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Auto review: Maxi-van? 2022 Kia Carnival has loads of space, SUV looks -- and one oddball feature

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Reasons to buy: SUV-type looks; room, safety and driver assistance features

Shortcomings: Access to third row with optional VIP middle-row seats; no hybrid model; controls

Are minivan owners happy?

That may sound like a question for their therapists, but automakers ask it all the time.

Kia is the latest to answer it, with a resounding “Sorta.”

Car companies want to know not because they’re caring friends, concerned with drivers’ emotional welfare, but because there are two conflicting narratives about minivan owners:

 

1. They revel in their role as parents, and minivans’ unrivaled practicality for carrying kids, sports gear and the odd labradoodle. Their minivan is a badge of honor.

2. Like a supporting character in “Wandavision,” they’re trapped in a cliché of suburban sameness. They long for the Technicolor days when their vehicle announced the arrival of an exciting character seeking adventure, not pickup time at the Montessori.

Like most existential questions, the answer is probably a bit of both, but it’s hard to send nuanced messages with sheet metal. As a result, automakers ping-pong between extremes. Most minivans are either as overtly child-centric as a BabyBjörn, or festooned with SUV-style hoods and grilles, because in this particular cartoon universe SUVs are recognized as cool, capable vehicles on their way to the Avengers’ clubhouse.

None of that is necessarily — or even likely to be — true, but it’s key to understanding Kia’s dramatically styled, cavernously roomy new minivan, the 2022 Carnival.

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