As of 2022, the Kia Sedona is no longer with us. In its place is the Carnival. While still a minivan, this is a different animal in just about every way. It’s larger, more luxurious, better equipped and more robust.
The Kia Sedona was one of the first products to come out of the Kia/Hyundai amalgamation, introduced to North America around 2000. It had a Hyundai-built V6 engine and powertrain.
While not being particularly outstanding in any one area, it slipped into the minivan market quite comfortably and sold in reasonable – if not record-setting – numbers.
The first generation lacked things that other minivans took for granted, such as power sliding side doors, an info/entertainment system and a power rear tailgate. These came later.
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But it’s all moot now, with the introduction of the Carnival.
Available in five trim levels, the Carnival is still powered by a 3.5-litre V6. In this configuration, it develops some 290 horsepower. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive only. This drivetrain is a pretty far cry from what the Sedona had (although things did get better as time went by). It gives the Carnival excellent cruising power with lively performance around town. Absolutely no complaints here.
This vehicle doesn’t offer much in the way of things to complain about. It’s comfortable, quiet in operation, handles well, with all kinds of elbow room, and has easy-to-understand instrumentation and switchgear.
In addition to standard features – such as rear-view camera, drive-mode select, Bluetooth and remote keyless entry – my top-of-the-range SX tester had a full-length sunroof, heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, leather interior, reclining rear seats and my favourite: passenger view camera. This feature activates a camera and lets you eavesdrop on rear passengers, day or night.
There’s also a camera on the passenger side that switches on when you put on the right turn signal. It’s entertaining to watch the world speed by while you’re driving along, but a little disconcerting to the driver behind you when you have your signal on but don’t actually make the turn. Other manufacturers have this feature as well, including Honda, and I love it. Whether it’s actually useful is another question.
If gangsters drove minivans, they’d be piloting a Carnival SX. With its blacked-out 19-inch wheels and tires and Thunder Grey paint scheme, my car looked like it should be speeding away from a bank heist or outrunning the cops. That makes it ominous and kind of gothic, but about as cool as a minivan can get.
If you want something a little less intimidating, there are seven other colours to choose from.
The reclining rear seats allow you to tilt back and put your feet up. Interesting and kind of cool, this feature is of limited usefulness. I think seats that disappear into the floor would be better, but the entertainment value is high.
The usual nanny features – lane keep assist, lane follow assist, rear cross traffic alert – are here, of course, but there’s also blind-spot collision avoidance, parking collision avoidance, around-view monitor, and driver attention warning, among other things. There isn’t much left to chance with this one.
My SX, before taxes, levies and other extras, starts at $48,595, which seems like a lot to pay for a minivan but still less than the competition. A Toyota Sienna XSE, for example, is over $10,000 more expensive, while the Honda Odyssey Touring will set you back almost $55,000. The LX version of the Carnival is $34,795 and gives you most of what you need in a minivan.
But the SX has the coolness factor in abundance.
2022 Kia Carnival SX
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 290 at 6,400 rpm
Torque: 262 foot pounds at 5,000 rpm
Base price: $48,595
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12 city, 8.9 highway, with regular gas
Some alternatives: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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