2022 Kia Carnival SX/SX Prestige Fast Facts
3.5-liter V6 (290 horsepower @ 6,400 RPM, 262 lb-ft @ 5,000 RPM)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
19 city / 26 highway / 22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
12.0 city / 8.9 highway / 10.6 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $41,100 (SX), $46,100 (SX Prestige) (U.S) / $48,595 (SX, SX Prestige N/A) (Canada)
As Tested: $42,700 (SX), $47,700 (SX Prestige) (U.S.) / $50,584 (SX, SX Prestige N/A (Canada)
Prices include $1,175 destination charge in the United States and $1,950 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
The 2022 Kia Carnival is, despite what you’ve heard, a minivan. Kia may try to tell you it isn’t, but don’t let them gaslight you – the Carnival is very much a minivan.
And a damn good one, at that.
“Good”, of course, is relative – some minivan buyers might prioritize a somewhat sporty driving experience (see: Odyssey, Honda) or excellent fuel range (see: Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler; Sienna, Toyota) or upscale amenities (see: The top trim of just about any segment entrant). In this case, the Carnival excels at being a bit of a jack of all trades, while also being a good road warrior. And yes, optioned right, it coddles.
I tested two slightly different Carnivals last year, taking both on road trips to Michigan – one for work, one for fun. Normally, I’d separate both loans into two separate reviews, but the Carnivals I drove were so mechanically similar that it’s not worth it. Indeed, both drove almost identically. The biggest difference between the two involved the addition of the SX Prestige trim/package (more on that later).
As much as Kia would like you to not use the “M” word, the Carnival is as much a minivan as the Chryslers that started the segment during my childhood. Well, OK, it’s more modern than that, of course, with the requisite dual power-sliding rear doors and all the other trappings expected of a higher-trim minivan (there’s that word again) in today’s market.
That means it drives like a minivan, although Kia has engineered the, uh, worst “van-ness” out of it. It’s not the most fun-to-drive family hauler – that honor goes to the Honda – but it’s not a rolling penalty box. Its ride is generally smooth and compliant, whether on the freeway or around-town, whether on good road or broken pavement. My biggest complaint was that the lane-keeping assist system was occasionally a bit too intrusive.
It’s quiet, the steering is heavy-ish though a bit distant, and acceleration is acceptable. Never once, during either loan, did I take the keys and say to myself “only just a few more days until it leaves.”
What matters most to the typical minivan buyer, though, is utility. And the Carnival has that in spades. I never found myself struggling to find places to put stuff, whether traveling alone or with a passenger. The cargo area swallowed luggage with ease. And it was easy to access the second-row seats to get to the stuff I/we put back there.
Parents who juggle multiple devices among family members, take note: USB ports are standard for all three rows on these trims.
One of Kia’s (and Hyundai’s) recent strengths has been well-designed interiors that are well-thought-out, appealing, and laid out logically. That’s the case here. The long, sweeping dash that rolls seamlessly into the infotainment screen is attractive, and the layout of the HVAC and audio controls, located just below, makes sense.
Road trippers will be delighted to hear that the seats in both the SX and SX Prestige were all-day comfortable.
The SX and SX Prestige trims will cost you, but you get what you pay for, and creature comforts are nice to have when on the open road (or just boring old I-94, slogging through the Mitten). The SX builds on the EX, which comes standard with forward-collision avoidance, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, safe-exit assist, highway-driving assist, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, and smart cruise control with stop and go.
That’s just the driver-assistance stuff. Other standard features include nav, satellite radio, rear occupant alert, a system for viewing and talking to passengers in the way back, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless cell-phone charging, keyless entry and starting, heated front seats, and tri-zone climate control. In addition to the power rear doors, the liftgate is also power. Wheels on this ride are 19 inches.
Select SX and you add a surround-view monitor, black alloy wheels, dual-screen rear entertainment, roof rack, LED fog lamps, parking collision avoidance assistance when reversing, memory driver’s seat, cooled front seats, driver-seat lumbar support, power passenger seat, more USB ports, and power-folding outside mirrors. Add the $495 paint and this unit tested out at $42,770, including destination.
Turn your SX into an SX Prestige and you’ll add features like a power dual sunroof that tilts and slides, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, LED lighting all around (including fog lights), blind-spot view monitor, leather trim, heated and cooled second-row seats, second-row captain’s chairs (knocks the SX’s seat count of eight down one, to seven), heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Homelink garage opener. With another $495 paint job and destination included, this version is exactly five grand more than the SX.
I will let you decide if the extra scratch is worth it (for me, the heated steering wheel would tempt, but the rest seems superfluous), but both are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 (the sole engine, regardless of trim) that makes 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, with an eight-speed automatic transmission getting that power to the front wheels.
Minivans aren’t sexy, which is why Kia seems to want to avoid the label. But they are useful – and the Carnival is one of the most useful out there. It’s not as engaging as the Odyssey or coddling as the Chrysler, but that’s OK. It’s still comfortable, still offers the kind of utility van buyers want, and it all works in a well-done package.
If this sounds like the “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of thing, it is. But not in a negative way. The Carnival doesn’t stand out in any one area – it’s stylish enough, but not the prettiest, minivan on the market. Others also offer useful utility. And the Carnival drives well but won’t be the enthusiast’s choice.
Yet it blends everything all together nicely. Instead of being the “sexy” choice or the “sporty” choice, it’s the choice for those who want the best of all worlds.
[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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