A stretched-out Carnival is the answer to our traffic woes

In an attempt to milk the popular Kia Carnival — it’s the Kia Sedona in the U.S. — Kia is finding new and inventive ways of offering the minivan in different shapes and guises. Fresh from mixing SUV styling to the minivan’s aesthetics, Kia has taken the unconventional step of adding another version to the Carnival lineup, this time of the limousine persuasion.

Say hello to the 2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine, a retooled version of the luxury minivan that comes with a higher roof and plenty of new creature comforts to justify its billing. Somewhere, the Toyota Alphard must be shaking in its boots.

What’s with the Kia Carnival Hi Limousine?

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine
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You have to give it to Kia. The Korean automaker has had the Carnival — again, it’s the Sedona here in the U.S. — in its lineup since 1998, and it’s still finding inventive ways to make the minivan more appealing than it probably is.

Granted, this isn’t the first time that the Carnival has had a limousine trim. The third-general model, which is still being sold in certain parts of the world, was offered in the same guise, albeit sometime in the middle part of its life. That’s what makes this one different.

The fourth-generation Carnival was only revealed in June 2020 — that’s five months ago — and a limousine version is already available in South Korea.

What’s so cool about the Kia Carnival Hi-Limousine?

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine
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Before you get excited about Kia’s new pride and joy, you need to remember that the Kia Carnival Hi Limousine still looks like the fourth-generation Carnival. No changes were made to the minivan’s front and rear sections. The length of the minivan doesn’t change, either. What’s different, though, is that “box” you see on top of the van.

No, it’s not an aftermarket cargo storage unit, even if it looks like one. It’s actually a raised roof, which is one of the more important features of the Carnival Hi Limousine. Presumably, Kia shot down any suggestions of using a new platform with a longer wheelbase to create the Carnival Hi Limo. That option would’ve been time-consuming, not to mention costly. So instead of stretching the Carnival, Kia decided to make it taller by adding a raised roof and opening all sorts of headroom space inside the minivan.

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine Interior
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This plays directly into the already cavernous cabin of the Carnival, which, by the way, is why this model is called the Hi Limousine. The interior is massive and it’s well-appointed. It still seats seven people, but the second-row seats are now seats for kings. Two large captain seats complete with recliners and footrests will knock you out the second you seat on them. There’s more space in the back, too, and, in case you need some privacy, pleated curtains like the ones you see in traditional limos can give you all the privacy you need.

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine Interior
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Once you’re sitting and completely relaxed, a massive 21.5-inch monitor that’s hanging from the roof can be one of your sources of entertainment. LED reading lights are also available, as is a built-in air purifier, and enough ambient lighting to make you feel like you’re inside a cocoon of luxury.

What else can we expect from the Kia Carnival Hi Limousine?

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine Interior
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There are no engine upgrades in case you’re looking for one. But there are plenty of advanced driver assistance features, a lot of which are new to the Carnival. Lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection, and forward collision-avoidance assist with car, cyclist, and pedestrian detection all come standard in the Carnival Hi Limousines. Kia also added a semi-autonomous Level 2 driving system and a Safe Exit Assist system that prevents the doors from opening if the car detected an oncoming vehicle.

Can we expect the Kia Carnival Hi Limousine to reach the U.S. market?

2021 Kia Carnival Hi Limousine
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Don’t count on it, and even if it does, it probably won’t arrive for a while. As it is, Kia’s U.S. website still shows the previous-generation Sedona as the 2021 model so the earliest we can get the next-generation Sedona will be next year for the 2022MY.

Even then, it’s not a foregone conclusion that a limousine trim will be offered in the market. Even if it does, it’ll probably be called something different, too. Maybe the Sedona Super Limo or the Sedona XL or something of that sort.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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