The Kia Carnival Only Sells a Fraction of the Most Popular Minivan Model
The Kia Carnival is the Korean brand’s recently rebooted minivan, replacing the old Sedona nameplate that was discontinued in 2021. Kia’s minivan has actually always been called the Carnival internationally since production began in 1998. Still, until recently, we called it the Sedona in North America, going along with Kia and Hyundai’s habit of naming cars after cities for the U.S. market (Santa Fe, Tucson, Veracruz, Rio, etc.).
Now that cars named after geography are more of a Hyundai thing, the Kia Carnival name has finally been brought to the U.S. So, how does this van stand up to the top players in the small but competitive minivan segment?
The Kia Carnival is America’s slowest-selling minivan
According to data on GoodCarBadCar, the Kia Carnival has sold the fewest units of any model in the minivan class so far in 2023. In fact, it’s the only one that hasn’t already sold more than 40,000 units this year. In the first three quarters of 2023, Kia has moved 28,535 Carnival models. That’s a significant 93% increase compared to last year’s period, but it’s still nowhere near its competitors.
America’s best-selling minivan is the Chrysler Pacifica. It’s sold a whopping 73,845 units so far in 2023. This is likely because Chrysler invented the minivan in the 1980s and still has a strong reputation as a leader in the segment.
Sales numbers for the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are pretty close this year. Honda takes the second-place spot with 47,419 units sold, and Toyota has sold 41,442 examples of its hybrid minivan.
Why can’t the Kia Carnival catch up to its rivals?
There are several reasons why the Kia Carnival is the slowest-selling minivan. For starters, the Chrysler brand has been synonymous with family-friendly minivans for more than 30 years. The Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey have also been successfully challenging the dominance of Chrysler minivans since the 1990s.
Although it’s an excellent minivan with the lowest starting price and the best warranty in its class, the Kia Carnival just doesn’t have the same reputation as its three challengers. Many families who drive minivans are on their second or third example of the same model because of established brand loyalty, so it would be difficult to persuade a family to switch from a Chrysler, Toyota, or Honda minivan to a Kia minivan.
There could also be some confusion about what the Kia Carnival is. First, it replaced the more well-known Sedona fairly abruptly, with most American drivers unfamiliar with the Carnival nameplate. Secondly, Kia calls it an “MPV” rather than a minivan, which could confuse potential buyers. Mazda called its minivan an “MPV” as well, and Mazda has been out of the minivan game in North America since 2006. Something about that acronym doesn’t resonate with buyers. However, everyone knows what a minivan is, and most people who own them aren’t embarrassed about driving one.
Finally, the Kia Carnival lacks the stand-out features of its rivals. The Chrysler Pacifica has Stow ‘n Go seating; the second- and third-row seats fold flat into the floor effortlessly, and optional all-wheel drive on its upper trims. The Honda Odyssey has a removable middle seat in the second row and Magic Slide captain’s chairs that can slide sideways. The Toyota Sienna is a hybrid with a combined fuel economy rating of up to 36 mpg from the EPA.
The Kia Carnival does have a cool VIP rear seat option. Still, that isn’t as important to most minivan drivers as things like Stow ‘n Go, all-wheel drive, or hybrid efficiency.
Which minivan is the best?
The right minivan for your family depends on your wants and needs, but all four available today are excellent. The big strengths of the Kia Carnival are its affordable starting price and class-leading warranty. The Toyota Sienna lacks power but makes up for it with its class-leading fuel economy ratings. The Chrysler Pacifica is the most luxurious of the models (depending on the choice of trim) and has available AWD as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model. Lastly, the Honda Odyssey is an excellent overall option, with satisfying performance, a plethora of interior features, and plenty of cargo capacity.