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A big, bold and powerful family hauler that proves minivans should not be overlooked.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - The all-new 2022 Kia Carnival is a big and bold minivan that drives like a luxury vehicle.If the 2022 Kia Carnival had been introduced a few years ago, it would have revolutionized the minivan market. Bold, powerful and luxurious, it transforms the traditional family-hauler into a stylish, comfortable and fun daily driver.

But the Carnival comes out when competition in the minivan market is heating up. Declared all but dead because of increasingly popular SUVs just a few years ago, minivans are enjoying a mini-revival. Honda keeps improving its Odyssey, which is the best selling minivan of all time. Chrysler stunned the automotive when it introduced the Pacifica with a plug-in hybrid model that can go up to 32 miles on electricity alone. A gas-powered version with all-wheel-drive was just released. And Nissan redesigned its Sienna as a hybrid-only minivan for 2022 with all-wheel-drive provided by a second electric motor that powers the rear wheels.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - The 2022 Kia Carnival looks good coming and going, especially when accented by the gloss black 19-inch wheels.

So Kia had some choices to make when it decided to replace its aging Sedona minivan, which originally broke ground because it was styled as a rugged SUV, even though it was only available with front-wheel-drive and came with sliding side doors. The Korean manufacturer did not incorporate complex and costly hybrid or all-wheel-drive technologies in the new Carnival. Instead, Kia did what it does best and delivered a high-value minivan that looks, feels and drives like a costlier vehicle.

That may cost it some sales in the environmentally-conscious and perpetually rainy Pacific Northwest where mileage and AWD are prized. But it may give it an edge when competing against the other front-wheel-drive minivans, the Accord and the base version of the Pacifica. The Carnival undercuts both of them in price while offering slightly more power with its V6 engine compared to theirs.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - The interior of the 2022 Kia Carnival featues high quality materials, including available leather.

The price difference between the base Carnival and Pacifica is actually several thousand dollars. It is only a few hundred dollars cheaper than base Odyssey, but the classier interior and better handling will likely win over more than a few buyers. The base Carnival is also a couple thousand dollars less than the base Sienna, but once again, the Toyota comes standard as a hybrid that get much better mileage.

Our test Carnival was a near-top of the line SX version that came with an impressive option 12.3-inch touchscreen, a full leather interior, flexible seating for up tonight, and such upgrades as 19-inch glossy black wheels and a dual rear screen entertainment system. It was both boxy and low slung, and attracted a lot of attention everywhere it went. Several people asked if was an SUV, which shows how well Kia has succeeded in bridging the divide, even without AWD.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - The interior of the 2022 Kia Carnival can be configured for sev en (shown) or eight passengers.

In a week of driving the 2022 Carnival SX always felt like it cost more than its $42,770 MSRP. It was always rock solid and surprisingly fast, thanks to its firm suspension and 290-horsepower gas direct injection 3.5-liter V6 engine. By way of comparison, the 3.6-liter V6 in the Pacific produces a roughly equivalent 287 ponies while the 3.5-liter V6 in the Odyssey trails them both 280.

Even the base Carnival LX comes with a wealth of infotainment and safety technologies, including lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlamps, and blind-spot monitoring. Our tester added surround via monitor, parking collision-avoidance and rear assistance, which is helpful when backing up.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - The third row of seats in the 2022 Kia Carnival can hold up to three passengers.

The increasing interest in minivans is good news because they really are more practical for families than SUVs. The side sliding doors are especially helpful when trying to reach children in safety seats in crowded parking lots. And the 2022 Kia Carnival will make you look and feel good running even the most mundane errands.

The Kia lineup will be on display at the 2022 Portland International Auto Show which runs Feb. 24-27 at the Oregon Convention Center.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KIA - There is an enormous amount of cargo space in the 2022 Kia Carnival.

2022 Kia Carnival

Base price: $33,275 (LX)

Price as tested: $42,770 (SX)

Type: Minivan

Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (290 hp, 262 lb-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Eco, Smart and Sport modes

EPA estimated mileage: 19/26

Overall length: 203 inches

Curb weight: 4644 pounds

Final assembly: Sohari, Korea


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