As much as Kia wants you to think its Carnival is a genre-bending vehicle, marketing it as an MPV with SUV styling and the space of a van, at the end of the day it’s really just a minivan. But we love minivans, and in my opinion the Carnival is the best you can buy thanks to its unique design, excellent interior and great driving dynamics. For 2025 Kia is making the Carnival even better with some major styling updates and the addition of a new turbocharged hybrid powertrain.
We're Driving the 2024 Kia EV9, What Do You Want to Know?
The standard engine remains a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that sends 287 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission, slightly down from the 290 HP and 262 lb-ft of last year’s model but 8 HP more than the Honda Odyssey’s V6. The new hybrid powertrain is available on all but the base Carnival trim level, and it uses the same basic setup as the Sorento hybrid, but with a little more power. A turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-4 is paired with a 72-HP electric motor and 6-speed automatic transmission to deliver a total of 242 HP and 271 lb-ft to the front wheels. While it’s not a plug-in hybrid like you get with the Chrysler Pacifica, and the Toyota Sienna’s standard hybrid powertrain has two electric motors and 3 more horsepower overall, I have a feeling the Carnival hybrid will be the best one to drive.
Opting for the hybrid gets you three different levels of regenerative braking to choose from, something the Sorento hybrid lacks. Other hybrid-specific (and vaguely described) features include E-Evasive Handling Assist, which helps control the vehicle in emergency maneuvers; E-Handling, which Kia says improves responsiveness when cornering; and E-Ride, which uses specially tuned shocks to smooth out bumps. The Carnival hybrid also gets a 17-inch aerodynamic wheel design. EPA figures have yet to be announced, but they should be a pretty big bump over the V6 Carnival’s 22 mpg combined figure.
Regardless of which powertrain you choose the 2025 Carnival will look the same, and its updated design is now more in line with the facelifted Sorento. The grille is bigger and blockier, the lower bumper is more streamlined and loses its side intakes, and the headlights are now large vertical pods that have amber running lights that wrap around the top of the grille. Around back the license plate has been repositioned lower in the tailgate, and the taillights also extend vertically down the corners of the rear end. Wheels up to 19 inches are offered, and a Dark Edition package darkens all of the exterior trim. I always thought the pre-facelift Carnival was a looker, and while the new one might be less sleek, I really like the bolder design.
The interior has always been the best part of the Carnival, and Kia has made it even nicer — that is, unless you’re a physical control die-hard. The climate and media controls on the dashboard have been condensed into one multi-purpose touchbar, the same unit found in cars like the EV6, which has two knobs that perform different functions depending on the mode. Kia also replaced the traditional shifter with a rotary knob and repositioned the USB outlets. This freed up more center console space for storage and allowed Kia to make the cupholders bigger.
A 12-inch central touchscreen replaces the old 8-inch unit, but base Carnivals still have physical gauges with a 4.2-inch screen in the middle. As an option you can get a curved display that combines two 12.3-inch screens under one panel, which looks sleeker than the old setup but is the same in terms of screen size. The Carnival is running Kia’s next-generation infotainment system that has customizable shortcuts and over-the-air updates. New options include a digital rear-view mirror, a color head-up display, an improved digital key, a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 14.6-inch screens, and the Carnival now has seven USB-C ports, two power outlets and two 115V inverters.
Blissfully, in the SX Prestige trim you can still get the VIP Lounge Seat package, which features two second-row captain’s chairs that power recline and have an extendable legrest — and now the “relaxation mode” can be activated with your voice, as both front and rear passengers can say “Hey Kia” to control the seats, windows, climate control and other features. Seating for up to 8 is available, and depending on configuration you can get a sliding second-row center seat.
Kia also updated the Carnival’s driver-assist features. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking is now standard, and the system can be upgraded with evasive steering assist, lane-change assist and junction crossing functions. The 2025 Carnival can also be had with Kia’s Highway Driving Assist 2 system and navigation-based adaptive cruise control.
The 2025 Kia Carnival will go on sale in the U.S. this summer. It’s the most underappreciated minivan in terms of sales, with 43,687 being sold in the U.S. in 2023 — over the same 12 months, Toyota sold 66,547 Siennas, Honda sold 74,738 Odysseys, and Chrysler sold 120,554 Pacificas, though a huge chunk of the latter likely went to fleets. The Carnival’s updated styling and new hybrid option should broaden its appeal and help it find more buyers, which this minivan deserves.