Hyundai’s Failed Attempt at a Minivan Only Lasted 3 Years
It seems like South Korean automaker Kia is having a bit of an identity crisis with its minivan, called the Carnival. The brand has been selling the Carnival worldwide since 1998, but in the United States, it was renamed Sedona. Apparently, there was some thinktank that decided the Carnival needed a more American name and Sedona, Arizona is definitely located in America, so mission accomplished. Except recently for the 2022 model year, Kia executives have reasoned that American tastes have matured to the point that we’re willing to accept the Carnival nameplate, even if it is somewhat evocative of creepy clowns.
What does any of this have to do with a Hyundai minivan that we’re supposed to be telling you about? Well, the second-general Kia Sedoda had a badge-engineered twin called the Hyundai Entourage for a fleeting moment in the late 2000s. Hyundai dealers were complaining that they didn’t have a minivan in their lineup to sell. Rather than spending considerable time and money developing one from scratch, Hyundai corporate rebadged a Kia instead.
The Hyundai Entourage was a forgettable minivan
In doing research for this article, it’s honestly hard to discern what subtle differences existed between the two minivans. Unfortunately, gearheads just aren’t interested in keeping that kind of folklore alive the way they would if you were seeking information on a 1970 Chevelle SS.
But thanks to our friends at Car and Driver, we at least know that the Hyundai carried a $1,000 price premium over the Kia and had a commensurate level of additional standard equipment, more safety features like side-curtain airbags, and the capability to be optioned to the point of downright luxury in its Limited trim.
It’s also clear just by looking that the Entourage had a different front fascia with fog lights, a more complex headlight design, and an upscale grill. These subtle differences weren’t really enough to differentiate Hyundai’s minivan from the rest of the pack.
Why did Hyundai’s minivan fail?
Of course, minivans are still around and probably always will be. Still, it’s undeniable that SUVs ranging from tiny crossovers to massive Tahoes and Expeditions took a huge bite out of the minivan market. To soccer moms and dads, SUVs offer almost the same level of utility and practicality as a minivan in a much more rugged and stylish package.
Unfortunately, the said migration toward SUVs started right around the time that Hyundai rolled out its minivan, so the timing really couldn’t have been worse.
Even though you could purchase an Entourage over the course of three calander years—2006 through 2008—it was technically only offered for two model years: 2007 and 2008. While the Entourage didn’t exactly set sales records in its first year, the second was an absolute bloodbath, with sales falling approximately 50% to just 8,400 units. For reference, the Kia Sedona on which the Entourage was based sold almost 27,000 units in that same period.
Hyundai’s South-Korean partner has picked up the slack in this department
You might assume that once the Entourage got axed, the Sedona would see a jump in sales from the newly reduced level of competition, but you’d be wrong. The Sedona plodded onward with fairly lackluster sales until a new third-generation model debuted for the 2015 model year.
Buyers clamored for the then-latest and greatest Sedona, yielding a brief spike in purchases before popularity settled back down into the sub-20,000 per year range from 2017 to 2022, according to GoodCarBadCar. That’s a mere fraction of market leaders like the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna.
Kia is hoping to redeem itself with its all-new fourth-generation minivan—reverting back to the name Carnival—that was introduced for 2022. And according to many reviews, the brand may indeed have a huge hit on its hands. Although there’s no hybrid powertrain option, the Carnival has a 290 horsepower V6 that takes it from zero to 60 MPH in a sporty 7.0 seconds flat, per a recent Car and Driver test.
Perhaps the new Carnival’s biggest draw is its handsome styling, which is decidely very unlike a minivan and more like a lower-to-the-ground version of the SUVs that put the squeeze on minivan popularity to begin with. Which brings to mind that old proverb, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”