2022 Kia Carnival SX/SX Prestige Review - Road Warrior

Fast Facts

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.
2022 kia carnival sx sx prestige review road warrior

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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  • Pickles69 Pickles69 on Mar 15, 2022

    The Kia is so close but it’s got three strikes for me. I tend to buy a new, loaded Sienna Limited Premium every four or five years. My van is my office/hauler/toolbox, so I know it well. Here is what’s keeping me out of the Kia van: 1) Name. I just can’t spend $45-55k on a ride that evokes puking kids, greasy food and clowns. “Sedona” should have been replaced with KV8..9. Anything but “Carnival”. 2) Kia/Hyundai are so good at plug ins… where is it? Bummer. 3) Yay for removable middle row seats on lesser trim models (and screw Toyota for deleting that choice w/o major covert efforts) but top trim models have un-removable middle seats. 4) Dumb black wheels. Whenever I see them, I think, “poor sucker got his rims stolen and they put 4 spares on.”

  • NN NN on Mar 15, 2022

    A Sienna goes over 60% further on each gallon of fuel. At 20k miles/year and $5/gas, that's $150 month less spent on gas. And the Toyota will have better resale and better reliability. I'm guessing the Pacifica Hybrid might match fuel savings but dear lord who trusts them on reliability or resale? Minivans, more than any other vehicle, are all about practicality. There is no practical reason to buy this Kia. The Sienna proves that minivans aren't a dying breed...in fact it's selling very strong as we speak

    • Dave M. Dave M. on Mar 23, 2022

      Excellent observation/argument for the Toyota. The fuel saving would be significant. Not sure why ALL the minivans aren't hybridized by now. Practical people buy minivans for practical reasons. My biggest beef with the new Sienna is it's design - like the newest Highlander, all the goofy side detail/swoops/bulges just look stupid. Sure, the Carnival (stupid name btw) has the low rent black wheels and the silver C pillar (have you noticed they add an odd dash of silver to the sides of their most recent models...I personally see no need for it, but overall the Kia has a very attractive design both inside and out.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.
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