Aug 20, 2021 - Economy

What I'm driving: the 2022 Kia Carnival

Image of a blue 2022 Kia Carnival minivan

2022 Kia Carnival MPV. Photo: Kia

I've been driving the 2022 Kia Carnival, a new minivan that reminds me why minivans are so underrated.

The big picture: Families are taking more road trips during COVID-19, and fuel-efficient minivans offer the perfect combination of cargo and passenger space. But try to find one on your dealer's lot: Only four manufacturers still produce them and dealers can't keep them in stock.

  • The Toyota Sienna (hybrid-only) and the Chrysler Pacifica (plug-in hybrid or gas) are both newly redesigned, and the Honda Odyssey received some modest updates for 2021 too.

The Carnival has undergone perhaps the biggest transformation. With the boxy looks of an SUV, the Sedona replacement aims for what Kia calls the "unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler."

  • They don't even call it a minivan. It's an MPV, for multipurpose vehicle. (Maybe that's so minivan haters can drive incognito.)

Details: I drove the midlevel, 8-passenger Carnival EX, with a sticker price of $37,600.

  • It's powered by a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, but I wish it came as a hybrid.
  • I'm a huge fan of Chrysler's plug-in hybrid Pacifica, which lets you drive 32 miles on electricity before the V6 engine kicks in. So you never use a drop of gas running errands, but it's easy to refuel on road trips.

The Kia is loaded with standard driver-assistance technology: collision-avoidance systems on all sides of the vehicle, along with lane-keeping assistance and a warning system for inattentive driving behavior.

  • Other driver-assistance features are optional, like a highway driving system that automatically slows before upcoming curves and adjusts the speed to stay within the speed limit and maintain distance from the vehicle ahead.

My thought bubble: The Carnival's lane-keeping system could use some fine-tuning. The car's adjustments were too pronounced for my liking. Technology like this should feel like a help, not a competition for control of the car.

Editor's note: Joann Muller tests new vehicles in her role as a juror for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

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