First Look Review: The 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid raises its standards

  • First-ever Kia Carnival Hybrid gets a 242-horsepower system
  • Delivers 14.0 km/l (32.9 MPG) in South Korea
  • An EPA-est. fuel economy of around 35 MPG is possible in the electrified minivan
  • Officially expected to launch in the U.S. in Summer 2024

The fourth-gen Kia Carnival has received a facelift, and with the mid-life update, the minivan’s range has seen the addition of a Hybrid variant. On February 8, 2024, the 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid received the green signal for U.S. launch. I have seen the new hybrid minivan in person and explored its features, comfort, and space, to understand what’s new. Here are my first impressions:

Design

The 2025 Kia Carnival, including the first-ever Kia Carnival Hybrid, features considerable visual changes. The facelifted minivan gains vertical headlamps with large light guides that stretch inwards over a boxier radiator grille. I don’t find the inserts of the new upper grille attractive, but I think its wide footprint should give the hybrid minivan a good road presence.

The new grille and headlamps emphasize the minivan’s wide body and lend its front fascia a more dominating look, elevating its SUV-ishness. The XL-size, amber LED DRLs ensure that people recognize the new minivan even from a good distance. The twin-module fog lamps on each side of the lower grille also contribute to the elevated SUV-like appearance of the updated minivan.

On the sides, in line with Kia’s newfound interest in geometric designs, the new Carnival flaunts technical-looking alloy wheels, which the company plans to offer in 17- to 19-inch size options. The black wheels I saw on the hybrid minivan didn’t look particularly appealing. Kia says a 17-inch aero design will be exclusively available on the hybrid variant, and I’m keen to see if turns out to be better on the road.

At the rear, the vertical tail lamps of the hybrid minivan remind me of the 2024 Seltos. I observed that the tailgate is also new, with the license plate area located in the lower section, not the upper section like on the current model. Another difference that I noted is that the brand logo is bigger and located separately on the tailgate.

Kia manufactures the Carnival Hybrid at its Sohari plant in Gwangmyeong, South Korea. After spending some time closely looking at its exterior, I noticed that its panel gaps aligned evenly. As for paint consistency and thickness, the Koreans have nailed it!

Interior

Inside, the Kia Carnival Hybrid has a revised dashboard that neatly integrates a thin ultra-wide ambient light stripe below the AC vents. It features a new panel in a proper rectangular shape to integrate the 12.3-inch cockpit displays and give a more harmonious look to the interior. I think the lower height of the frame of this panel leads to improved forward visibility.

When I sat in the driver’s seat, I first checked for all-around visibility. The large glass surfaces and flat panels make it easy to see out of the car, with my only complaint being the base of the A-Pillar, which is a bit thick. I noticed that while the gas-powered outgoing Carnival has a regular IRVM, the Carnival Hybrid features a digital IRVM that can show the live feed from a rear camera when the view in the optical mode is compromised because of tall passengers in the rear seats or tall luggage in the cargo area.

Also new in the 2025 Carnival Hybrid is a switchable touch-operated panel that doubles as a controller for both the climate control system and the infotainment system. The exclusion of the separate, relatively bigger climate control panel of the outgoing model has led to a cleaner look, but at the cost of reduced practicality. Another change in the center console is the replacement of three USB-A ports with two USB-C ports. In total, there are seven USB-C ports in the cabin. The biggest upgrade here, however, is a premium, dial-type gear selector with a knurled finish instead of the outgoing Carnival’s gear shift lever.

Advanced ultrawideband-based Digital Key 2.0 allows customers to lock and unlock the doors conveniently with their smartphones without needing to hold them. They can also share this key with their friends and family. Lastly, the Carnival Hybrid supports OTA software updates and packs several new features like a full-color head-up display and Highway Driving Assist 2 (HDA 2).

I’m six feet tall, so I expected some issues with entering the 2025 Carnival Hybrid. What I found out was that the ingress was simple, with the ground clearance, seat height, and aperture all aiding my entry. In the first row, my head was well below the headliner. The lumbar support was good, while the under-thigh support felt generous.

In the second row, sitting right behind the driver’s seat that was adjusted for a six-foot-tall person, I had ample legroom and knee room since the captain’s chairs were adjustable. The electrical recline function ensures comfort for a wide range of passengers. The under-thigh support was very good, and I had ample headroom. Since the captain’s chairs were mounted slightly inward, getting out of the vehicle required a bit more stretching.

Kia has developed a new rear-seat entertainment system for the second row of the Carnival Hybrid. This system includes two 14.6-inch full-HD displays, both attached to the backrests of the first-row seats. It can stream media content from popular platforms, and its content keeps getting updated over the air. In the third row, the ingress felt a bit uncomfortable, as that part of the cabin is designed for shorter adults and children.

2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid rear entertainment system
The 2025 Carnival Hybrid features a new rear-seat entertainment system with dual 14.6-inch full-HD displays, streaming capabilities, and over-the-air content updates.

Specifications

1.6L Hybrid powertrain

The 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter turbocharged gas engine with a 54 kW motor and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine and motor together produce 242 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque. When driving in Eco or Smart mode, the driver will be able to adjust the intensity of regenerative braking in three levels, using paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Other HEV-specific functions include E-Ride for reduced vehicle shaking when passing speed bumps, E-Handling for increased steering response and stability during cornering, and E-EHA (Electrically Evasive Handling Assist) for turning stability. E-EHA’s control principle is similar to E-Handling, but its difference is that it activates when cameras and radar detect the risk of a frontal collision.

2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid side profile
With the Carnival gas and hybrid variants in the bag, is it time for Kia to take a shot at an all-electric minivan?

MPG

We expect the Carnival Hybrid to be significantly more efficient than the Carnival 3.5L V6, which returns an EPA-est. fuel economy of 22 MPG (combined). In the U.S., we expect the Carnival Hybrid to be return around 35 MPG. While the gas-powered Carnival has an EPA-est. range 418 miles, the Carnival Hybrid’s range on a full tank could be well over 525 miles. That would mean far fewer stops at gas stations. Note that these are our estimates.

Release date

The 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid is officially expected to go on sale in the U.S. in summer 2024. It will be available in LXS, EX, SX, and SX Prestige trims.

The Kia Carnival’s sales in the U.S. declined by 22% (5,449 units) in 2022 to 19,706 units (2021: 25,155 units). However, things have started to look up for the S.Korean minivan. In 2023, Kia registered its highest demand ever for the Carnival, with sales of 43,687 units, an improvement of 93 percent over 2022. The facelift and addition of a hybrid variant should help Kia strengthen its presence in the segment.

TopElectricSUV says

The Kia Carnival Hybrid can be a great value-for-money minivan with significantly lower fuel consumption and a notably higher range than the V6-powered vehicle. In fuel economy, it should be able to match Toyota’s Sienna Hybrid, or at least come close to, and attract a new set of customers towards the Kia brand.

Also See: First Look Review: 2024 Kia EV9 offers comfort, space, features but at a price

2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid FAQs

What is the 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid’s release date?

The 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid is expected to be launched in the U.S. in Summer 2024.

What will be the 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid’s price?

The 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid could be priced from around USD 36,000.

Which models will be the 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid’s rivals?