Our latest review of the Kia Carnival MPV calls it “easily the coolest minivan out there,” with nifty styling and great tech. The drawbacks we noted are the lack of a hybrid powertrain and AWD, no all-wheel drive, and the rather cozy third row. One of those cons could be addressed with a facelifted Carnival on the way, and the styling could jump into the future. Korean Car Blog posted shots of a camouflaged Carnival in a parking garage, the minivan wearing a face heavily inspired by the coming Kia EV9 battery-electric SUV. In trying to get away from the dreaded epithet “minivan,” the current Carnival sports a traditional luxury SUV vibe up front with its narrow headlights and stylized mesh grille underlined in chrome. From what we can see of the prototype, there are EV9-style vertical headlights but with different lighting elements, and something brand new going on with a more ornate grille treatment seen in the camouflage’s plastic windows. We think the decorative piece with the diagonal elements in the center is a red herring.
KCB also says there’s a hybrid version on the way. With the Sohari Plant in Korea finally retooling to build electrified vehicles, the Kia Stinger sport sedan is dead and a Carnival Hybrid can be one of the models to take its place. By the end of the year, Sohari will be turning out the EV9 and a Carnival Hybrid that uses the same powertrain put to use in the Sorento Hybrid. That means a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and one electric motor. If output hold steady, buyers will get 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s said that eventually there will be a battery-electric version to boot. Right now, the Carnival’s only engine option is a 3.6-liter V6 making 290 hp and 262 lb-ft.
Based on the locations of the camouflage around this prototype, we suspect there will be a lot more tweaks made to separate it from the model on sale now.
Now if Kia would just do something about the drivetrain. Front-wheel-drive is said to continue as the sole option, a strange choice when one of the first destinations for family decision-makers looking for new ways to haul their kids is the checkmark in the AWD box.