By on March 11, 2022

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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22 Comments on “2022 Kia Carnival SX/SX Prestige Review – Road Warrior...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    I saw an SX Prestige in person the other day. It looked more modern than anything else in the segment. But for me it would have a tough time competing with the Pacifica Hybrid, which can do all my city driving without hydrocarbons and which is a bit better-equipped (although also falling victim to post-pandemic decontenting).

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Complete agreement here. I figure I’m in the last year of my current second generation Sedona which has been a wonderful minivan. Part of the reason I’ve kept it as long as I have is Kia’s boneheaded decision in the third gen Sedonas to not make the second row of seats removable without major surgery.

      Happily, the new Carnival doesn’t have that problem. Now, if they had only added a plug-in hybrid option to the vehicle like the Pacifica. Which, due to that plug-in ability, is my next choice. Right now, I’m just waiting for a bit of sanity to return to the marketplace.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Do the SX and SX Prestige include any exterior badging to differentiate them from an EX? I just think of the older Fortes (I’ve bought a few) that have either no trim level ID (LX), or EX or SX badging.

    I like the Carnival a lot, but I’m a little more hesitant to spend $40k to $50k for a new Kia for myself and my wife to drive, than spending $5k-$6k (okay, now it’s $8k-$10k) for a used Forte for one of my kids.

    I was pretty sure I was going to put my wife in a newer 4Runner when we retired her ’08 Sienna LE 8-passenger, but now I’m leaning toward a ’21 or ’22 Sienna LE, since the hybrid powertrain is rated for much better fuel economy (EPA 36/36). I know the 4Runner would probably average 15-16 around town, which is what we’ve seen with the ’08 Sienna.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Looks decent enough but those ugly black rims have got to go. Not offering a normal silver wheel on these upper trim levels is a mistake, at least give the customer choices!

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      It’s jumping the shark with the LEDs at the front – it resembles a Delorean going through a time travel.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        @RHD – yes! The ones on the Sonata (especially) just look odd and half finished with obvious large gaps in coverage. Plus look at most 6+ year old H/K products on the roads and odds are at least one light assembly does not work. I think this means in 2028, there will be a lot of H/K cars with only half of the lights lit up.

        One of my favorite YouTube channels is Regular Car Reviews. (I do wonder what grade(s) he taught because I see only two outcomes with him as a teacher: Kids so traumatized that years of therapy will be needed just so they could function again or a class of high school students led on a tangent each class that had you on the edge of your seat.) A recent review was on the 2022 VW Passat. He summed it up the best and it also applies not only to VW, but Hyundai/Kia as well. This is a car that has crammed $40,000 of technology into a car with a sticker of $27,000. How did they do that? Corners were cut to save money. And that’s why it looks like cars are becoming more unreliable. We want the good stuff but don’t want to pay full price.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yeah, I’ve long ago tired of black wheels.

  • avatar
    Sigfried

    I’m a big guy – 6’2″ 320#. I find the Kia roomier than the alternatives. I feel claustrophobic in a Pacifica with the A-pillar too close to my face. I hit my head getting in and out of an Odyssey. My Kia Sedona gives me a spacious feeling. From what I’ve seen, the newer Carnival has more or less the same interior dimensions as the predecessor Sedona.

  • avatar
    CaneelBay

    A very carefully worded review. Each compliment is hedged with a “but” then qualified with “however”. Overall, it beautifully gets the point across, especially with the conclusion “Yet it blends everything all together nicely.” I definitely feel it’s worth taking a test drive after reading this.

  • avatar
    Undead Zed

    I feel it’s important to mention that Kia advertises a 3,500lb towing capacity on the Carnival, though it does not come standard with a hitch. It also has the standard minivan party trick of a removable 2nd row and folding 3rd row to turn it into a flat-floor van for hauling sh*t.

    • 0 avatar
      Undead Zed

      After looking at other vehicles in the segment I realize that all of them have the exact same towing capacity & seat configuration, so not that important I guess. I do find it odd that nobody offers a tow hitch from the factory. I remember our old family Dodge was pretty good at hauling the boat to the lake and back, along with the occasional trailer.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Pacifica Pinnacle FWD and AWD come standard with a 3600 lb. rated trailer tow group, but strangely said isn’t offered as an option on any of Pacifica’s other models.

      • 0 avatar
        ktm

        You can buy a factory or aftermarket hitch for the Odyssey (and others most likely). It already has the mounting points and is a very simple bolt on affair.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Carnival vs. Telluride – I’m really torn.

    While the Telluride weighs less, the Telluride has more horsepower. The Telluride has better brakes, but the Telluride tows more. Of course the Telluride gets better fuel economy.

    So hard to choose!

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Great looking minivan. I’m past my need for a minivan but if I wanted a new minivan I’d consider this one . Anyone considering – of course you would need to make sure your fuel budget could accommodate this vehicles consumption

  • avatar
    tane94

    Love those second row reclining lounge seats. Great place to snooze while the grandkids drive us from Maine to Florida in November and back in April.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I like it OK, but I think it’s at least $5k too expensive in USD. Even for the fully loaded model. A lower-spec version with manual sliders and a little less tech might be palatable in the high 20s to low 30s.

    Call me out of touch on pricing if you like. But I am a minivan owner and a potential customer for this vehicle, so I think my data point has some relevance.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agree 100%. For those who can afford that price for a new vehicle, a minivan probably does not have the prestige that they want. For those families who depend on one vehicle for a large family, then it is most likely out of their price range. A ‘base’ model without any of the power assist/bells and whistles could be attractive to a much larger market.

  • avatar
    Pickles69

    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.”

  • avatar
    NN

    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

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      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.

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