2022 Kia Carnival vs. 2021 Chrysler Pacifica: Compare Minivans

New minivans don’t emerge very often—and while the 2022 Kia Carnival is new and replaces the fuddy old Sedona, it’s no groundbreaker. 

It does throw a fastball right at our favorite minivan, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica. The eight-passenger carry-alls score identically at a TCC Rating of 7.2 each. (Read more about how we rate cars.)That’s before the Carnival gets crash-tested, so it’s possible it will score higher than the Chrysler in due time.

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

But ask us which we’d buy, and our money’s still on the Chrysler, our Best Minivan To Buy every year since 2017.

Styling isn’t the deciding factor. Both vans have eye-pleasing bodies; Chrysler’s is more suave, while Kia’s is more SUV-like. The Carnival whittles off square corners to look more like a Telluride with sliding side doors than like any of Kia’s minivans from the past. The Pacifica’s upturned rear pillars and its gently curved roofline have a modish appeal, just like its swoopy interior—best ordered with open-pore wood in top trims, according to us.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

Powertrains separate the two, in favor of the Chrysler. Both vans steer and ride well enough, but Chrysler’s plug-in powertrain garners a point the Carnival leaves on the table. Kia’s strapping 290-hp V-6 and 8-speed automatic peel off admirably quick stoplight runs, and it omits the bobbly minivan moves of its past efforts. But why bother with gas when you can plug in the Pacifica for up to 32 electric driving miles, and more taut handling? Take away the hybrid system and the Pacifica becomes more the Carnival’s equal—but it’s still available with all-wheel drive. The Carnival’s front-drive only.

Flexibility goes Chrysler’s way, too. Both minivans max out interior space, but they work it differently. Kia leans into luxury with available second-row airline-style seats with heating, cooling, and power-up footrests; they’re business-class seats for sure, but who buys their kids those pricey tickets? Chrysler’s fold-away seats offer supreme flat-floor flexibility without flunking the comfort test. We’d rather tuck a seat than crush a spine with Kia’s technically removable but hefty sliding second-row bench seat. Keep in mind the hybrid Pacifica can’t have AWD—and it also can’t have second-row stow-away seats because of the battery system.

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

All Pacificas come with automatic emergency braking, but the similar and cheaper Voyager models do not, which costs Chrysler a point in the safety rankings. (Voyagers also lack second-row stow-away seats.) Both upsell adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system; Kia also has blind-spot cameras that project info in the instrument cluster, but they’re not as useful in practice as they seem in theory.

Value leans in Kia’s direction, as does standard equipment. The $33,275 Carnival LX has touchscreen infotainment, power sliding side doors, and wireless smartphone charging, but we’d opt in for the mid-range EX for less than $40,000—or the $42,275 Carnival SX and its 12.3-inch touchscreen, cooled power front seats and surround-view camera system. Kia’s 5-year/60,000-year warranty outstrips Chrysler’s average coverage. For about $40,000, the Pacifica Touring L has a 10.1-inch touchscreen, 13-speaker audio, navigation, and superior utility. You can swap some of that usefulness for more efficient electric driving or for all-wheel drive—or you can follow the Carnival out of town.

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