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Meet the 2024 Kia Carnival

For packing people, goods and gear, this Kia is a competent ‘Carnival’ ride
The top-level SX Prestige trim has second-row power-reclining “lounge” seats with foot rests for corporate-jet-style snoozing on long journeys. PHOTO: KIA

What is a Kia Carnival?

That’s the first question that pops into most people’s minds when the name is mentioned. And no, it doesn’t refer to a travelling amusement show or circus; it’s the name given to Kia’s part minivan/part utility vehicle that was launched for the 2022 model year as a replacement for the more traditional Sedona people mover.

As with the Sedona, the Carnival comes with dual sliding rear doors and seating for up to eight passengers, just like a regular minivan does. But the squared-off utility-vehicle body, flat roofline and prominent wheel arches send mixed messages as to what’s really going on, here. No wonder Kia’s product communications department refers to the Carnival as a multi-purpose vehicle instead of a minivan.

The wide rear pillar and the shorter section of side glass give the impression the Carnival is as much utility vehicle as minivan. That’s not the case, however, as the Carnival does not offer all-wheel-drive. PHOTO: KIA

In terms of passenger capacity, the Carnival can be compared with the eight-passenger Kia Telluride utility vehicle, although it’s 15 centimetres shorter and has 20 centimetres less distance between the front and rear wheels than the Carnival. It also trails the Carnival’s cargo volume, but its 2,270-kilogram (5,000-pound) maximum towing capacity bests the Carnival’s by 680kg ( 1,500 pounds).

The modern controls include an eight-inch or optional 12.3-inch touch-screen. Separate switches below the screen operate the climate and audio functions.

The gauges and touch-screen are contained within a thin panel that stands apart — but is set into — the dash. Passenger room is similar to that of other minivans, but the Carnival has more cargo capacity. PHOTO: KIA

Second- and third-row seating varies according to trim level. Eight-passenger versions come with a sliding second-row mid-section that converts to a handy table.

The top-level SX Prestige trim has second-row power-reclining “lounge” seats with foot rests for corporate-jet-style snoozing on long journeys.

For added cargo room, each section of the third-row split bench can be folded into the floor, and the second-row seats can be removed, which is less convenient than the Chrysler Pacifica’s Stow N Go system that stores them beneath the floor.

The only engine available is a 3.5-litre V-6 with 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.5-litre V-6 sends 290 horsepower to the front wheels. That’s 14 more than the Sedona’s 3.3-litre V-6. PHOTO: KIA

Fuel consumption is rated at 12.1 l/100 km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.7 combined.

The fact that the Carnival isn’t available with all-wheel-drive could turn away some buyers who expect to find that option in a so-called multi-purpose vehicle. Even the Pacifica and Sienna minivans along with virtually every utility vehicle and most crossovers make AWD available.

The base Carnival LX starts at $40,250, including destination charges. It comes with front and rear air conditioning, hands-free power-sliding side doors, six charging outlets and 17-inch alloy wheels. It also gets several active-safety technologies such as forward-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning/assist.

The EX gets the larger touch-screen, tri-zone climate control, navigation, wireless phone charger and hands-free power tailgate. The SX gets fancier exterior trim with roof rails, fog lights, rear-seat entertainment system and 19-inch wheels.

The optional second-row “lounge” seats will make passengers feel as though their cruising in first class. PHOTO: KIA

Along with the reclining second row chairs, the SX has premium leather seat covers, dual power sunroofs, 12-speaker Bose-brand audio system and a rear blind-spot video monitor that shows a side view when the turn signals are activated.

The Carnival’s capable engine is quite thirsty in around-town driving. However, when measured against the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica or its Telluride stablemate, they all score about equal in combined city/highway driving. For open-road cruising, the suspension does a decent job soaking up the bumps and the cabin is well insulated from outside annoyances.

It also helps that all three rows of seats are comfortable and supportive. Of course an important consideration is the wide-opening sliding doors that make second- and third-row access a breeze, especially when the Carnival is squeezed into a tight parking spot.

Ultimately, the decision to purchase or pass on this Kia boils down to personal preference and the need for maximum passenger and stowage volume. For the latter, the festively named Carnival might be worth the price of admission.

One common benchmark between competing minivans is that 4x8 sheets of building material must fit inside with the rear door closed. PHOTO: KIA

What you should know: 2024 Kia Carnival

Type: Front-wheel-drive minivan

Engine (h.p.): 3.5-litre V-6 (290)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: Kia doesn’t call the Carnival a minivan, but if you had to put a label on it, minivan is perfectly reasonable since the vehicle is the designated replacement for the Kia Sedona, and it has sliding rear doors.

Points: Overall design is similar to that of most utility vehicles that have three rows of seats • Modern interior offers comfortable seating for eight passengers • Standard array of active-safety tech covers most contingencies. • Surprising that all-wheel-drive is not available, which could reduce interest. • Well-priced in a competitive field. • Extra-roomy cabin is a big plus.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (std.); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.1/9.0

Base price (incl. destination): $40,250


Chrysler Pacifica

  • Base price: $40,700
  • Well appointed minivan; 287-h.p. V-6. AWD; plug-in hybrid available.

Honda Odyssey

  • Base price: $39,600
  • FWD minivan was last updated for 2021; 280-h.p. 3.5-litre V-6 is standard.

Toyota Sienna

  • Base price: $39,100
  • A 245-h.p. four-cylinder hybrid system helps save on fuel. AWD is opt.

– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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