Kia might call the new Kia Sedona a “Grand Utility Vehicle,” but the reality is that it’s a minivan. Does that make it uncool? Absolutely not, especially since it looks this awesome, thanks in part to an incredible headlight design. Check it out.
Jalopnik has been raving about fancy minivans for many, many years. Asia is chock-full of them, and I’ve always wondered what the hell the U.S. has been doing styling all its vans to look like weird bubbles and spaceships (okay, so I do like the GM space vans).
The elegant, current-generation Chrysler Pacifica was a huge step in the right direction, and I think the mid-cycle refresh gives that van an even classier look. I also think the 2021 Toyota Sienna looks both aggressive and elegant. Now it’s nice to see Kia is joining in on the fancy minivan fun, even if the outgoing one didn’t look too bad itself.
What you see here is actually the Kia Carnival, the Korean-market version of what is in other markets, like the U.S., referred to as the Sedona. Kia says the vehicle has some “SUV-inspired design elements,” which I guess I can see. The upright, squared-off rear profile and short-ish overhangs definitely make it look a bit SUV-ish, but the vehicle is long and features sliding doors, so it’s a minivan. There’s no way around that. But that’s okay!
We need to talk about the Carnival’s headlights, because they are amazing. Kia calls the front of its new minivan the “tiger face.” It features a “tiger-nose” grille with high beams integrated into its upper outboard corners. The low beams are at the corners of the front fascia, and an LED daytime running light runs horizontally below then, then rises up to get around a turn signal lamp, flows horizontally inboard, and drops down along the outer diagonal limits of the grille. Down below all of this, outboard of the lower cooling opening and inboard of what looks like air curtain openings, are the fog lamps.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide you, dear readers, input from the world’s foremost expert on automotive lighting literature, Jason Torchinsky. “I think it’s very well done,” Torchinsky told me over our chatroom app, saying the front-end design “manages the complexity of modern lights without feeling overdone or too baroque like so many modern lights.”
“The distinctive DRL will be very easy to identify,” he continued, “and I think the indicator integration is good and I like that it’s visually separate even when off, which I think helps people anticipate where to look.”
“The lights are also integrated into the fascia as a whole as opposed to just being very complex units that are very visually (and literally) separate.”
In the back, there’s a huge horizontal light bar, which includes the same trapezoidal-ish shape as the daytime running lights in the front.
I asked Jason to walk me through what’s going on back here, since, again, it’d be foolish of me not to consult with a taillight expert of his prominence. (Jason refers to himself as Turn Signal Man, and I’m fairly certain he has a full, luminous costume, with cape, to go along with that title).
Jason pointed out that, down below the rear hatch, there’s not only a red reflector on the outboard side and a reverse lamp inboard, but between the two is the indicator. He says he’s not particularly fond of this setup, but notes that Hyundai and Kia seem to be into this turn signal lamp location strategy. In fact, Jason wrote a whole article about the Kona’s taillight setup, which is ridiculous, but again, this man has Turn Signal Man on his birth certificate.
“The DRL [signature] repeated back in the rear is nice, and I like the full bar,” he told me, “but I feel the indicators should be in the upper corner area.”
How does Jason know that the indicators are down below? Because he has an extremely precise internal radar that allows him to spot amber bulbs from miles away:
I feel like I’ve got a bit too far into the weeds with this whole lighting thing, but the point is that the 2021 Kia Carnival—which will hit the Korean market in the third quarter of this year—looks awesome. I hope the U.S.-market Sedona looks exactly the same as what we see here.