Maybe we’re just fans of vans. The 2023 Kia Telluride is, by most measures, a stellar SUV. But, if you’re looking for utility, seating for up to eight, and lots of back seat space and entertainment options, the Carnival may be the better buy. But the Carnival is a … gasp! … minivan! Well, Kia calls it an MPV, but we call anything with a sliding door a minivan, sorry, Kia.
Regardless, we see many reasons beyond the van utility of the Carnival that make it a great option compared to the Telluride.
The Carnival and Telluride have a lot in common
Fun fact: The Kia Carnival is built on the same platform as Kia’s Sorento SUV, so it combines that three-row SUV’s stout structure, solid driving dynamics, and smaller exterior dimensions. It also has the same 290-horsepower V6 as the Telluride and comes in five trim levels, from basic to luxury. The Carnival’s styling splits the difference between a minivan and an SUV, with a stout nose and the high seating position of an SUV, but the rear two-thirds are pure van. Both can seat up to eight, or seven with two generous captain’s chairs in the second row. Both offer the same 12.3-inch dual panoramic displays, and options like leather and collision avoidance technology, and their prices are within about $1,000 of each other.
Ok, we get it: The Telluride looks like a proper SUV
The 2023 Kia Telluride got a major facelift for the 2023 model year, just like its Hyundai sibling. In the update, Kia added the X-Pro trim, which adds some soft-roading ability to the Telluride, as well as tougher-looking leather and bigger black wheels. The new styling also gives it more of an urban warrior look on the outside with understated chrome and black trim. On the inside, the new design takes cues from much more expensive SUVs, like the dual handles around the console that were borrowed from the Porsche Cayenne, and the sleek wood design of the dash that looks like it came out of a $100,000 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
The Telluride, too, can seat eight people, or seven with captain’s chairs in the middle. But, that third row in the Telluride has just 31.4 inches of legroom. The Carnival gives you five more inches of legroom in the back, which means that real adults can sit back there and not feel cramped. Also, the Carnival has a generous 40.2 cubic feet of space behind that third row, while the Telluride only has 21.
The Carnival holds more stuff (a lot more)
Sure, SUVs are praised for their cargo-carrying ability, but the Carnival is large enough to hold a sheet of plywood in the back. With the seats folded flat into the floor, the Carnival holds 145 cubic feet of stuff, which is pickup truck spacious. The Telluride holds just 87 cubic feet with the rear seats folded and a bit more in the middle, but it’s not as useful a space as the Carnival’s with its fold-flat seats. Parents magazine named it the best family vehicle because of that space advantage.
For most of us, the Carnival’s 3,500-pound towing capacity is enough. For the rest of you, the Telluride can tow 5,000 pounds.
How much is a 2023 Carnival?
The 2023 Kia Carnival comes in five trim options, LX, EX, SX and SX Prestige. It offers LX Seat Package, which is a bit confusing, but it’s really just an options package for the LX. The LX starts at $32,600, the EX at $38,100 and SX at $41,300. The top dog SX Prestige is a premium $45,700 package that in addition to the leather, heated seats, and more of the SX package adds a rear-seat entertainment package, extra carpet and trim pieces, and most importantly, second-row heated and ventilated “VIP lounge seats” that have a built-in ottoman.
Kia didn’t yet release the price information for the 2023 Telluride. But we’re expecting a price increase. The 2022 Telluride ranges from $33,090 in LX trim up to $42,990 for the SX. The new 2023 Telluride should appear at dealers this fall.