Kia intends to abandon the familiar Sedona minivan nameplate as part of a broader brand shakeup that got underway with the launch of the K5 sedan for 2021 and the introduction of an all-new corporate logo last week.
The automaker is hinting that it will have even more big news to reveal Thursday, Jan. 14, describing it as “a bold transformation.” All these moves, and others to come, are expected to help Kia further distance itself from its South Korean sibling Hyundai.
The decision to drop the Sedona nameplate and switch to the name Carnival for the 2022 model year has been rumored for many months but apparently was locked in stone in documents the Korean carmaker submitted to the National Highway Safety Administration, according to Autoblog.
Exactly what difference that makes is uncertain, at least beyond the obvious marketing implications — industry data showing that it can cost tens of millions of dollars to establish a new nameplate as compared to sticking with a tried-and-true badge. On the other hand, such moves often as seen as necessary for brands setting out to change their image.
The reality is that with only modest differences reflecting individual market preferences and regulatory requirements, Sedona and Carnival have been one and the same vehicle since Kia introduced its minivan line back in 1998. The Sedona name was created specifically for the U.S. market.
Kia’s fourth-generation people mover was unveiled in Seoul last June and adopts a much more aggressive design language than the rather tame look of the current line. That includes a larger, more up-to-date version of the brand’s trademark “tiger-nose” grille, in line with what we see on the wildly popular Kia Telluride. It also picks up the narrower and more sweeping headlights, with LED light strips, as well as the chrome trim framing the SUV’s greenhouse.
However, the Carnival retains clear minivan design elements, most notably the rear sliding doors.
The new minivan also bears the imprint of the mid-range Kia Sorento SUV — with which Carnival will share platforms. That means it’s longer and wider than the outgoing Sedona, with notably more interior and cargo space.
The Carnival will offer an optional twin-screen layout for infotainment and gauges, along with all the other high-tech gear required of a family hauler these days. There’ll also be comfort touches like reclining captains chairs for the center row, and a system allowing parents to see and watch kids all the way in the back.
There are some questions about what powertrains will be offered, the information submitted to NHTSA only showing the 3.5-liter V-6 making 294 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. But Kia also has a 2.2-liter turbodiesel turning out 202 hp and 325 lb-ft. An 8-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive will be standard issue.
Like the handful of rivals who remain in the minivan market, Kia is struggling to build up the cool factor for its minivan and appears to be using the opportunity to launch a complete redesign with less baggage. But it could prove quite a challenge.
According to IHS Markit, the minivan market – which once approached 1.7 million sales a year in the U.S. – will be hard pressed to maintain sales of 300,000 by mid-decade. At the same time, the new Kia Carnival will be going up against three other key competitors that have gone through upgrades recently, including an all-new version of the Toyota Sienna that just recently came to market.