We all know the stigma that minivans carry and for some that’s simply enough to deter a purchase even though deep down we know they’re more comfortable and versatile than SUVs. So Kia decided to design one that flips the script on what’s cool and what isn’t. This is the first-ever 2022 Carnival MPV. The Carnival does distinguish itself mainly in its SUV-like styling. And the other aspect that’s been throwing people off is this new KIA badge, making its debut on the Carnival. No one has any clue what it is and for some reason even the mysterious logo has attracted lots of attention. I like it and so does everyone else that sees it. Until now the Pacifica had cool design firmly in its back pocket but now the Honda Odyssey is really the only one left out of the cool kids’ club. If you take the Carnival all the way to the top like this one you’re looking at a $47,770 MSRP or a $582/month lease. That’s cheaper than a range-topping, front-wheel drive Odyssey and Sienna and about the same as a Pacifica. It’s powered by a 290 horsepower V6 and an 8-speed auto. So what are the Carnival’s shortcomings versus the few other available minivans?
If you’re shopping for a new minivan you’ve picked a good time. First of all, there are only 4 models from which to choose so that makes life simpler but more importantly they’ve all been recently refreshed or completely redesigned with the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica midway through their product cycles and the Kia Carnival and Toyota Sienna the all-new vans on the block. So minus the Pacifica’s ace in the hole with its more creative seating configurations – the personal importance of which only you can decide — Can the Sienna bump itself to the top of the class? From its provocative new styling that now presents as even more premium and handsome than the Pacifica’s to its Lexus-infused aura I, and everyone I’ve been transporting this week have been raving about the Sienna’s sophistication and family-friendly personality. I won’t bury the lede. This Sienna is arguably the best minivan of all-time.
The 2021 Pacifica will offer an advanced all-wheel drive system that preserves Chrysler’s coolest and most proprietary feature – Stow ‘n Go seating – the ability for the 2nd row seats to disappear into the floor. There’s also a new bougie Pinnacle model with standard all-wheel drive and a bunch of add on goodies such as the Premium and Safety Sphere Group and the Uconnect Theater Family Group which includes a new feature called the FamCam Interior Camera – a way for parents to keep tabs on the little ones, even in rear facing car seats. And the seatback video screens have always been a big hit right from the start. With a MSRP at $55,665, this isn’t your blue collar minivan, but it still does an excellent job of making family travel as easy and as enjoyable as can be and offers big time flexibility with a heaping dose of Chrysler cleverness.
Toyota’s infamously long product cadence has caused the Sienna to slide all the way to the 4th spot in minivan sales. That may not sound bad until you realize there are only 5 of them on the market. But going on sale this November is an all-new 2021 Sienna Toyota hopes can challenge the segment-leading Chrysler Pacifica. How will it accomplish this? Well, though they no longer own the market with it the Sienna continues to offer all-wheel drive – a big plus in the snowbelt – but here’s the headline: all models will be hybrids. Not a plug-in like the Pacifica, mind you, but a battery-motor- engine deal nevertheless. 245 horsepower and 36mpg is the hook Toyota hopes can reel you in. with this new model strategy. It’s an all-new vehicle from the ground up, elevating the Swagger Wagon look with a fresh design and new features Toyota says make this the most sophisticated, versatile and enjoyable Sienna ever. Engineers focused on reducing noises in the frequencies where conversation takes place, while also mitigating the feeling that you’re driving a bus by using what they call the Bridge Console, ergonomically positioned high with lots of storage, helping to alleviate stress and boost driver comfort. And then there are a host of other convenience features that have become minivan staples such as kick open and close sliding doors, sliding 2nd row captain’s chairs, modern connectivity but not wireless phone projection, Driver Easy Speak, and a vacuum. Above and beyond good stuff like a digital rearview mirror, head-up display, bird’s eye view camera and a refrigerator give the Sienna some distinction. Pricing for the very base FWD Sienna LE with its 8 passenger seating and stowable middle seat starts at $35,635 including delivery while a 7-seat AWD Platinum checks in at $51,635.
So you’re in the market for a minivan. And let me guess; you’re debating between the Honda Odyssey and the Chrysler Pacifica. Both are excellent choices but I prefer the Pacifica; it has superior styling, a smarter interior and a plug-in option, how cool is that? I last reviewed the Pacific Hybrid a couple of years ago when it first hit the market but here’s what’s new and what you should now before purchase.