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Sibling Rivalry: 2022 Kia Carnival versus 2021 Kia Telluride

Which 3-row Kia utility vehicle best fits your needs?


Is the all-new 2022 Kia Carnival a minivan dressed as an SUV? Or is the 2021 Kia Telluride an SUV that functions more like a minivan? With these 3-row Kia utility vehicle siblings seemingly chasing similar customer profiles, we had to ask: Which one is the better buy?

For 2022, the Carnival takes over from the Sedona minivan–or what Kia calls an “MPV or multi-purpose vehicle”. Whatever the label, when the time comes to transport up to eight occupants in safety and comfort, something like the new Carnival—with minivan class-leading interior and cargo space—is going to be an excellent choice.

The 2021 Kia Telluride debuted just last year, marking the brand’s biggest and most ambitious SUV yet. We think it’s among the best mid-size 3-row SUVs in its class, with a well-rounded balance of style, space, and technology. The exterior turns heads, and the comfy, up to 8-passenger interior has room for everyone. It’s also loaded with an impressive list of standard features, and many premium features becoming available in the upper trims.

So, which to choose? Read on to find out which of these 3-row Kia siblings is just right for you.

 

Price

Illustrating the contrast between the declining popularity of minivans with the continuing surge in SUV sales is the different pricing structures between these two Kias.

Manufacturer Suggested Retail Pricing in Canadian dollars for the 2022 Kia Carnival starts at $34,795 for the base LX trim—almost $12,000 less than the Telluride. The $38,295 Carnival LX+ adds such features as power sliding side doors and rear liftgate. The $42,295 EX trim’s main gains include Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Front Collision Assistance-Junction Assist. Navigation and a 360-view parking monitor highlight the $45,595 EX+, while the top-line $48,595 SX adds two sunroofs, 2nd-row captain chairs (reducing the passenger count from 8 to 7) and leather seats.

Like its sibling, the primary differences between the Telluride’s trim levels are equipment. And one of the reasons the SUV costs more than the minivan is its high level of standard gear.

For example, the base Telluride EX trim starts at $46,195. Still, it comes with such niceties as all-wheel-drive (AWD), navigation, and safety technologies like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist System, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Avoidance Assist. The $51,195 SX adds leather seats, premium audio, and dual sunroofs. The range-topping, 7-passenger $54,695 SX Limited adds heated and cooled 2nd-row captain's chairs.

Also noteworthy: both Kia vehicles benefit from the automaker's long 5-year/100,000-kilometre comprehensive warranty.

Winner: 2022 Kia Carnival

 

Interior 

If anyone is thinking of getting the band back together, the new Carnival minivan could make easy work of travelling to and from gigs, with room for full-size adults in every row. And access to the 3rd-row is easy. For such a spacious cabin, the Carnival is remarkably quiet. The SX trim's acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows drown out wind noise and road drone.

The Telluride SUV has one of the roomiest cabins in its segment. There’s a sense of width inside this big Kia, which is enhanced by a low centre console with two prominent grab handles and a large storage area. Top-line SX trims could pass for a luxury SUV costing twice as much, with premium Nappa leather upholstery, suede-like headliner, and double-stitched dash.

As roomy as the Telluride is when compared to rival mid-size SUVs, it can't match the Carnival's cavernous accommodations. Except for front and 2nd-row legroom, the minivan offers more space for all occupants—no matter which row they are occupying. Plus, with its 2nd- and 3rd-row seats folded, the Carnival offers 4,110 litres of space over the Telluride's 2,445 litres. The same applies when you need to use all three rows of seats: the Carnival's 1,139 litres of cargo room is almost double the Telluride's 601 rating.

Winner: 2022 Kia Carnival

 

Performance & Fuel Economy

All 2022 Kia Carnivals come with a 3.5-litre 6-cylinder engine. The V6 makes 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to the front wheels only via an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The Telluride also gets a 6-cylinder and an automatic transmission with eight gears. But the V6’s displacement is larger at 3.8-litres yet produces nearly identical power and torque numbers, and AWD is standard. Plus, the Telluride can tow more than the Carnival—up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) versus the minivan’s lower 3,500 (1,588 kilograms) rating.

Both the Kia siblings share the same city fuel economy estimate at 12.0 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km). But the minivan sips less fuel on the highway, 8.9 L/100 km, versus the SUV’s 9.7 estimate.

Winner: 2021 Kia Telluride

 

Ride and Handling

In real-world driving, the Carnival’s V6 is ample muscle even when the minivan is loaded with people and everything that has to come with them. The Carnival has driving modes that include a Sport setting, but when there are passengers on board, the gentler responses of Eco mode will be more pleasant for everyone. Either way, the braking action has a well-calibrated smoothness. Adding to the general ease of driving is a steering system that requires little effort yet still feels precise, along with excellent outward vision. The suspension manages to flow over any road imperfections while remaining composed through corners—less body roll means a lower chance of car sickness.

The Kia Telluride is comfortable and makes the miles fly by. Canadian drivers will appreciate the AWD system’s Snow mode, plus a lock feature that optimizes power between the front and rear wheels for optimum traction in off-highway use. The view out the Telluride’s nicely appointed cabin is pleasing, and the suspension tuning does well as blending ride comfort with excellent chassis control. The 8-speed automatic transmission is smooth and well-matched to the V6. Even the engine start/stop system is relatively smooth and can easily be disabled by the driver with the touch of a button.

Winner: 2022 Kia Carnival

 

Overall Winner: 2022 Kia Carnival

The 2022 Kia Carnival and 2021 Kia Telluride each standout in their respective minivan and mid-size SUV classes. But there are enough differences to warrant us proclaiming one as the better 3-row utility vehicle.

If traction at all four wheels and the need to tow is high on your new-vehicle wish list, the Telluride SUV is a great choice. And if your budget will allow it, the topline SX trims can make for an affordable alternative to pricier luxury-brand SUVs.

However, with its lower starting price, more interior people and luggage room, better highway fuel economy, and a smoother ride, the overall better Kia utility vehicle is the new Carnival minivan.

 

Specs

2022 Kia Carnival

2021 Kia Telluride

Engine(s)

3.5-litre V6

3.8-litre V6
 

Horsepower

290 hp @ 6,400 rpm

291 hp @ 6,000 rpm
 

Torque

262 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm

Transmission(s)

8-speed automatic

8-speed automatic

Fuel Economy L/100 km

12.0 city, 8.9 hwy

(12.0 city, 9.7 hwy)

Warranty

5-years/100,000 kilometres

5-years/100,000 kilometres

Max Seating Capacity

7-8

7-8

Curb Weight

2,039-2,140 kg

1,970-2,018 kg

Wheelbase

3,090 mm

2,900 mm

Overall Length

5,155 mm

5,000 mm

Width

1,995 mm

1,990 mm

Height

1,740-1,775 mm

1,759 mm

Headroom, Front

1,039 mm

1,004 mm

Headroom, 2nd-row

1,003 mm

1,022 mm

Headroom, 3rd-row

981 mm

969 mm

Legroom, Front

1,044 mm

1,120 mm

Legroom, 2nd-row

1,029 mm

1,077 mm

Legroom, 3rd row

903 mm

798 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,630 mm

1,564 mm

Shoulder Room, 2nd-row

1,606 mm

1,554 mm

Shoulder Room, 3rd -row

1,511 mm

1,404 mm

Cargo Volume, Behind 3rd-Row seats

4,110 L

2,455 L

 

Cargo Volume, Behind 3rd-Row seats

1,139 L

601 L

Max. Towing Capacity

 

3,500 lbs (1,588 kgs)

5,000 lbs (2,268 kgs)

 

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