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Minivan Wars part 4: 2021 Kia Carnival MPV


Wait, that’s a minivan? Actually, according to Kia, our fourth contestant in The Minivan Wars, it’s actually an MPV (multi-person vehicle). While it has sliding doors and seat configurations like a minivan, its exterior is way more boxy and masculine in nature, making it look more like an SUV than a van. So, what did Publisher Tim Esterdahl and his other half, Heather, think of the 2021 Kia Carnival?

Not your traditional minivan

Over the course of the week, a lot of people stopped to ask questions about the Carnival and its features. This didn’t happen with the other minivans. The styling of the 2021 Kia Carnival is unique and more rugged in appearance.

But it seems the uniqueness ends there. Inside, the Carnival is a classic minivan.

Seats up to eight

While a lot of minivans have an option to select a bench seat for the second row, Kia does things a differently. Instead of a bench, the middle seat in the second row is independent of the seats on either side of it. The center seat can fold down to create a flat workspace and cupholders like a center console, or flip up to be used as a seat. Then it can be slid towards to back to give a 3rd-row passenger easy access to a baby in a child seat.

Heather says the third row is super easy to fold down and stow for extra cargo space.

Entertainment for everyone

The infotainment screen in the front of the 2021 Kia Carnival is huge, but the luxury doesn’t stop there. The second row gets large screens, too, equipped with fun apps for streaming video, games and sounds of nature. The Esterdahl boys seemed to really geek out over the onboard entertainment options, and Heather says the sound system is awesome.

On a slightly disappointing note, however, there is a lack of USB-C charging ports, which are found on so many newer vehicles. Kia chose to only provide the old-style USB-A ports and household outlets. That said, there are plenty of them, so everyone can charge devices at once.

Is the 2021 Kia Carnival reliable?

That remains to be seen. This is a brand new vehicle for Kia, but we’re optimistic. Kia has improved their quality over the last several years and has one of the best warranties in the segment.

There is no hybrid powertrain offered yet, and the Carnival’s estimated 19 MPG city, 26 MPG highway  and 22 MPG combined fuel economy certainly doesn’t win any awards.

Like the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica, the 2021 Kia Carnival offers a cabin-view camera so the driver can check on rear-seat passengers without turning around. It also has a button in the second row that the passengers can use to page the driver, just like in an airplane.

We’re not sure yet if this is a smart idea or not, yet, though.

And speaking of smart ideas, Heather would like to know who named this vehicle the Carnival? While it may accurately describe the ride home after school pick-up, no one really wants a carnival in their car.

And with that, we leave the final decision up to you! Which of these four minivans would you choose?

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Erica Mueller

Erica Mueller is a Texan, which means she believes that trucks are family vehicles and giant SUVs make good second cars. As part-time auto journalist for almost a decade, Erica enjoys driving all kinds of vehicles and sharing her experiences with others. Erica is the secretary of the board for the Texas Auto Writers Association as well as a contributor at A Girls Guide to Cars.

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