We recently had Kia’s new Carnival minivan- er, MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle)- in the Carpages Garage and since most of our contemporaries are those with young families we couldn’t wait to ask them what they thought of the stylish effort that replaces the old Sedona. We imagined that like us, they would be extremely impressed with what Kia has produced, and for the most part they were. Yet there was a common theme amongst those we canvassed, and most told us that despite the Carnival’s many charms, they deemed it too uncool for a spot in their own driveways, and that they overwhelmingly preferred a three-row SUV for family hauling duties instead. Which led us to wonder: why is that? Do these people think that when they pull up to the curb in their SUV that a revered hush falls over all those nearby? The answer: No, they do not.
So why then do so many people abhor the humble, useful minivan? A working theory we have is that minivan aversion can be traced to something as simple as people refusing to drive what their parents drove, an old axiom that might explain why station wagons are virtually extinct. Or perhaps the terms ‘uncool’ and ‘minivan’ seem destined to live beside one another because they are not the kinds of cars that people lust after. Whatever the case may be, we just can’t comprehend why someone would shun a vehicle that is made specifically for their station in life. These cars will accept everyone and their stuff in comfort and ask little in return. Better to think of them as a tool to make family life easier, like buying prepared meals instead of cooking at dinner time, and yet still people turn their noses up in contempt.
The fact is that nowadays minivans are nothing to laugh at, boasting levels of comfort and equipment that would have seemed preposterous a decade ago when so many manufactures began to flee the segment. There are a few stalwarts still in the game- the Carnival you see here, as well as the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica- and they are all excellent choices and better suited to family duty than say, the very popular VW Atlas. If time travel were possible, we would love to see the expression on the faces of engineers responsible for the Chrysler Magic Wagon from the 1980’s, the car that birthed the segment. They would surely be overcome with surprise at what their first effort had evolved into.
Some of you will be wearing a sneer of distaste at where we’re going with this, so we might as well get right to the negative aspects of the Kia Carnival, small as they are. The slick infotainment features capacitive touchpoints that just don’t feel as good as old-fashioned buttons and the volume knob is a bit of a reach away. The super cool reclining middle row seats make entry into the rear row a tad difficult, and if it is a pedantic gripe you seek, we might bemoan the rear turn indicators which are placed low down in the bumper and are not of the cool LED lighting you see everywhere else on the car. None of these gripes are worth any snide comments or serve as validation that minivans are not worthy of a spot in the family fleet.
Step inside the Carnival and we dare you not to be amazed. Kia has been churning out some genuinely nice interiors as of late, and the Carnival seems to exceed the rest of the lineup with a mix of quality finishes and first-rate assembly. The people mover gives off seriously upscale vibes, what with its panoramic sweep of crisply rendered digital displays and thoughtfully laid out switchgear. Of course, those not riding up front will no doubt enjoy their heated and cooled reclining captain’s chairs, evoking memories of the Maybach ultra-luxury SUV we piloted back in the summer. There are nooks and crannies for storage scattered every which way, and there are USB ports placed exactly where you want them so no device will go uncharged. There is even a public address system with video so you can see which of your passengers is picking their nose and then promptly scold them for it. Although our time spent in the Carnival saw us doing the kind of mundane chores like trips to the grocery store and shuttling the little ones around typical of minivan life, we would have relished the opportunity to take it on a long road trip to bask in its sumptuousness while the kilometers slipped by in comfort.
If a long drive is on the menu there would no doubt be fights over who gets to sit in the middle row but whoever draws the short straw and is therefore mandated to drive, it isn’t a bad spot to be in at all. The Carnival is pleasant to drive and goes down the road quietly and smoothly. Sure, the steering is a bit vague and handling is best described as deliberate, but what do you expect of a minivan? Without the higher ground clearance of an SUV, it actually feels more composed and buttoned down whether you find yourself on the highway or puttering around town. There are a few different Drive Modes and included is a Sport setting. While it does appreciably sharpen the steering and acceleration, it felt more like a novelty and we left it in Normal mode 99.99% of the time which is exactly what Carnival owners will do after they get their fix playing around with the settings available.
While the name Carnival may elicit memories of too many candy apples, grungy merry-go-round rides and deep fried everything, Kia’s minivan succeeds at banishing those associations with its very handsome minivan. That’s right folks- we just described the styling of a minivan as handsome. The stylists deserve a raise not just for making the Carnival look like an SUV, but a good-looking vehicle in general. So the next time your neighbour casts a disapproving glance in your direction as they cruise by in whatever anonymous three-row SUV they happen to be driving, you can return a knowing smirk. Kia’s Carnival is nothing to be embarrassed about whatsoever- when you got it, flaunt it.
2022 Kia Carnival SX - Specifications
- Price as tested: $48,595
- Body Type: 4-door, 7 passenger minivan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 262 @ 5,000 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,140 kg (4,718 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 14.2L/100 km (17 mpg)