INDIANAPOLIS — One of my favorite cars is the Moderne-style 1936 Stout Scarab – a rear-engine aluminum forerunner to the mini-van that was aimed at Hollywood’s elite as a more fashion-forward limousine. Drivers worked in an airplane-inspired cockpit while passengers lounged in the rear. Kia harbors the Scarab’s spirit to create a glamorous and obscenely comfortable multi-purpose vehicle for all you carry. Just don’t call the 2022 Carnival a mini-van.
Stylists were keen to give the not-a-mini-van crossover style and succeeded with a low wide hood, long roof, and 19” black alloy wheels filling the sculpted fenders. A large rendition of Kia’s tiger tooth grille and LED headlamps define the face. Above tracks for the sliding doors are elegant chrome C-pillars with multi-faceted diamonds formed in. Silver roof rails hover above as Kia’s new logo adorns the hood and hatch. Call it what you want; it’s a handsome ride with flourishes usually reserved for futuristic concept cars.
When my daughter powered open her sliding door, she nearly lost her mind when she realized the twin middle row VIP loungers could fully recline with legrests and pillowed headrests. Then, she realized they were heated, ventilated and face individual screens that can mirror devices to stream movies and television shows. Overhead is a power sunroof and automatic climate control for the aft cabin. Not since Stout has an automaker taken such full advantage of the breed’s cavernous space.
Traveling up front is pretty special too. Drivers face twin 12” screens – one for gauges, the other for infotainment – while their rumps park in heated and ventilated captain’s chairs. They’re especially chic in contrasting Tuscan Umber leather. A heated steering wheel, Bose audio, navigation, and front sunroof enhance luxury. Devices connect via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and wireless charging pad. Count ‘em: Nine USB ports throughout the cabin. I’d only add a head-up display to complete this tech show.
The Carnival goes down the road well. Basic architecture is shared with the Sorento crossover and K5 sedan, which means a firm, yet compliant, four-wheel independent suspension with tight steering. Sport Mode creates no more horsepower, but gives the steering added heft, sharpens throttle response, and turns the gauges to red. Moving it is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It would feel tasked with seven aboard, but it’s enough power. Fuel economy rates 19/26-MPG city/highway. Not bad, but a hybrid would be better.
With all of the systems fully engaged, the Carnival does everything but drive itself. As should be expected, it comes with forward collision avoidance, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection systems. There are also blind spot cameras, rear seat reminders, and a system that uses blind spot sensors to lock doors and prevent passengers from stepping into traffic. Radar adaptive cruise and lane centering steering let drivers lightly rest hands on the wheel while letting the van do the heavy lifting.
Whether you’re heading to a movie premiere or just to a Friday night football game, the 2022 Kia Carnival is ready. Snuggle in and enjoy the ride. Given all on offer, it comes with a very reasonable price: A base of $32,100 or $47,770 ready for its close-up.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. E-mail him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
2022 Kia Carnival
2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige
7 passengers, FWD Mini-van
Powertrain: 3.5L V6l, 8-spd trans
Output: 290 hp/262 lb.-ft.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, VIP seats
Towing: 3,500 lbs.
Fuel economy: 19/26-MPG city/hwy
Assembly: Sohari, Korea
Base price/As-tested: $32,100/47,770