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Kia celebrates its redesigned brand logo with the all-new Carnival minivan. This festive new model is the successor to the Sedona (long known in other parts of the world as the Carnival). It brings an SUV-like appearance and a first-class lounge vibe to the family-centric segment.
The Carnival shares a platform with the redesigned Sorento SUV and K5 sedan but is very much its own amusement park ride. The sole powertrain offering is a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that isn’t shared with its stablemates.
The power gains over the Sedona may thrill the driver, but the main attractions for passengers will be the increased space, many places to charge devices, available first-class seating, and more.
All told, the Carnival sounds like a promising improvement over the Sedona and a compelling case for buyers to consider the practical versatility of a minivan rather than follow the marketing ringmasters to trendy SUVs.
We’ll know more when we buy one to test. Until then, here is what we know so far.
Minivans are becoming more luxurious as automakers chase well-heeled customers and profits. The Carnival has numerous features that play well to this trend, but we’re pleased to see the strong emphasis on making key safety features standard equipment.
The 3.5-liter V6 promises to have an abundance of smooth, predictable power. But these days, it's a notable omission to not introduce a hybrid or all-wheel-drive version to compete with Chrysler and Toyota—especially when Kia has such an impressive hybrid available in the Sorento.
The Carnival is a minivan masquerading as an SUV. It seems to draw more inspiration from the Ford Expedition than its traditional rivals, creating a look that just may catch the eye of image-conscious shoppers who have been minivan averse. (General Motors tried this back in 2004 without success. Remember the Chevrolet Uplander and Pontiac Montana? Thought not.)
The lines are simple and clean, but there are some artfully crafted elements. The complex shape of the area surrounding the grille is striking. The hood cut is sophisticated, with a little element hanging in the front center and the lines flowing through the fender rather than being atop the fender (facing upward). The C-pillar, behind the second side door, is accentuated, but it’s too bad the designers didn’t hide the sliding door rail under the third side window. The garnish around the lower front intake and along the lower edges of the vehicle is nicely done. Of course, this impression is helped by the sporty blackout treatment shown in the initial photos.
The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. To the right is an 8-inch touch screen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A larger 12.3-inch screen is fitted to the higher trim versions.
Following minivan conventions, the Carnival can be had in seven- and eight-passenger configurations. Likewise, the second-row seats remove and the third row folds into the floor.
In the seven-passenger version, there can be heightened comfort in the second row with available heated and ventilated “VIP Lounging” seats. These have wing-out head restraints and leg extensions to make travel a first-class experience.
There are a few high-tech features that parents will appreciate, such as a rear passenger view camera with both zoom and night vision capability to keep an eye on kids in the back. A cabin intercom system helps conversations between the front- and third-row passengers. To keep travelers entertained with a mobile midway, some trims include screens for the second row that can wirelessly mirror Apple and Android devices. Nine USB ports and two 110-volt outlets can keep the traveling carnies’ devices powered.
An available 12-speaker Bose audio system can entertain the entire family.
What Drives It
The front-drive Carnival uses a 3.5-liter V6 matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine produces 290 horsepower, up from the 276 horsepower from the 3.3-liter V6 in the outgoing model. It retains its 3,500-pound towing capacity.
Kia claims that the Carnival will have improved fuel economy over the Sedona, aided by improved aerodynamics. We recorded 20 mpg overall in the Sedona, the lowest in the class.
And the automaker says it “keeps things simple” with a single powertrain, putting it at a disadvantage with hybrid competitors.
Safety and Driver Assistance Systems
Kia offers more standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) than any other minivan—a good boast in such a family-focused segment. The standard equipment includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane keeping assistance, and a driver attention monitor.
A rear occupant alert uses ultrasonic sensors that can detect a child or pet. The minivan issues a warning by honking the horn, flashing the hazard lights, and sending a notification to a smartphone (on EX and higher trims).
The safe exit assist, as seen on other Kia and Hyundai models, alerts occupants when traffic is approaching as a passenger attempts to exit the vehicle.
Buyers can upgrade by adding cyclist detection to the AEB system, blind spot video feeds that activate with turn signals, navigation-informed cruise control that can slow before certain turns, adaptive cruise control with integrated speed limit adjustments, a surround-view camera, and a parking obstruction warning.