Road trips are a carnival

Kia’s new MPV, or rather minivan, is ideal family hauler

When you look back at your family road trips are they more like the Griswolds or are they more traditional, ideal for a postcard and a sincere Facebook post? If it was more like the Griswolds was it related to the vehicle you drove? Was the old station wagon too cramped? Or today’s SUV just a little short of space to placate all family members?

Why do I inquire? Well, this week’s review is on a brand-new vehicle, aimed at moving families and ideal for a road trip. How do I know? I took my family from Ohio to Florida in this multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). What’s an MPV? It’s a nifty marketing ploy for a minivan since those are passe unhip.

But when you’ve got three dogs, two adult teenagers, and three adults to move thousands of miles, you need a multi-purpose vehicle and thankfully the 2022 Kia Carnival was at my disposal.

From this point forward we will call the Carnival what it is – a minivan, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. On looks it certainly fits that mold, replacing the outdated and poor-selling Sedona minivan from Kia. Kia has a brand-new logo that is fresh, and so they breathe new life into the minivan with the 2022 Carnival.

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The long, lanky look of the Carnival indicates it’s definitely not an SUV. Kia has plenty of SUVs to offer anyway, so be something you’re not. The new-look Carnival really catches up with the competitors like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica as far as modern looks and appeal. Are any of these minivans, the Carnival included, sexy? No. Are they attractive and modern enough? You bet.

The V6 engine of the Carnival is new and features 290 horsepower. That’s enough power to move this hefty, long van along the road. In the past I’ve driven the Sienna and the Pacifica on similar road trips and I can say from a performance standpoint, the Carnival outperformed the Pacifica (which really drove long and had a lot of sway) and is similar to the Sienna, which in my opinion is at the top of the minivan segment.

So, from a sheer drivability standpoint, the Carnival is ready to compete, while the Sedona was not.

But it’s the interior and the space where the Carnival really separates itself from its predecessor. The Sedona couldn’t match the swanky feel and vibe of the Sienna or Odyssey or have all the family-friendly features of the Pacifica. Now the Carnival can match all three of those competitors with a cavernous interior. The Carnival has 168 feet of passenger space and 145.1 cubic feet of cargo area, which leads the segment.

Very few three-row SUVs can match the useful, comfortable space of the Carnival. And this is where it really can make road trips, especially long ones, appealing. Stretch out with reclining-style second-row seats. We removed the middle seat of the middle seat of the second row to allow for the dogs to pass through which really opened up the elbow room. But if you really need transport of eight people, there are few options and the Carnival is one of them.

I will say that the third row resides right over the rear wheels and this makes for quite a bumpy ride where you feel the road. If you have passengers that get car sick, better load them up with Dramamine, or let them in the second row where they can enjoy the entertainment screens on the back of the headrest.

Another small, but meaningful touch is the accessibility of USB ports throughout the van, including one on each side of the third row, along with cupholders. It truly is designed with families in mind.

The Carnival falls off pace of the Pacifica in regard to fuel economy but still has okay ratings with 19 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway. For our long multi-state trip we averaged nearly 23 mpg.

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The Carnival is well-priced starting at $37,600. My tester was the EX trim and had a lot of available features with this trim including smart cruise (great for those late hours when the lines are blurring and you want to sleep) and heated front seats. With freight and handling, the final MSRP of my tester was $38,775.

I openly admit my love for minivans. They’re not cool. They’re not hip. But they sure are practical. And while I don’t have little ones any longer, each passenger can grow to appreciate the interior comfort and amenities afforded to them in the 2022 Kia Carnival minivan.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2022 Kia Carnival EX

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $37,600/$38,775
  • Mileage..........................................19 mpg/city; 26 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 3.5-liter V6
  • Horsepower................................. 290 hp/262 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Sohari, Korea

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