With today’s popularity of crossovers and SUVs, there’s still a market for minivans as they can accommodate lots of passenger and loads of cargo.
Minivans have often been dubbed a soccer mom’s car, but Kia’s 2023 Carnival MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) strays away from that title and differs somewhat from the competition as it takes on the appearance of an SUV with its squared and sculpted design edges along with LED head and tail lights.
Carnival is offered in LX, LX Seat Package, EX, SX and SX Prestige that we were privileged to test. As the top-tier trim model, SX Prestige is loaded with numerous safety features and as such has received IIHS’s Top Safety Pick designation.
The test car was done in Ceramic Silver which to my eyes was an eye-grabbing light grey. It was complimented by saddle tan (Tuscan Umber) perforated leather heated/cooled front seats that offered sensible lumbar support and were nicely padded along with a low 17.5-inch step-in. The front passenger seat also power reclines to soothe a long ride.
Carnival’s sliding side doors open via the fob or by pushing a small button on the door handles. Doors automatically unlock and the outside mirrors fold out when approaching the van with the fob in a pocket.
A 12.3-inch infotainment screen serves a host of functions and features that include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity, Kia Connect, SiriusXM radio, rearview camera with frontal, side and hitch views, voice memo capability, a passenger view camera (to check on the kids), and more.
Carnival comes standard with a wireless phone charger and easy to operate HVAC controls. A separate module on the console has switches for front heated seats and steering wheel along with a Drive Mode switch for Normal, Eco, Sport, and Smart modes.
Across the dash, a large 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster was vivid and easy to view. It displays a host of features, functions, alerts and drive modes within its driver information display.
As the top trim model, the seven passenger SX Prestige came with the Seat Package that replaces the standard second row eight passenger bench seat with VIP lounge seats. The captain’s chair type seats power recline, slide fore/aft and sideways, plus at a push of a button an ottoman of sorts extends out to support the legs for a relaxing ride, or for a nap. While these seats are exceptionally comfy, the backs don’t fold down on the seat bottom to form a flat and expansive load floor. But they can be removed for the same purpose.
Third row seats are mainly for youngsters and accessing them is a bit of a squeeze even though the second-row slides forward six inches to make ingress/egress a bit easier.
Back in the cargo area that has a low 24-inch load height, and with the third-row seats upright, there’s 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space that is actually a 10-inch deep, full-width trough of sorts that holds the folded third row seatbacks. Flip them into the trough and capacity increases to 86.9 cubic feet that offers 53 inches of cargo loading depth. Remove the second row VIP seats and capacity expands to 145.1 cubic feet. The owners’ manual says to not stow heavy items atop the folded third row seatbacks, but place them directly behind the second-row seats and atop the third-row seat bottoms that are folded.
Carnival’s potent 3.5-liter V6 feels more like a V8 under the hood. It generates 290-hp and 262 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission, it has a tow rating of up to 3,500 pounds and has earned EPA mileage estimates of 19 city and 26-highway mpg. The combination moves the 4,581-pound van with ease and does so ever so quietly.
Despite its size, Carnival doesn’t handle like a typical minivan in that it feels more planted with precise steering that makes it easy to park especially with its multiple camera views. There’s no tippy sensation when negotiating sharp turns.
Like all Kia’s, Carnival comes with left and right blind spot camera views when activating the respective turn signals. They are an added safety feature especially the right camera as it shows if another motorist is sneaking up on that blind side.
Kia’s sharp looking Carnival SX Prestige comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, forward collision avoidance assist, blind spot avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping/following assist, smart cruise control w/stop-go, LED fog lights, Bose audio and many more.
The only extra cost options were ceramic silver paint ($495), rear entertainment package consisting of two video screens ($1,000), and carpeted floor mats ($200), that took the base price of $45,700 to $48,690 with delivery.
With all its favorable safety features and standard items, the only options missing are AWD and a hybrid version, both of which are offered by most of the comparably-priced competition. If you can live without one or both of these, Carnival is an attractive minivan that’s not just for soccer moms.