2022 Kia Carnival Review: Perfect for Large Parties

Could this MPV become your family’s MVP?

2022 Kia Carnival EX Red Front Quarter LeftChristian Wardlaw

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Kia calls the new 2022 Carnival a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), but it is a minivan with seating for up to eight people. The sliding side doors give it away. But in terms of style and available features, the 2022 Kia Carnival is in a class of its own in many ways.

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What’s New for the 2022 Kia Carnival?

Kia has sold a minivan for 20 years. Called the Sedona in the U.S. market, it has always been an outlier, though the third-generation version that arrived for the 2015 model year had a genuine sense of style combined with subtle crossover-SUV design cues. Now, Kia shelves the Sedona moniker in favor of Carnival, the name it has always used for this vehicle in other parts of the world. At the same time, Kia attempts to reposition the redesigned Carnival minivan as a multi-purpose vehicle, a marketing distinction intending to distance the product from any minivan connotations.

2022 Kia Carnival Price and Configurations

Kia offers the 2022 Carnival in four trim levels, with prices ranging from the low $30,000s to the high $40,000s:

Kia Carnival LX – Budget-friendly, the Carnival LX comes with the features you need at a nice price. An optional Seat Package replaces cloth upholstery with simulated leather, adds room for an eighth passenger, and improves front-seat comfort.

Kia Carnival EX – A good value, the EX features appealing 19-inch wheels, a larger infotainment screen, a navigation system, and more safety technology.

Kia Carnival SX – Style is the theme for the Carnival SX, which has a unique grille design, satin-chrome exterior trim, and black wheels. Inside, you’ll find ventilated front seats, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a surround-view camera.

Kia Carnival SX Prestige – Choose the SX Prestige for real leather seats, dual sunroof panels, a premium sound system, and second-row VIP Lounge Seats unlike anything you’ve seen.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Red Front QuarterChristian Wardlaw

2022 Kia Carnival Review and Test Drive

Nothing beats a minivan when it comes to getting the most passenger and cargo space for the least amount of money. There isn’t a crossover SUV that can match a minivan for interior space, and the full-size passenger vans and extended-length SUVs that are just as roomy inside also cost far more money and return worse fuel economy.

The sheer comfort, practicality, and affordability of minivans cannot overcome the stain of domesticity associated with them. Somehow, projecting an image of sensibility and a settled life is undesirable to consumers who otherwise revere friends, family, and togetherness.

Crossover SUVs, it seems, avoid the equivalent fate even when most of them are the same thing as a minivan, but with less interior room. Furthermore, instead of a minivan’s convenient sliding doors, a crossover’s conventional rear doors make it hard to load children in crowded parking lots. Ask Honda what’s under a Pilot’s bodywork, and eventually, someone at the company will admit the popular SUV shares plenty of its bones with the Odyssey minivan.

That’s why Kia has taken to calling its redesigned minivan a multi-purpose vehicle. Indeed, it serves multiple purposes, though an all-wheel-drive option and more ground clearance would cement the MPV classification claim. What the 2022 Kia Carnival brings to the party is terrific design, a front seating area that looks and feels like an SUV, and an available* rear seating area that puts a typical limousine to shame.

I’m referring to the power-adjustable, fully reclining, second-row lounge seats available only with the SX Prestige trim. For this 2022 Kia Carnival review, I test-drove the more affordable EX version on a road trip in California. It came with extra-cost floor mats and a cargo mat, contributing to a price of $39,310, including the $1,215 destination charge. Kia provided the vehicle for this Carnival review.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Red Rear-Quarter LeftChristian Wardlaw

2022 Kia Carnival Review: The Design

If not for its sliding side doors and exposed tracks, Kia could claim that the 2022 Carnival is a crossover and not a miniv… MPV.

From a marketing perspective, several automakers sell crossovers that don’t offer AWD or much in the way of extra ground clearance. Crossovers don’t even need to wear an SUV costume anymore, though the Carnival does have simulated front and rear skid plates, gray lower-body trim, and an available* sturdy-looking roof rack. Plus, Kia gives the Carnival a relatively flat hood, a blunt nose, and black-painted windshield pillars that help it look more like a crossover and less like a van. All it needs is a suspension lift and all-terrain tires to truly look the part.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Red Side ViewChristian Wardlaw

Apparently, consumers are confused about this Kia because my research suggests people regularly ask Google if the Carnival is a van or an SUV. Even if they like the Carnival enough to buy it (and it certainly is a stylish way to transport a family), people still struggle with the image it projects. I’ve seen loaded SX Prestige examples cruising around in my suburban Los Angeles area where the vans no longer have their “Kia” and “Carnival” badges.

Open one of the front doors, and the Carnival’s emphasis on appealing design continues. The dashboard appears to float within a band of trim that wraps from under the windshield into each door panel. Kia deftly embeds air vents into a horizontal strip separating the upper and lower portions of the dashboard, and a center console extends between the front seats just like in a crossover SUV.

Kia uses textured metallic and gloss-black trim to convey a modern, upscale interior, while the higher-end SX and SX Prestige are available with an exclusive Tuscan Umber upholstery color. Some plastic panels on the lower parts of the cabin reflect the Carnival’s base price, but that’s unavoidable in a vehicle starting at less than $35,000. Kia wisely used light-gray plastic in some areas in the test vehicle, reducing gloss and making the inexpensive material less obvious.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Interior DashboardChristian Wardlaw

Instrumentation and the infotainment system reside adjacent to each other on a freestanding panel that recalls the approach taken by Mercedes-Benz. The infotainment system employs unusual graphics with an underlying purple-theme, and the Carnival’s overall control layout includes a mix of touch-sensing buttons, physical buttons, and knobs with gloss-black or metallic surfaces. Unfortunately, reflections can render the controls illegible on sunny days.

Every row of seats easily accommodates adults, and the EX test vehicle’s second-row middle seat could independently slide forward. That is great for new parents wishing to be closer to a child while keeping the little tyke in the safest location inside the vehicle. That middle seat can also slide to the rear to make it easier to carry three adults across and fold in half to provide cupholders and a tray.

Opting for the leather-lined Carnival SX Prestige gets you two power-adjustable, second-row seats as standard. They slide toward the rear of the van to create lots of extra legroom. They also fully recline (complete with leg rests), and feature heating and ventilation. Trust me, everyone in the family will want to rock-paper-scissors for the right to ride in these.

Storage space is plentiful, even in the third-row. Cargo space is generous, too. Behind the back-most row, the Carnival supplies a class-leading 40.2 cubic feet of luggage space. That’s enough to handle four full-size suitcases stowed upright, plus whatever you’re willing to stack on top of them (risking that those items will tumble out as soon as you open the liftgate).

Fold the third-row seats down, and the Carnival can carry 86.9 cu-ft of cargo behind its second-row. To get a sense of how significant that number is, a Kia Telluride holds 87 cu-ft of cargo, but only with both rear rows of seats folded down. Put another way, to get the same amount of space in the Telluride, you’d need to leave the kids at home.

Maximum cargo volume with the Carnival’s rear seats removed measures 145.1 cu-ft. That’s a smidgeon more than what a Chevrolet Suburban can hold. However, with the Suburban, you don’t need to unlatch, lift, remove, and store heavy seats to achieve that level of volume. With the Carnival, you do. Except for the SX Prestige, because its swanky, second-row, power-adjustable leather recliners are firmly affixed to the floor.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Cargo SpaceChristian Wardlaw

2022 Kia Carnival Review: The Technology

Most versions of the 2022 Carnival have a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It replaces the 8-inch screen that is standard with LX trim. Choose the SX trim level, and the Carnival has two individual rear-seat entertainment screens to which you can pair a smartphone or stream content via embedded applications. And, if you upgrade to the Kia Carnival SX Prestige, a second 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display is standard, bringing the screen count to four.

The uplevel infotainment system includes smartphone integration with support for Apple and Android devices, satellite radio, and a navigation system. Kia says a voice recognition system is also standard, but in my experience, it is of limited use. You’re better off using your connected smartphone and its associated digital assistant. A complimentary, one-year subscription to Kia Connect Ultimate service is also standard (where available), but Kia reserves a 12-speaker, premium, surround-sound audio system for the SX Prestige trim level.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Driving Assistance Controls and Steering WheelChristian Wardlaw

Kia provides the driver and front passenger with an intercom system that allows them to speak to rear-seat occupants through the stereo speakers or connected headphone sets. A camera also shows a live feed of what’s going on in the second- and third-row seats, and when rear passengers are asleep, a stereo Quiet Mode delivers music only through the front speakers.

All Carnivals except for the LX also have what Kia calls a “smart tailgate.” That is a power, hands-free liftgate that opens for you within the presence of the key fob, which is useful when your hands are full. Better yet, you needn’t balance on one foot while waving the other under the bumper, which is the typical way these features work. After all, when there is ice and snow on the ground, that could be dangerous.

The Carnival also includes Kia Drive Wise, the automaker’s collection of driving assistance and collision avoidance systems. In addition, every Carnival has forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and lane-centering assist.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Infotainment SystemChristian Wardlaw

Additionally, a Safe Exit Assist system warns occupants when it might be hazardous to exit the Carnival, while a Rear Occupant Alert reminds the driver to check the back seat before leaving the van. Furthermore, ultrasonic sensors inside the vehicle will monitor movement for 24 hours. If a sleeping child or pet awakes, it will send the owner a text message while honking the Carnival’s horn and flashing its lights to get the attention of passers-by.

Depending on the trim level, upgrades include cyclist detection, automatic rear braking, a surround-view camera system, Junction Turning Assist, a Blind-Spot View Monitor, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, and Highway Driving Assist (HDA).

The HDA system pairs adaptive cruise control with lane-centering assistance for semi-autonomous functionality. Of course, you need to hold the steering wheel for HDA to remain active, but the system is exceptionally refined and accurate in operation. It is also worth noting that the adaptive cruise control is navigation-based, which means it can automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed based on map data.

Blind-Spot View Monitor is a camera-based, blind-spot monitoring system. It complements rather than replaces conventional, radar-based technology, and shows the driver what’s in the Carnival’s blind spots within the digital gauges. In addition, Junction Turning Assist monitors for traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians at intersections, and can automatically brake the Carnival to avoid a crash.

As far as collision protection goes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Carnival top ratings. However, only the SX Prestige earns an official Top Safety Pick rating because it is the only version of the van with headlights that perform to the necessary standards in IIHS testing.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Engine BayChristian Wardlaw

2022 Kia Carnival Review: The Drive

Mechanically, the Kia Carnival is a straightforward machine. The drivetrain includes a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Some rivals offer hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains or all-wheel drive, but not the Kia.

Acceleration is quick. You’ll have no trouble getting up to speed and merging onto fast-flowing freeways. At speed, wind and road noise is more intrusive than is preferable. Still, the Carnival effortlessly covers hundreds of miles at a time while keeping its driver and passengers comfortable and entertained.

People think minivans are dull to drive, but compared with a typical SUV, they feel more athletic on pavement due to a lower center of gravity. The Carnival EX test vehicle had 19-inch alloy wheels with 235/55 all-season tires, and it felt swift and secure on the mountain roads near Carmel Valley, California. The Carnival’s ride feels a little stiff with only a driver aboard, but as you add passengers and cargo, it becomes smoother.

Parking a Carnival is easy. The test vehicle had front and rear parking sensors and a surround-view camera system, all of which helped make the minivan more maneuverable. Beyond the tech, the Carnival’s boxy dimensions make it easy to judge when parking.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Carnival should get 22 mpg in combined driving. The minivan averaged 22.7 mpg on the standard evaluation loop, beating the EPA fuel economy estimate.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Red Rear-Quarter RightChristian Wardlaw

Is the 2022 Kia Carnival a Van or SUV?

If you are sensitive to minivan stigma, you can call the Kia Carnival a crossover if you want. But, sincerely, the only things that differentiate the Carnival from a front-wheel-drive Kia Telluride are the two sliding doors and the Telly’s 1.2 inches of added ground clearance, plus an extra 1,500 pounds of towing capacity. Otherwise, they’re basically the same thing except for styling and packaging. Oh, and the Carnival is much more comfortable for passengers and accommodating for cargo.

Kia Carnival Competitors for 2022

Once popular with families, minivans have lost their luster compared with more rugged-looking, but less practical crossover SUVs. Today, few examples remain available to savvy buyers seeking maximum passenger room, cargo space, and features at a reasonable price. Aside from the new Kia Carnival, the modern minivan menu includes the Chrysler Pacifica, the Honda Odyssey, and the Toyota Sienna.

2022 Kia Carnival EX Second-Row SeatsChristian Wardlaw

Carnival Features


If you’re suffering SUV fatigue and looking for something different to drive, take a look at the 2022 Kia Carnival. Yes, it’s a minivan, but it has a sense of style. And when you dress one up with all of the extras, it’s downright decadent – especially to anyone riding in the second-row seats.

2022 Kia Carnival Safety Features

  • Rear Occupant Alert – Standard feature reminds a driver to check the back seat
  • Safe Exit Assist – Standard feature warns occupants when it is unsafe to open a door and step out of the Carnival
  • Junction Turning Assistance – Available* feature prevents unsafe turns
  • Blind View Monitor – Available* camera-based blind-spot warning system
  • Highway Driving Assist – Available* driving aid pairing adaptive cruise control with lane-centering assistance

2022 Kia Carnival Technology

  • Leading Vehicle Departure Alert – Standard feature letting a driver know when traffic ahead is moving forward
  • Smartphone integration – Standard feature that pairs with popular smartphones and mirrors their applications on the infotainment screen
  • UVO Link – Available* connected services, offered in four different subscription plans
  • Rear-Seat Entertainment System – Available* dual-screen entertainment system for second-row passengers
  • Surround View Monitor – Available* 360-degree, surround-view camera system

2022 Kia Carnival Specs

  • 3.5-liter, V6 engine
  • 290 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Front-wheel drive
  • 22 mpg in combined driving

2022 Kia Carnival Interior

  • SynTex upholstery – Available* synthetic leather in most versions of the Carnival
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control – Available* individual temperature regulation for the driver, front passenger, and rear seating area
  • Heated and ventilated front seats – Most Carnivals have heated front seats, while the SX and SX Prestige offer ventilation
  • Dual power sunroofs – Separate sunroof panels located over the front seats and the second-row seats in the SX Prestige
  • VIP Lounge Seats – Fully reclining second-row seats with extending footrests, heating, and ventilation. Exclusive to SX Prestige trim

2022 Kia Carnival EX Third-Row SeatsChristian Wardlaw

*Availability is subject to specific trim level selections

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.