Drive: The 2022 Kia Carnival does everything a minivan can do

Some years ago, during a family event, we noticed a cousin was driving a fairly well-worn Kia Sedona minivan. Never having test-driven a Sedona before, we asked her how she liked it. Her reaction was a textbook definition of indifference. Prodding further, we established that she didn’t hate the Sedona, but neither did she love it — or care to recommend other family members buy one.

The Sedona went extinct after the 2021 model year, replaced with a bigger, more stylish and generally more refined model called the Carnival. The newest Kia —featuring a new badge that seems to replicate an automotive designer’s vision of space-alien script — is an able competitor to the handful of minivans that remain on the market.

The Carnival has pleasingly clean lines, a strong, quiet 290-horsepower V-6 engine, and interior accommodations that are well thought out and well made. It does everything a minivan should — or must — do.

Capable of transporting seven or eight people, depending on the configuration of the second-row seating, the Carnival also can be converted easily into a cargo van that compares favorably with its competitors. Our only complaint on that score was the fact the cargo deck is not flat when the second- or third-row seats, or both, are lowered.

Our test car, a high-end Carnival SX priced at $42,770, had nearly every conceivable luxury, including video screens serving the second-row seats. All of these features — from the desirable safety tech to adaptive cruise control, to heated and ventilated from seats — were standard. The only option listed was the $495 Ceramic Silver paint job, a medium-gray shade that contrasted well with the van’s glossy black alloy wheels.

The base Carnival, the LX, starts at $32,100.

The Carnival’s fuel economy is well within the standards of most of today’s minivans, at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, using regular unleaded gasoline. We did a little better than that, topping 28 mpg in mostly highway driving — much of it in heavy Memorial Day traffic.

2022 Kia Carnival SX

Price: $42,770

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Seating capacity: 7

Curb weight: 4,601 lb.

Wheels: 19-in. black alloy

Tires: P235/55R19 all-season

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 40.2 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 145.1 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 19 gal.

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

The Toyota Sienna, with a base price of $34,460, is the clear choice for drivers who care about fuel economy; all 2021 Siennas are equipped with gasoline-electric hybrid systems and are rated at 36 mpg city, 36 highway. The Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica are the only minivans on the market today that can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

Also well regarded in the minivan segment is the Honda Odyssey, which is priced competitively with the Carnival. The Odyssey was rated Best Minivan for the Money for 2021 by U.S. News & World Report.

Minivans largely have been supplanted by sport-utility vehicles and crossovers. This is unfortunate because minivans typically ride and handle better, are more fuel-efficient, and are more versatile than the vehicles that have replaced them.

Back in the day — meaning the glory years of the minivan, beginning in the mid-1980s — Chrysler Corp. alone had three models, and General Motors and Ford were solidly in the game. Chrysler now offers only one minivan, the Pacifica, while GM and Ford have left the field. Also long gone from the minivan market are Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.