Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at MikeHagertyCars.com are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.
Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.
Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.
At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 27 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two. For me, that was enough time to drive 11 vehicles that I hadn't driven yet.
My first drive of the event was in the all-new 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige. Just stop right there. Do not tack on "m-i-n-i-v-a-n". Kia calls the Prestige an MPV---multi-purpose vehicle.
Twenty miles of fairly straight coastal highway with a small stretch of twisties can't convey the full measure of any vehicle, but my first impressions are that the Carnival is a comfortable, quiet highway cruiser that handles curving backroads as well as any vehicle of its type.
A mini.....um....MPV is the one area in which Kia, on a roll with compelling vehicles like the Telluride, the K5 GT, the Niro EV and the Stinger GT2 AWD , was wanting. Until last year, Kia's entry was the Sedona (which was called the Carnival in most other countries). And as I pointed out on the old TireKicker site when the most recent refresh of that vehicle was only a year old---five years ago---it was simply uncompetitive in the key areas families who want (ahem) MPVs consider. It languished on dealer lots all the way through the 2021 model year.
For 2022, the Carnival is now the Carnival everywhere. The 2016 Sedona's 3.3-liter, 275-horsepower V6 is gone, along with its six-speed automatic transmission. In their place, a 3.5-liter V6 making 290 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic. Those steps into the modern world result in a nice increase in fuel economy along with the extra power---the old EPA average of 17 city/22 highway is now a much more respectable 19/26.
There are five levels of Carnival trim, starting with the LX at $32,100, and I haven't seen one, but I can promise you that apart from basic shapes, it's not going to look like what you see here. This is the top-of-the-line SX Prestige, and it starts at $46,100. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see what comes standard at that price.
The good news is that the only extra-cost option on our tester was the $495 Astra Blue paint. So with $1,175 inland freight and handling, the as-tested price of the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige is $47,770.
That puts it $1,565 under the bottom line for the 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite we did a full review of last October and $4,680 below the total tab for the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited reviewed here in February. The Carnival's other major competitor, the all-new Toyota Sienna, already thick on the suburban streets of Folsom, has yet to make it into the Northern California press fleet.
Anything beyond that is going to require living with the Carnival for our usual one-week press loan. But first impressions do matter, and the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige makes a very good one.