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The Kia Carnival minivan offers a luxurious and comfortable driving experience, perfect for families and road trips

2024-Kia-Carnival minivan

The boxy shape of the Kia Carnival means oodles of space for hauling people and stuff.

Dale JohnsonThe minivan segment, introduced in the 1960s, may seem like a chapter of automotive history – but it turns out there are still a few minivans on the market these days. The Chrysler Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival and Toyota Sienna make up today’s far shorter list than in the 1980s and ’90s when virtually every automaker had their own minivan.

While minivans no longer have the mass-market appeal they did in the past, they’re still popular with the handful of automotive consumers who don’t want a crossover, pickup, or SUV yet need more hauling capacity than a convertible, coupe or sedan.

Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford responded to the Beetle-based Volkswagen van in the 1960s by designing their own original minivans. These minivans were based on compact cars, making them similar in size to the smallest vehicles on the market, and manufacturers offered them only six-cylinder engines. But they grew immensely during the 1970s and became more like trucks.

When Lee Iacocca was running Ford, he pitched the idea of a smaller so-called “garagable” minivan. Ford brass gave the idea a thumbs down, but after Iacocco moved over and started running Chrysler, he revived the concept. The launch of the modern minivan segment came when the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager “magic wagons” were introduced for the 1984 model year.

Behind the wheel, the Carnival is comfortable, luxurious and very car-like

Behind the wheel, the Kia Carnival is comfortable, luxurious and very car-like.


The Kia Carnival has lots of storage space, even when the third row of seats are in place for passengers.

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Soon, most automakers had their own versions of smaller minivans. They were especially hot sellers among baby boomers who became parents during the 1980s and 1990s. As the boomers’ kids grew up and left home, the minivan market shrunk, but it has not disappeared.

I recently test-drove a Kia Carnival – and it sure is different from what I remember about the minivans of the 1980s and ’90s. I never owned a minivan, but lots of my friends and business associates did. Minivans seemed to be everywhere.

The Carnival roughly echoes the boxy exterior shape and extensive interior space of minivans from decades ago. But unlike vintage vans, the Carnival is quiet, luxurious and handles like a sedan.

The Carnival sits on a wheelbase of 3,090 mm (121.6 in) and is 5,155 cm (202.9 in) long. Just one engine is on offer, a 3.5-litre V-6 that produces 290 hp at 6,400 rpm. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic. According to Natural Resources Canada, it drinks 12.1 litres of gasoline for every 100 km on city driving and 9.0 litres/100 km on the highway.

My top-line SX test vehicle included goodies like power sliding side doors, a tailgate, leather seats, a BOSE premium audio system and a 12.3-inch navigation screen. The price was $49,995, and with freight and air conditioning charges, the total bill came to $52,295. The base-level Carnival LX starts at $40,244.

The interior is intuitive and comfortable. Safety features abound; the best is the Blind-Spot View Monitor. When the turn signal lever stalk is moved up or down to indicate the intention to turn, the dashboard displays the camera view of the blind spot behind you so you can see, for example, a cyclist coming up on your right side when you’re about to make a right turn, or when someone speeds into the left lane as you’re about to turn left.

Exterior styling is contemporary and conservative, which is entirely suitable considering minivans are not considered to be innovative style leaders.

Behind the wheel, I felt like I was driving a large, tall sedan rather than a crossover or SUV. I was amazed at the space on the rare occasions when I would slide open the rear side doors to load in parcels. There are no issues with headroom with this vehicle. I imagined how suitable and comfortable it would be if friends joined my wife and me for an outing. There’s room for five guests in the two rows of passenger seats behind the front row.

And when I lifted the tailgate to load in a couple of suitcases, I could only imagine how easy it would be to load up our camping gear – and bring along plenty of extra stuff.

While plenty has changed in the automotive landscape since the first minivans were introduced in the early 1960s, one thing that hasn’t changed is that for a few people, a minivan – like the Kia Carnival – provides lots of room for passengers and hauling capacity in a practical package.

Although there are not as many minivan shoppers as a few decades ago, for some people, a van like the Kia Carnival is the perfect choice for their transportation needs.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.

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