2022 Kia Carnival Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Apr 14, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Kia deals!

Kia doesn't want you to think of its new 2022 Carnival as a minivan. Never mind those sliding side doors; this is a Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or MPV. 

The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Kia Sedona minivan and features SUV design elements distinctive enough to warrant a vehicle reclassification in the automaker's estimation. But since the Carnival still competes with the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna, it remains aimed at practical people seeking maximum passenger and cargo space at a minimum cost.

The 2022 Carnival offers seating for seven or eight people, depending on the configuration, and is available with LX, EX, SX, or SX Prestige trim. They all have a new 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive.

With the outgoing third-generation Sedona, Kia trialed subtle SUV design themes to set its minivan apart from the competition. Now, the crossover vibe is more pronounced. Pair the boxy, technical styling with clever seating configurations, impressive new infotainment technologies, and a wide range of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), and Kia's contention that the Carnival is something more than a minivan carries a ring of truth to it.

What Owners Said About the Kia Sedona - Find the best Kia deals!

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Astra Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The new Kia Carnival replaces the Kia Sedona in the automaker's lineup. According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 58% of 2021 Kia Sedona owners are male (vs. 60% for the segment), and the median age of a Sedona owner is 48 years (vs. 54).

Owners said their favorite things about the Sedona were (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Getting in and out

Owners indicated their least favorite things about the Sedona were (in descending order) the: 

  • Driving comfort
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment system
  • Powertrain
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Sedona ranked number four out of four minivans.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Kia Carnival - Find the best Kia deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Carnival SX Prestige equipped with the following options:

  • Astra Blue paint
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with garage door opener
  • Carpeted floor mats
  • Cargo mat

The price of the test vehicle came to $47,920, including the $1,175 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Tuscan Umber Front and Back Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Open the Carnival SX Prestige's door, and an upscale, high-tech interior greets you. Look closely, and you'll spot plenty of hard plastic, but this trim level's dual 12.3-inch screen instrumentation and infotainment setup is reminiscent of a Mercedes-Benz.

Bold two-tone interior colors define the Carnival's cabin, except with LX trim. It's the only one with a Black interior, and it comes in cloth. Colors in other trim levels include Gray, Saddle Brown, or Tuscan Umber in SynTex, which is synthetic leather. Genuine leather is restricted to the SX Prestige and only in Gray or Tuscan Umber. Kia decorates the Carnival's dashboard with textured metallic or simulated open-pore wood trim, depending on the trim level.

The dashboard and controls resemble a crossover SUV instead of a minivan, and because you can see the hood through the windshield, the Carnival feels like a crossover from the driver's seat. This design approach comes at a cost to storage space, though, and not all of the trays and bins have a lined bottom, which could promote rattles on the road.

Feels stiffer and dryer than the perforated SynTex material in most Carnivals, the SX Prestige's genuine leather holds no advantage. Kia could easily drop it, and few people would notice. The test vehicle's front seats offered heating and ventilation, and the heated steering wheel is excellent for cold winter days.

Kia provides several ways to open the power sliding side doors, including a standard hands-free function. Depending on the trim level, they reveal individual second-row seats or a Slide Flex arrangement with a middle seat. The middle seat can slide forward to place a child closer to parents or slide quite far back to add genuinely comfortable seating for three adults across (provided you've stowed the third-row seat away).

In the SX Prestige, Kia supplies standard heated and ventilated VIP Lounge Seats, and they would be pretty impressive in an ultra-luxury vehicle, let alone something priced under $50,000. These power-adjustable lounge seats fully recline and offer a power-adjustable leg rest. A separate rear power sunroof opens over these seats, and the test vehicle had window shades for both the sliding side door and the rear quarter windows.

Knowing that the Carnival will appeal to families, Kia equips it with two valuable technologies. The first is an ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert feature that monitors for interior movement for up to 24 hours after you've locked and left the Carnival. Suppose you've accidentally forgotten a child or a pet, leaving them inside the vehicle. In that case, this technology can detect their movement, flash the Carnival's lights and honk the horn, and send you a text message alert prompting an investigation.

Additionally, a standard Safe Exit Assist system monitors for traffic approaching from behind the Carnival. If you're parallel parked, it warns the driver and passengers when it's not safe to exit. And, just in case you've got kids in the back who are not paying attention, it can even override the power door locks to prevent them from opening a sliding door.

Starting with EX trim, the Carnival has Kia's Smart Tailgate feature. It's a hands-free liftgate with automatic closing, and all you need to do to activate it is stand behind the vehicle for a few seconds. It does not require you to remember where a sensor might be located under the bumper or to try standing on one foot while your arms are full, which is not a good idea if there are ice and snow on the ground.

2021 Kia Carnival UVO Link Infotainment System Review

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Kia offers an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with LX trim, while other Carnivals get a 12.3-inch touchscreen display. A 12.3-inch digital instrumentation panel is included only with SX Prestige trim.

Simply because it is deep and rich with functionality, there is a learning curve to this technology, but once you get the hang of things, it is mostly easy to use. Kia uses inventive graphics, too, but they are not always pleasing. Let's put it this way: you're going to want to like the color purple and the old-timey radio tubes on the radio screen.

Standard equipment for each infotainment system includes:

  • Bluetooth pairing for two devices
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • UVO Link connected services
  • HD Radio
  • Voice recognition

Additionally, the 12.3-inch system provides:

  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Navigation

Notably, the Carnival LX's 8-inch system offers wireless smartphone integration, yet the more sophisticated 12.3-inch system requires you to plug into the USB data port to run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

With the 12.3-inch infotainment system, Kia has allowed sizzle to replace substance. The home screen, for example, is very Zen but not helpful when it comes to quick data reference. Swipe right, and you can access numerous main menus spread across two screens. Touch-sensing buttons beneath the display provide quick access to commonly used screens such as the navigation map and radio.

Furthermore, the voice recognition system is not always capable of responding to naturally spoken commands and queries. Kia also doesn't offer a Wi-Fi connection via UVO Link, but a spokesperson confirms it is coming soon. The Sounds of Nature feature (like a Calm app but for when you're driving) is soothing, though. Just don't listen to it when you're sleepy.

Kia offers both a Passenger Talk driver public address system and a Passenger View camera for the Carnival. The former projects the driver's voice through the stereo speakers so that there is no need to yell, while the latter helps Mom and Dad serve as judge and jury during sibling throwdowns. Second-row occupants get a separate voice recognition system, which, in my experience, gives pre-teens a little too much control.

With the new Carnival, Kia switches to a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint premium sound system. Generally speaking, Bose components cannot match the Harman Kardon audio systems that Kia has traditionally employed, and that's true in the Carnival. There is too much high-frequency distortion and not enough bass.

The Carnival's available dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system is terrific, though. Besides playing DVDs, it offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto screen mirroring and comes with on-screen apps for YouTube, Netflix, and more. It also features USB inputs and HDMI connections, which means your rear-seat passengers need never worry about a lack of onboard entertainment.

What It's Like to Drive the 2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Astra Blue Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

If the Carnival's infotainment system is complex, the mechanical engineering is simple. Every example has the same new 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 290 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, transferred to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Kia says a Carnival can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Built on the same new vehicle platform as the Kia K5 sedan and Kia Sorento SUV, the Kia Carnival employs a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, column-mounted electric-assist steering, and ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes. The Carnival LX rides on 17-inch wheels, while other versions of the vehicle get 19-inch wheels.

Power is not a problem, and in most situations, the automatic is a good match for the engine. Drivers can choose between Eco, Normal, Sport, and Smart driving modes. In all of them except Sport, the transmission is reluctant to downshift after you exit a corner or a curve, and this is especially noticeable when you've turned and are heading up a hill.

Thanks to its new vehicle architecture, the Carnival feels robust and solid on the road. The ride quality is unexpectedly taut, and uneven pavement can produce more bounce and wallow than is preferable. At the same time, the cornering attitude is flat with little body roll. 

The Carnival's dynamic tuning feels opposite to what you'll experience in Kia's Telluride SUV, which rolls more in corners and curves and generally feels softer and more compliant. But the Telluride also glides unperturbed over imperfect pavement. The Carnival's stiffer sensation could be due to expectations that it will more frequently carry lots of people and cargo.

In any case, for this type of vehicle, the Kia Carnival leans toward the athletic side of the driving dynamics spectrum, making it more enjoyable to drive than some competitors.

Kia Drive Wise Review

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Blind View Monitor

If you're looking for a family vehicle loaded with safety technology, the 2022 Kia Carnival is a great choice. Every trim level includes the following advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) as standard equipment:

  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic forward emergency braking
  • Blind-spot warning with active collision avoidance
  • Rear cross-traffic warning with active collision avoidance
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Lane-centering assistance
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Additionally, the Carnival has a driver attention monitoring system that can suggest taking a break when it detects a tired or distracted driver. And for people who check email and social media while sitting at a red traffic light, oblivious to when that light turns green, Kia's Leading Vehicle Departure Alert system will tell you when it's time to put the phone down and drive.

Upgrade to the Carnival EX, and you'll get:

  • Enhanced forward collision warning with cyclist detection and a Junction Turning function that can stop the Carnival when the driver attempts a left turn as oncoming traffic is approaching
  • Navigation-based adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability that can automatically slow the Carnival for upcoming curves and transition ramps
  • Level 2 Highway Driving Assist (HDA) technology

Choose the Carnival SX, and the vehicle includes a surround-view camera system and automatic reverse parking collision-avoidance braking. The SX Prestige adds Kia's camera-based Blind View Monitor technology, which shows what's on the vehicle's sides within the instrumentation display. It does not replace the standard radar-based blind-spot warning system.

Equipped with all of these features, the SX Prestige test vehicle offered plenty of driver assistance. For testing purposes, I turned everything on and set sensitivity levels to normal. While driving in moderately heavy traffic on a multi-lane freeway, I found that, while effective, the ADAS can be too obvious about its activity, especially concerning lane-keeping and lane-centering assistance.

Undoubtedly, Highway Driving Assist holds significant promise. Let go of the steering wheel, and it can keep the Carnival properly and smoothly centered in its lane for longer than other systems. But, this technology is not designed to serve as a hands-free driving aid, so don't do that. I share this observation only to illustrate that Kia is well on its way to offering that kind of a Level 2+ system.

Since you must hold the steering wheel for HDA to work, you're going to notice all of the steering inputs the technology is making. Often, they don't match the steering inputs you would make. As a result, you're continually attempting to override the system, which leads to aggravation, which leads to shutting it off.

This observation is not a knock against Kia's approach, as the same can be said for any number of Level 2 ADAS available today. Instead, it illustrates the difficulty automakers face in transitioning to autonomous driving technology. If the driver doesn't trust the technology or agree with what it's doing, the driver won't use it.

Generally speaking, Kia Drive Wise as an ADAS collection and HDA as a system are more sophisticated and comprehensive than most.

2022 Kia Carnival FAQ - Find the best Kia deals!

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Cargo Area

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2022 Kia Carnival have?

Open the Carnival's available hands-free liftgate, and you'll find a deep storage well and 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats. You can easily stand four full-size suitcases up side-by-side in the well and still have some room on top of them for duffel bags or backpacks. Even by minivan standards, the Carnival's cargo area is large.

Using one hand, you can release, collapse, and fold each side of the third-row seat into the rear storage well. With these stowed into the cargo floor, the Carnival offers 86.9 cu.-ft. of cargo space. To put that measurement into perspective, that amount matches the Kia Telluride midsize SUV. Except the Carnival can still seat a family of five, whereas, with the Telluride, you've only got seating for the driver and front passenger.

For maximum volume in the LX, EX, and SX, you can remove the second-row seats to create 145.1 cu.-ft. of cargo space. That's a little more than a Chevy Suburban can hold. Of course, you don't need to remove the Suburban's second-row seats, but just try to buy a new one with all of the Carnival SX Prestige's equipment at the same price.

Does the 2022 Kia Carnival get good gas mileage?

With the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid's and the Toyota Sienna's existence, the answer to this question is relative. Compared to the Chrysler plug-in hybrid and the Toyota hybrid minivans, the answer is no. But compared to minivans equipped with a similar V6 engine, the Kia Carnival is competitive when it comes to gas mileage.

According to the EPA, the 2022 Carnival should return 22 mpg in combined driving. The test vehicle averaged 21.7 mpg on the driving loop, but that did include a photoshoot with plenty of engine idling.

Nevertheless, with its 19-gallon fuel tank, the Carnival should travel more than 400 miles. Most likely, you'll need to visit the gas station every 375 miles or so.

Is the 2022 Kia Carnival safe?

Kia builds the Carnival on the same modern vehicle architecture it uses for the K5 sedan and Sorento SUV. It is engineered for maximum occupant safety, though official crash-test results will be the ultimate judge of whether or not the Kia Carnival is safe. As this review was published, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had performed crash tests on the new Carnival.

How much is the 2022 Kia Carnival?

Prices for the 2022 Kia Carnival range from $32,100 to $46,100, not including a destination charge of $1,175.

What are the 2022 Kia Carnival competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Sedona was the highest-ranked model in the minivan segment, followed by the Honda Odyssey.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Honda Odyssey was the highest-ranked model in the segment, followed by the Chrysler Pacifica.

Other competitors to the 2022 Carnival include the Chrysler Voyager and the Toyota Sienna.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Kia deals!

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige Astra Blue Rear Quarter Left

If you're shopping for a new minivan, and you don't want a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the 2022 Kia Carnival is an excellent example of the breed. It could benefit from some added technological refinement, but this criticism rings a bit hollow considering just how much tech Kia packs into this vehicle. 

Would a Wi-Fi hotspot be nice to have? Of course, but when you compare what a Kia Carnival offers in terms of infotainment to, say, the Honda Odyssey, there simply is no comparison. The same is true of the ADAS. Would more subtle steering corrections help? Absolutely, but when you consider all of the safety features baked into the Carnival, this amounts to a minor complaint.

To summarize, with the new 2022 Carnival, Kia may have built the best family car in history. All it really needs is a greener and more efficient powertrain option to serve the increasingly climate-conscious Millennials who Kia sees as the target audience for its new Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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