Analysis | Base Camp: 2022 Kia Carnival LX

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Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we’ll let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one that earns a passing grade.

Kia is no stranger to the halls of Base Camp, having built its reputation on providing feature content that belies its sticker price. These days, the brand is doing a good job of targeting some more aspirational goals — witness the K5 and Telluride — but their core business model hasn’t changed.

For 2022, Kia is introducing a new take on their minivan, imbuing it with new clothes and a new name. Called the Carnival (go ahead — just try saying it without grinning), the company is trying to move the goalposts by infusing its people carrier with SUV-like styling. In fact, the Carnival is referred to as a “minivan” exactly zero times in Kia’s information package, instead using terms like “full-size family vehicle” and “life utility.”

Its entry-level trim is called the LX and sets a reasonable price floor of $34,495. For that sum, one will find themselves in command of a 3.5-litre V6 engine making a segment-appropriate 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Every trim gets this engine, plus an 8-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, so spending more money on an up-level Carnival will not net any extra grunt.

Kia is working hard to sell the notion this isn’t a typical minivan, and it does a decent job of that with the SUV-like chrome spear that trails down the rear side doors and along its flanks. At first glance, it can trick a non-gearhead’s eye into thinking that’s the line of a pickup bed, which was surely the point. Interestingly, only the base LX has body-coloured door handles and no roof rails, a combination that actually looks sleeker than more expensive trims (or as sleek as this type of vehicle can get, anyway). Irritatingly, only Aurora Black is offered at no charge.

What’s decidedly not irritating is the level of standard equipment in the Carnival LX. Three rows of cloth seats provide space for eight passengers, there’s a decent 8-inch display infotainment system that has Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and an array of places in which to charge a device. Air conditioning and cruise control respectively keep the passengers and driver comfortable, while active safety aids like lane keep assist and forward collision-avoidance assist add a layer of security.

What we’d choose

Making a $3,500 walk to the LX+ trim is no small heap o’ beans, especially for a family that’s watching their budget. Jumping to an LX+ does bring niceties like heated front seats and steering wheel, baby-friendly sunshades on the sliding doors, and tri-zone climate control. A wireless phone charger is notable as well.

Still, this largesse represents a roughly $50 increase in monthly payments without bringing any extra space, power or colour choice. If the peanut gallery can live without their own air conditioning controls — and you’re satisfied to do without heated seats — the LX represents a better value.

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