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Traditional carnivals involve fire breathers, wild animals, and heaps of greasy food. Let’s hope the Kia Carnival won’t have those things. But when you add kids to the mix, anything can happen. The automaker is marketing its new not-a-minivan as the perfect family vehicle, after all.

Even so, will the Kia Carnival be up to driving small children around, no matter what the name implies?

Say hello to the Kia Carnival

If you’ve been looking for a new Sedona and can’t find one, that’s because it no longer exists. At least not under that name. Like the Kia Optima/K5 before it, the Sedona is now the Carnival.

Though it seems strange that the automaker renamed two vehicles, that’s apparently de rigueur for the brand now. In fact, Kia Motors shortened its moniker to Kia and has rebranded itself to showcase its evolution from decent and cheap to sporty and luxurious.

The Kia Carnival is the epitome of luxury

Minivans are no longer the most popular vehicles, but consumers still want convenient family haulers. Their faithful following has encouraged automakers to step up their game and put more money into designing their minivans in the hopes of stealing consumers away from rival SUVs.

Kia is trying to get back in the game with the Carnival. It’s following the Telluride formula by making its self-described multipurpose vehicle (MPV) as upscale as possible for an affordable price. In fact, the exterior blew the folks at Car and Driver away.

“The textured grille makes a strong first impression, and the interesting shiny C-pillar trim is an upscale touch,” they said. “We don’t fully buy into Kia’s assertion that it looks more like an SUV than a van, but as minivan aficionados, we like the unapologetically boxy shape.”

The interior is even more upscale, abounding with tech features like automated emergency braking, an optional dual-display setup with digital gauges, and a navigation-equipped center touchscreen.

The Kia Carnival’s SX-Prestige trim is where things get really fancy. Expect high-quality leather upholstery and reclining second-row seats with pop-up footrests.

All of this sounds totally amazing, but what about the children?

Would you want small kids destroying this paradise on wheels?

Sure, it’s easy to slip into a daydream about a happy family vacation filled with laughter and birds singing along the way. Then there’s reality. Stinky diapers will overtake the newest of new-car smells. Goldfish crackers will become flying fish every time you hit a bump. And the sound system won’t drown out the wails of despair when you refuse to stop at McDonald’s.

Older kids bring a whole other slew of problems. They’ll sling their dirty hockey gear in the back without thought. They’ll drop French fries on the carpet and wipe their greasy fingers on the seats. And they’ll put their feet everywhere.

So, what does this mean for the Carnival? Is it a match for the forces of little ones? “Kia’s form-over-function approach inside is questionable in a kid hauler, though,” C/D muses, “and we do wonder how that nice leather and all the shiny gloss-black plastic trim will hold up to abuse from children over time.”

That doesn’t mean you should avoid the Kia Carnival. But you might want to skip the higher trim levels if you’re looking for something to ferry your offspring to soccer practice. On the flip side, the Carnival will make most adults feel spoiled with its reclining captain’s chairs, ottomans, and heated seats. With that in mind, the Carnival actually might be the perfect empty-nester vehicle.


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