I liked the brake pedal feel as well. There was no second-guessing how much pressure to apply for the brake force I wanted and it always felt capable of slowing us down in any circumstance. Car and Driver report excellent braking metrics. Our tester was equipped with other braking goodies like automatic emergency braking, hill start assist and an electronic parking brake.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review
Photo: KIA

Interior comfort and convenience

The Carnival nails the people-hauling aspects of a van, and it's hard to argue with how well it executes the comfort and convenience angles. There's lots of space for everybody, ingress and egress are a piece of cake, and the features are something you'd expect to find on more expensive vehicles.

Seats

Sitting in the Carnival, especially in the front captain's seats, you're going to be happy. They are comfortable for long drives and offer an excellent driving position. Our tester was equipped with Kia's SynTex leatherette and it felt like real leather. The front seats were heated and ventilated and the heating worked well on frigid winter days. The second and third rows also had comfortable seats. All three second-row seats slide and are removable, while the third-row seats fold flat into the floor.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review
Photo: KIA

Climate control

Continuing its theme of interior comfort, the Carnival kept us warm in the middle of a Utah winter. Tri-zone automatic temperature control was nice and adapted to our individual preferences quickly. The only major zonk here is the lack of a heated steering wheel. The absence this feature is curious — especially on this near top-trim level — and sorely missed when dropping the kids off at school on a cold morning.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review
Photo: KIA

Cargo space and cabin storage

Thanks to its boxy shape the Carnival offers a huge amount of cargo space, especially with the third-row folded flat. With all three rows up, the Carnival boasts 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space and that increases to 145.1 cubic feet with the second row removed. Storage space, something that's always very important to van buyers, is also really good. There are lots of cupholders, cubbies and other storage solutions that hold everything you need to keep the kids happy.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review
Photo: KIA

Infotainment system

Kia's screens, infotainment and technology features are just another example of the great value the Carnival offers. The infotainment screen's 12.3-inch display looks great and is easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as is wireless charging capability. The gauges and overall design of the dash, center stack, and center console give off a serious near-luxury vibe, something especially welcome in what has been a historically bland segment of vehicles.

The cabin also features numerous USB chargers throughout all three rows and a 115-volt power inverter. The stereo isn't a fancy name-brand sound system, but it sounds great regardless. Our tester was equipped with the rear-seat entertainment option which includes screens mounted behind the two front seats. Given kids' innate ability to break, scratch and bump into anything expensive, these were a major misfire from Kia's interior designers. I definitely would not order them.

2022 Kia Carnival SX test drive review

Exterior appearance and functionality

Kia really doesn't want you to think of the Carnival as a minivan, calling it an MPV as mentioned above. And it almost doesn't look like one. Its fresh and modern design gives it a great look as far as minivans go, and it's definitely something that will catch people's eye.

But, at the end of the day, the Carnival is still a minivan complete with automatic sliding rear doors, a huge rear hatch and an attractive boxy shape. It looks just a little more upscale and different than the competition, — especially in the Ceramic Silver paint ours was sprayed with.

Towing capacity and payload

Minivans aren't really built to tow, but the Carnival can tow up to 3,500 pounds if you need to pull a small utility trailer packed with paddleboards to the lake or are filling that same trailer full of canned goods for the elementary school's annual food drive.

Wheels

Our tester was equipped with some attractive 19-inch, gloss black wheels shod with Continental CrossContact RX, 235/55R-19 tires. There was a touch more road noise on the freeway than I expected, but all things considered, the Carnival makes for a comfortable cruiser for long highway drives.

Lights and turn signals

Illumination was very nice in the Carnival. Projection LED fog lamps and headlights are standard on the SX trim. Rearview mirrors are heated and have integrated turn signal indicators. High beam assist is also standard.

Cameras and side mirrors

The SX trim packages several helpful cameras, including a surround-view monitor. The surround-view monitor system offers a nearly 360-degree view in several viewing modes from four cameras. This view gives a virtual bird's eye view, convenient for parking and low-speed maneuvers.

Front and rear windshield

As with any box-shaped vehicle with large, panoramic windows, the Carnival delivers on its wonderful visibility. Front and rear defrosters are standard and the rear and front wipers work well in clearing the view.

Safety

The Kia Carnival is a top choice for safety among family vehicles. Highly rated in every category, and with a long list of safety features, you don't need to worry about your family's safety in the Carnival.

Features

The list of safety features is long, but some of the highlights available on the SX trim are:

  • Forward collision avoidance-assist
  • Driver attention warning
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Highway driving assist
  • Navigation-based smart cruise control.

For a full list of safety features, visit Kia's website.

Awards and ratings

To back up its family appeal, the Carnival was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, scoring top marks in every category. It has not been rated yet by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but I am confident it will receive multiple five-star ratings given its performance in the IIHS testing.

Final impression

If you can look past the sea of three-row SUVs on the market, you'll discover that the minivan segment is quietly going about its business and is at the top of its game. The Kia Carnival is the new kid on the block, but it sure has made a grand entrance.

The Kia Carnival offers excellent value to buyers, providing features, style and comfort that are lacking in other more expensive competitors. It's genuinely nice to drive and made me, an avid avoider of all things minivan, a fan. I really liked it. It's just about the perfect minivan, especially if you're wanting something a little more stylish and refined than the usual suspects. I recommend going for at least the EX trim, if not the SX trim like our tester was equipped with to get the most value for your money.

If you're in the market for a family hauler, even if you aren't a minivan fan, go check out the 2022 Kia Carnival SX. We promise you'll be surprised.

FAQs

Is the Carnival fun to drive?

Yes. Now, don't confuse it with a sports car, but for what it is, the Carnival's driving demeanor and interior appointments are so nice that you'll have a ball driving it, no matter your destination.

Is the Carnival good for kids?

Absolutely. It seems to have been designed with kids in mind and it's an excellent family hauler. Except for the horribly misguided dual-screen rear entertainment system, this vehicle is perfect for young families.

Is the Carnival a good value?

Definitely. You could even go for the fully loaded trim and still walk away feeling your money was well spent. I'm genuinely impressed by the value here. Unless the all-wheel drive is a must-have, you'll be thrilled with what your money gets you with the Carnival.

Find all Kia Carnival listings on KSL Cars here.

Do you or someone you know have an awesome car story? We want to feature it! Send an email to cars@ksl.com. For more information and updates follow KSL Cars on Instagram and Facebook.

About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 BMW M3 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, freelance automotive journalist, speaker and social media manager. Contact him at jasonbellcars@gmail.com for comments/questions, or just to say "hi."

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Jason Bell for KSL Cars

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