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Turquoise 2022 Kia Carnival with mountains in the background

What Does MPV Stand For?

Automotive companies in the U.S. have recently begun using the MPV term for minivans as a better way to market them. MPV stands for a multi-purpose vehicle or multi-passenger vehicle. It typically refers to a vehicle that can carry passengers or cargo, while providing a great deal of practicality.

MPV is a term that is relatively new to the automotive industry in the United States. While it is prevalent in international markets, it has not been used frequently here until recent years. You may be wondering, what does MPV stand for?

MPV: Multi-purpose vehicle or multi-passenger vehicle

Turquoise 2022 Kia Carnival with mountains in the background
2022 Kia Carnival | Kia

MPV is an automotive term that means either a multi-purpose vehicle or a multi-passenger vehicle. Technically speaking, an MPV can refer to a broad range of vehicle types. This includes minivans, vans, SUVs, RVs, campers, and pickup trucks. The qualifications for an MPV as defined by law are also very broad. Requirements include a self-propelled vehicle that carries less than 10 people and is typically built upon a truck chassis.

However, an MPV typically refers to a vehicle that can carry passengers or cargo, while providing a great deal of practicality. With this in mind, minivans are the type of vehicle that most closely aligns with the term MPV. An SUV may fall under the MPV category, but SUVs often have a greater emphasis on performance and off-road capabilities. Minivans differ with the greater emphasis on practicality.

MPV: A cooler way to say a minivan

Red 2021 Toyota Sienna parked on a city street
2021 Toyota Sienna | Toyota

Ultimately — at least in the U.S. — an MPV is just a cooler terminology for a minivan, which is a vehicle segment that is severely lacking in coolness credentials. This is a big reason why the usage of the MPV term is a recent phenomenon in the U.S. Automotive companies are trying to find a better way to market minivans. In many respects, the minivans are earning a little bit of coolness with the changes in recent models. Minivans now often have a greater emphasis on sleeker and athletic designs, greater performance, and better driving dynamics.

What are some examples of MPVs that are sold in the U.S.?

The Kia Carnival replaces the outgoing Sedona minivan for the 2022 model year. Kia is fully marketing the Carnival as an MPV, while dropping the minivan terminology that is used for the Sedona. It has a prominent boxy design that makes it stand out from traditional minivans. The Carnival also delivers impressive performance. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine churns out 290 horsepower.

The Toyota Sienna is another vehicle that earns MPV credentials. With its sleek design, it has a cool nickname: Swagger Wagon. While other MPVs are only recently offering all-wheel drive, the Sienna has long offered this option. This makes the Sienna an appealing choice for drives that deal with challenging winter weather. It also gives it the Sienna off-road capabilities.

The Chrysler Pacifica is another vehicle that in the past had traditional minivan styling, but in recent years, it has a more athletic look. For the 2022 model, the Sienna offers a gasoline-powered model and an efficient hybrid model. Also, the Pacifica now offers an available all-wheel drive system.

Would you be more willing to give a minivan a shot if it was called an MPV? Minivans are shedding their old image and moving in a more visually appealing direction. If you can benefit from their people-hauling capabilities and practicality, they may be worth another look. 


Not Even the Chrysler Pacifica Can Beat the Kia Carnival in This Area