2022 Kia Carnival vs. 2021 Toyota Sienna: Compare Minivans

Minivans may not get the attention of three-row crossover SUVs, but the redesigned 2022 Kia Carnival and redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna narrow the gap between SUVs by different measures.

This year, the Toyota Sienna comes standard with a hybrid powertrain that gets up to 36 mpg combined, making it the most efficient three-row vehicle available without a plug. The Kia Carnival replaces the minivan formerly known as the Sedona, and brings with it a style that could easily be mistaken for an SUV, if not for the power sliding doors. 

Even though the 2022 Kia Carnival’s TCC Rating of 7.2 edges the 2021 Toyota Sienna’s rating of 7.0 out of 10, the differences between these minivans run deeper than style versus economy. 

From the outside, both minivans adopt SUV elements from their three-row counterparts but with big box rear ends better to fit stuff from big box stores. The Sienna flexes the same rising line that bulges over the rear wheel as the 2021 Toyota Highlander, but the rear end bulges in that characteristic minivan way. The front end is all mesh lower grille topped by a horseshoe hood that calls to mind the PT Cruiser.

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

The 2022 Kia Carnival sticks to the SUV mimicry more deliberately with squared-off ends and a rear end with an integrated roof spoiler and fake skid plate. In profile, the Carnival uses the triangular rear pillar of the Telluride SUV and has similarly muscular wheel arches housing 17- or 19-inch wheels. The front features distinct daytime running lights that frame the waterfall grille in a countenance that’s as broad and tall as many SUVs. The Carnival gets the edge outside. 

Inside, Kia slaps high-gloss black plastic on the door panels and console, set off by diamond-patterned aluminum trim on top models. The open, airy cockpit headlines either a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen or available 12.3-inch touchscreen, and a clever wireless smartphone charging garage in the console highlights the smart use of space. USB ports in the inner sides of the front seats make for easy charging for second-row passengers, and the front passenger seat on top SX Prestige trim has a power button in the same spot for the driver to adjust the second row for more leg room or for a dose of modern chivalry. It’s a small thing, but a cool thing, much like the twin power sunroofs over the first and second rows.  

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

2022 Kia Carnival, silver, and 2021 Toyota Sienna, green

The Sienna optimizes interior space better, with a wood-like shelf separating the dash that’s wide enough to hold smartphones. Protruding out of a center stack topped with a 9.0-inch touchscreen, a two-tiered console sacrifices elbow room for a console wide and deep enough to be found on a pickup truck. It also has a lower shelf of cupholders for second-row riders. 

Even though the second-row seats in the Sienna can no longer be removed because of airbag placement, nearly every model has second-row captain’s chairs that can slide 25 inches to optimize space and ease entry into the back. The third row offers up to 38.7 inches of leg room, making it roomy enough for two adults to sit in all three rows in comfort. From the liftgate, pull the handle with one hand and the 60/40-split seats tumble into the well. We’d skip the cargo bins Toyota put in the tester; they help organize stuff into two compartments but eat up space. Collapsing the third row expands cargo volume from 33.5 cubic feet to 75.2 cubic feet, and sliding the second row all the way up enables enough room to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood, Toyota says. Can’t do that in mid-size three-row SUVs. 

The Carnival’s cargo room is even better, thanks to more vertical space afforded by its long, high roof. The third row collapses just as easily into the well to expand cargo volume from 40.2 cubic feet to 86.9 cubes. With the seats in place, third-row leg room isn’t as great at 35.6 inches, but all seven seats felt comfier. 

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

Both vans come standard with eight seats, but seven will be the most common configuration. Top trims offer power reclining captain’s chairs with flip up leg rests that sound better on paper than they work in practice. We didn’t get to test Toyota’s, but in either model there cannot be a third-row rider behind the reclined second-row seats, and we still had to move forward the front-row seats to get the footrest all the way up in the Carnival. It’s best for 4-foot and under passengers, but we’re not sold on the upcharge. 

Though the Sienna’s interior is more flexible, the Carnival has better cargo room and technology. The rear entertainment system mounted in the front seat backs is superior not just for allowing each rider their own screen, but because the single screen that drops down from the roof of the Sienna obstructs the rearview mirror for the driver. With the smaller 8.0-inch screen on the Carnival, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, but the available 12.3-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with a blind-spot camera that detects approaching cyclists or cars are worth the upgrade. 

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

The Sienna’s infotainment still feels a generation behind, and while it has all the functionality of the Carnival it’s not as intuitive to use or as customizable. Both vans come with an available bird’s eye camera that lets front riders check the screen for the action going on behind them, and both come standard with excellent safety tech including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, a driver-attention monitor, and automatic high beams. The Sienna gets the edge here with standard adaptive cruise control.

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

2022 Kia Carnival

The 2021 Toyota Sienna also excels when it comes to powertrains. Standard in front-wheel drive or available with all-wheel drive, the Sienna pairs a 2.5-liter inline-4 with an electric motor and planetary-gear system to make 245 hp with its standard hybrid powertrain. It might not be as quick as Kia’s 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which only comes with front-wheel drive, but it gets a deal-making EPA-rated 36 mpg city, 36 highway, 36 combined. All-wheel drive knocks it down 1 mpg combined. The Carnival sounds like a dinosaur guzzling dinosaur juice by comparison at 19/26/22 mpg. 

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

The Carnival’s 8-speed automatic shifts effortlessly and almost imperceptibly, and the ride remains far removed from road inconsistencies. It’s smooth, quiet, and dull for the driver. The Sienna is similarly cushioned from road noise, but the steering has more connection with the road, and it handles better than the Carnival by marginal degrees. Both vans can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The 2022 Kia Carnival has more style and better tech than the 2021 Toyota Sienna, but available all-wheel drive and a standard hybrid powertrain give Toyota the edge when it comes to practicality. The Carnival has the edge on price, however, averaging about $2,000 less than the Sienna across trim levels.

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