Is the Kia Carnival Finally Catching On?
The minivan segment may not have the market appeal of three-row SUVs, but those who dismiss the stigma know that the minivan can’t be beaten for everyday family hauling. The segment isn’t very deep – just four models are offered in the U.S. – but it is highly competitive with the Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Carnival, all delivering strong attributes in solid overall packages. The last of the group, the Carnival, has been lagging behind its competition for sales well before Kia rebranded its predecessor, the Sedona, but it seems like the newest nameplate in the minivan market is becoming red hot.
Kia Carnival sales are thriving
The Kia Carnival has been the caboose on the minivan sales train, evidenced by the Carnival selling just over 17,000 units in 2022, according to GoodCarBadCar.Net. About 98,000 Pacificas, 70,000 Siennas, and 47,000 Odysseys were sold last year for reference. But the momentum could be switching in Kia’s favor.
Carnival sales were up a staggering 98 percent year-over-year for the first quarter of 2023, and sales of Kia’s minivan have climbed each month through April. This year marks the best March for Carnival sales in the model’s history.
Bright spots for the Kia Carnival
The Kia Carnival’s recent sales aren’t particularly surprising given it is a strong player in its segment and is also the cheapest. The Carnival rings it at under $35,000 with destination fees – a few grand less than its rivals. The top-spec SX Prestige is the only minivan option that can be had in its top trim level for under $50,000.
Additionally, the Kia Carnival offers competitive practicality, supremely smooth ride quality, a long list of family-friendly features, and styling that resembles a large SUV more than a traditional minivan.
Carnival sales could signal the model is finally catching on among buyers, allowing the Kia to eat into the minivan market share dominated by the more established nameplates. But a deeper dive into the numbers shows there could be more at play.
The bigger minivan picture
It’s certainly worth noting that the automotive industry is far more stable than it was a year ago when chip shortages and other supply issues were consistent for all automakers. But in comparing sales from this time last year, it appears the minivan stigma could be fading.
The Carnival easily outpaced the competition for increasing sales during the first three months of the year compared to the first quarter of 2022, but the Pacifica and Odyssey are also experiencing sales growth. Odyssey sales are up 78 percent year-over-year, while the sales champ, the Pacifica, is up by a more modest 10 percent.
However, there also remains the possibility the Toyota Sienna is falling out of favor against the Kia, Chrysler and Honda. Sienna sales were down 24 percent from 2021 to 2022, and this year isn’t shaping up to be much of a rebound. Sales of Toyota’s minivan were down nearly 48 percent year-over-year in the first quarter.
It remains to be seen if the Carnival can continue its upward swing, but getting more buyers to drive away from a Kia dealership in a minivan when the more en-vogue Kia Telluride is also available is impressive enough.