Both offer up to eight seats, but they go about it in different ways.

There are a number of exciting minivans out there these days, and no, we’re not being sarcastic. Although the world seems to prefer SUVs, these family haulers are still selling well, and two of the most recent debutants are the Toyota Sienna and the Kia Carnival, the latter of which was formerly known as the Sedona. Both are stunning vehicles for their class, but while one is traditionally powered, the Japanese contender uses a hybrid powertrain. The result is an astonishing mpg estimate, but can the Carnival outfence the Sienna with its tech? Let’s see how these impressive machines stack up.


Design: Striking and Stylish

As is common these days, both vehicles are fitted with LED headlights. The Carnival fits its on either side of the brand’s signature Tiger-Nose grille. This vehicle calls itself a ‘Grand Utility Vehicle’, so it’s no surprise that its styling is inspired by SUVs (we see a bit of Cadillac Escalade in the C-pillar). 17-inch wheels are standard here, with 19s available. It looks sleek and classy, and we love it.

In the Toyota camp, a massive front grille dominates the face while the profile shows off a very muscular rear arch. Depending on the trim you have, you can get a look that borders on being too sporty, but it fits with the manga styling that Toyota has become a big fan of over the years. Here, you can get wheels as large as 20 inches, but the overall shape is still quite obviously that of a van.

For its cleaner, more modern aesthetics, we give our vote to Kia on this one.

Interior: Tech Meets Comfort

In the all-new Carnival, you can have eight seats, just like with the Sienna. But Kia claims that the Carnival offers best-in-class passenger room with 168.2 cubic feet of volume. That’s pretty cool, but can you spec ottomans in the second row as in the Sienna? No, but you can have heated and ventilated seats back there with power controls. Does the Kia come with a Sienna-rivaling nine-inch touchscreen infotainment display as standard? Again, no. You only get an eight-inch unit, but you can upgrade to a 12.3-inch navigation display with a matching cluster for the driver. The Carnival also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, and a Bose 12-speaker audio system. The Sienna, on the other hand, offers a whopping seven USB ports, Amazon Alexa, and a 12-speaker JBL sound system. Wireless charging is included here too, but overall, the Carnival seems to offer better equipment and more space.

Engines: Size Vs. Electricity

The Kia Carnival is powered by the automaker’s versatile 3.5-liter V6, developing 290 horsepower. This is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and returns 19/26/22 mpg according to the EPA. Maximum towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds. The Sienna shares the same tow rating, but is powered in a completely different way. The Toyota minivan features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is coupled to a pair of electric motors. This helps it produce 243 hp, so the Carnival will likely be a little quicker, but Toyota says the Sienna will return an astonishing 33 mpg. With minivans more focused on getting the job done than getting it done quickly, we’ll give a nod to the Sienna here.

Conclusion: Korean or Japanese?

Both vans are far better than their predecessors and come with a host of safety features that includes forward collision aids with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Both offer premium audio systems, space for up to eight, loads of tech, and striking styling.

But the Carnival seems to outdo the Sienna in almost every way, and with the base model starting at $32,100 and the most expensive SX Prestige trim asking for just over $46,000, the Carnival offers great value. For the Sienna, pricing starts a little higher at $34,460 with its most expensive model just creeping in at under $50k with a base price of $49,900.

The Carnival, therefore, seems like the obvious choice, even if you factor in fuel costs. Toyota has done an excellent job with the new Sienna, but to be able to compete with this new breed of Korean powerhouses, it needs to do a little more. Well done, Kia – you’ve made a masterpiece.