When I was a kid, I thought our minivan was the coolest car on the block. While its looks or practicality meant nothing to me, my dad somehow rigged up a VCR player with a tiny TV inside, which for a kid, was the best thing ever. Holding my VHS tapes of My Neighbour Totoro, The Lion King, or 101 Dalmatians, I would proudly brag to my friends not about my family road trip to Disney World but that we would get to watch movies the whole way down. In the early ’90s, that was unheard of.

Looking back at that big family road trip with our boxy Mazda MPV, my mom said, “It was such a quiet trip with the VCR. Two days of no complaining.” NO COMPLAINING. If anyone has spent any time with children, no complaining is nothing short of a miracle. Not one single, “Are we there yet?” meant the VCR and that minivan were worth their weight in gold.

Fast forward to summer 2021 and I agree to sacrifice a week of precious vacation days to accompany my boyfriend and his two kids, aged 7 and 11, to a cottage that’s a few minutes’ walk to the beach. This is odd because 1) I don’t particularly enjoy the company of most kids, and 2) I’m not really a beach person.

My promise to accompany them for a whole week creates a lot of anxiety – it’s a huge responsibility! I’ve never spent more than two nights with the kids (and even that can be tricky sometimes), and more often than not, I’m buried in work. But with a long drive and a whole week of cottaging and family duties ahead, I need to make this work. I want to play the role of “fun, supportive adult/role model” and I want to show up for these kids, perhaps in a way that I’ve never been able to do before.

The Answer is Minivan

My little hatchback isn’t going to cut it. I think back to my childhood and a light bulb goes off. I need a minivan! The 2022 Kia Carnival (previously called the Sedona) has been completely reworked, making a vehicle that was already family-friendly even more so. From some angles, it doesn’t even look like a minivan, giving Ford Expedition vibes instead of the traditional breadbox. With its floating roof design, planted stance, sharp creases, smart details, and lightning-bolt LED headlights, I would even say the Carnival looks cool. I immediately thought it would be the right tool I need to make this trip work.

The minivan segment is small but mighty. The only ones left are really good at what they do, and with most of them getting recent overhauls, I’m in awe of all the incredible features that put my childhood VCR van to shame.

Cavernous Cargo Capacity

Naturally, kids require loads of stuff. The Kia Carnival’s 2,461 L of cargo space behind the second row easily swallowed the incredible amount of provisions we need to pack for a week away.

I love how the third row easily tumbles flat into the floor (you can do it with one hand) and when upright, it leaves a massive, deep well big enough to hold 1,139 L of stuff. With all rows folded, a cave-like 4,110 L opens up. That’s about three times more than a typical truck bed can hold.

Even with pool noodles, boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas, coolers full of food, boxes of groceries, toilet paper, stacks of towels, scooters, helmets, two huge garbage bags full of bedding for four, and two suitcases full of clothing haphazardly tossed into the back of the Carnival with the third row stowed away, there is still room to spare. The cargo-carrying capacity of minivans will never cease to amaze me. Plus, we manage to load the Carnival up the night before we leave. Things are going well already.

A Mobile Living Room

As soon as we pick them up, they exclaim, “We love this car!” and they’re immediately obsessed with the Carnival’s automatic sliding doors. They love having sliding doors – their mother has a truck, so there’s some delicate handling required every time they exit the truck to avoid smashing the doors into other cars. They also appreciate having a handle to help hoist them inside and that the middle seat in the second-row bench folds down so they can use it as a table and have more cupholders at their disposal.

It also means there won’t be any of the classic complaints of “She hit me!” or “She’s in my space!” My mom recalls that when I was a kid I lodged a complaint against my sister for “breathing my air.” It was probably while we were waiting for a movie to rewind on the VCR….

We soon discover the Carnival’s passenger camera, which shows a live feed of the second and third row on the touchscreen display. They love putting on a show, so they’re endlessly entertained by asking us to turn on the camera so they can sing and dance and make silly faces, like they’re on YouTube broadcasting to the world.

While the 2022 Kia Carnival doesn’t have a VCR – my boyfriend’s kids wouldn’t even know what that is [nor would most university students these days… – Ed.] – we make good use of the multiple USB ports to keep their tablets charged up. With games pre-downloaded, they are entertained during the entire ride up to the cottage. We even make a game of counting how many cupholders the Carnival has. We’re still not completely sure, but there are plenty and the kids claim they counted at least 10.

Final Thoughts

Time and time again during our week with the 2022 Kia Carnival, I found myself thinking how much more difficult this week of parenting would be without a vehicle like this. I’m not saying I’m now on board with parenting full-time – it’s an enormous undertaking and I’ve only scratched the surface – but the Kia Carnival makes the experience easier.

In the end, my boyfriend’s kids seemed to have a genuinely fun time, full of great memories they’ll hopefully remember when they’re my age. I managed to overcome some mental hurdles to help make that happen, but it likely wouldn’t have been possible without the added practicality and family-friendly features in the Carnival. Those memories will be tied to the minivan, just like they were when I was a kid.