No automaker has gone through such an evolution as Kia. Not too long removed are the days where they were producing the Spectra and the Sephia. Nowadays however, they’ve completely rebranded, bringing an all-new revamped lineup to the United States. With their new logo at the captain’s chair, the new Carnival will don the new look for the first time on American soil. The new Carnival is a minivan designed to look like an SUV, an interesting take on today’s hot cars. As we’ve mentioned in the past, SUVs are popular, but if you want true practicality, get a minivan. Kia attempts to bridge that gap with the Carnival’s boxy styling and fascia. Sporting an SUV like 3.5 liter V6 with an 8-speed automatic to beat SUV’s fuel economy, however maintaining minivan-like 7 seater practicality and best-in-class cargo space shows that Kia can build something outside of the box, a far cry from their past.
Starting under the hood, the new Carnival hoists an 3.5 liter V6. While that in essence isn’t too impressive, I’ll tell you what is. That V6 pumps out 290 horsepower and a healthy 262 ft-lbs of torque. Those two are best in class numbers, far outpacing any other minivan on the market today. The Carnival also holds true to its SUV capabilities by having a 3,500 pound towing capacity and available off-road modes. Built upon the N3 platform that also supports the new K5 and Sorento, the platform is dynamic enough to hold speed while also being rugged. The platform has also been engineered even more to hold its ground in harsher climates and terrain. Pair that with a front wheel drive powertrain, and you’ve got a pretty good family hauler. In addition, Kia shaved some weight off the frame, made more aerodynamic bumpers and wheels, and added soundproofing and insulation anywhere they could shove it. The GDI engine has been a Korean staple and should hold the test of time. Whether that stands true is yet to be determined.
The exterior is a hybrid between SUV and minivan. Kia saw an opportunity and jumped on it, who can blame them. Their Frankenstein creation looks pretty attractive for a first jab at it. Gone are the swooping lines of the Sedona, instead you get an upgraded “Tiger” grill and boxy Telluride-esque styling. The Carnival, despite its benign name, looks super aggressive, like a Mexican cage fighter. It’s blunt nose looks like it snorts creatine 24/7 and hogs up three racks at your local Planet Fitness. Move over to the rear and you see the coast-to-coast taillight design which is continuing on the trend of lightbars. The rear skidplate looks like the van is higher than it actually is and adds a bit of SUV garnish into the mix. Buffed up fender flares and C-pillars give the Carnival a sense of girth, not just grocery getter.
On the interior, things start to shape up even more. Fine materials make it seem like a competitor to the Chrysler Pacifica. Wood, leather, metals, all make it seem exquisite and exclusive. Rear captain’s chairs on the SX-Prestige trims make for any kid’s paradise and the van can sit 7 or 8 depending on configuration. With little information about trims, we don’t know the tiering system, but we do know they will be called the LX, EX, SX, and the fully loaded SX-Prestige. New features include: an intercom system, Safe Exit Assist (alerts kids when traffic is coming), passenger view cameras, dual rear seat screens, and high-tech ultrasonic sensors to alert you if a kid has been left in the car. Kia’s array of safety and tech features come mostly standard as well. A heads up display is optional, along with plenty of USB charging (in front and back), loads of storage, and rear seats that fully recline.
The Kia Carnival attempts to be the best of both worlds, an SUV and a minivan. Kia is daring for trying, straying outside of anything the minivan market really has seen. For years minivans have been enamored with curves and swoopy lines. Kia took the initiative to build outside the box and make it look aggressive. Some small slashes are that it only comes in FWD, no AWD option is available. As well as no hybrid option, though it may be in the works. The Carnival’s pricing is unknown, though we expect it to be nearly or slightly more expensive than the outgoing Sedona.