Kia pumped life into an otherwise quiet Chicago Auto Show today, launching two new models at the McCormick Place Convention Center, including a new version of the Carnival people-mover which adds new technology, an updated design and a fuel-saving hybrid drivetrain option. Headlight.News checks out the 2025 Kia Carnival.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that minivans have all but vanished from automotive marketplace. But there are still plenty of family buyers — as well as many retirees — who find these people-movers to be just the right blend of comfort and utility.
Kia hopes to win over even more buyers with the debut of the 2025 Carnival MPV with a more “SUV-like design” that still retains the features that traditional minivans appreciate, like easy-access sliding doors and plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
To enhance its appeal, the 2025 Kia Carnival gets more tech features as well as a fuel-stingy turbo-hybrid powertrain option.
“The Carnival has been a standout since its introduction, effortlessly blending SUV aesthetics with the utilitarian functionality of a family vehicle,” Steve Center, Kia’s U.S. chief operating officer, said leading up to Thursday’s unveiling at the Chicago Auto Show. “As a brand that refuses to settle for the status quo, we’ve made impactful updates across styling, performance and technology, further allowing the Carnival to challenge stereotypes that family vehicles are uninspiring.”
At first glance, one might not realize the 2025 Carnival makeover is a minivan. It adopts a more SUV-like appearance that brings to mind the “Opposites United’ design theme as it plays out with the popular Kia Telluride.
The 2025 Carnival boasts an upright stance and more chiseled lines than the outgoing minivan. A large and commanding grille is framed by cube-like headlights and amber-colored “Star Map” running lights. That Star Map theme is repeated in the taillights. Buyer can add contoured skid plates to contrast the black cladding on the rear fascia. Wheel options range from 17 inches to 19 inches.
An interior “haven”
Minivans are meant to be plush and roomy, a “haven of comfort and convenience,” in Kia’s words. There are heated and cooled seats up front and, with the optional VIP Lounge Seat Package, second-row passengers also can switch on a “relaxation mode” that included a business jet-style leg extension.
From an interior standpoint, dimensions carry over from the outgoing minivan. Buyers can opt for either a 7- or 8-seat configuration.
The South Korean carmaker claims best-in-class cargo space of 145.1 cubic feet with both second and third rows folded down. And a sliding second-row center seat in the 8-passenger “Slide-Flex” package provides easy access to a child or infant in a baby seat. The second-row seats can be removed in most trim levels, the third row able to fold into the floor.
There are, of course, the requisite beverage holders within reach of all passengers. But the 2025 Kia Carnival puts a premium on technology, starting with driver-controllable ambient lighting.
A curved panoramic twin display brings together a 12.3-inch gauge cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. The Carnival also can be ordered with a full-color head-up display, as well as a digital rearview camera mirror. Add seven standard USB-C ports throughout the cabin, along with two 12-volt and two 115-volt power outlets.
The 2025 Carnival adds a new, Amazon Alexa-style voice assistant that can be activated simply by saying, “Hey, Kia.” It controls a variety of vehicle functions, including the second-row Lounge Seat settings. Carnival also adds a new Connected Car Rear Cockpit Rear Entertainment System with dual 14.6-inch monitors and full HD resolution. It “allows streaming from popular platforms, with the potential to add future content over-the-air over time. Passengers can connect their Bluetooth headsets and mirror from external devices with a HDMI port.”
A digital “key” using a driver’s smartphone or an NFC card is available. And the key can be shared with other drivers.
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New hybrid package
The 2025 Kia Carnival is offered with a choice of two powertrains, starting with a 3.5-liter V-6 making 287 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic.
The upgrade is a new hybrid package that pairs a 1.6-liter turbo-4 gas engine with a 54 kW motor and 6-speed automatic transmission. It produces a combined 242 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque.
Both packages send power to the front wheels. All-wheel-drive is not available. Kia has not yet confirmed fuel economy.
Minivan buyers are typically among the most demanding when it comes to safety technology.
Among the new advanced driver assistance systems, Carnival adds E-Evasive Handling Assist to help drivers retain control during emergency steering maneuvers. There’s forward collision avoidance with emergency braking and, for 2025, Highway Drive Assist 2.
Kia describes it as “ a driver convenience system that is designed to maintain a predetermined distance from the vehicle detected in front, keep the vehicle within detected lane markers on certain highways, and assist in lane changes under certain conditions.”
Pricing and availability
Along with fuel economy numbers, Kia has yet to release pricing information. Look for that shortly before the 2025 Kia Carnival goes on sale.
It’s expected to reach U.S. showrooms by summer 2024.