Kia Thinks It Killed The Minivan And Replaced It With The Dumb ‘Grand Utility Vehicle’

Once upon a time, somebody looked at the burgeoning popularity of SUVs and crossovers and thought, “What if we made it easier to get in those and pitched it to families?” I’m, of course, talking about the Dodge Grand Caravan, but Kia thinks I’m talking about them.

Why is Kia so confused? Well, according to the latest teaser for the automaker’s upcoming new car, it’s another one in a long line of hopeful companies thinking they’ve found a way to reinvent the minivan to its former sales glory.

2021 Kia Carnival / Sedona (Image: Kia)

Nothing says “the volume of pressures both large and small in my life no longer grant me the capacity for individual expression or artistic indulgence,” like buying a minivan. Automakers have long tried to remedy that perception issue by making vans more practical, with vacuums, intercoms and the like, while also curiously warping the simple box shape into horrible-looking automobiles.

But Kia asked us to forget the past of the Sedona minivan and the like, for it has a new, better attempt at the minivan: the ‘Grand Utility Vehicle.” I’m not making this up.

The teaser above is for the South Korean Kia Carnival van, though the current generation is marketed and sold as the Kia Sedona in the U.S. This latest design comes from the automaker’s South Korean design studio, and along with new made-up vehicle designation, it’s design has pivoted more to the aggressive, boxy and tall SUV stature, over the more straightforward, wide and low van look. At least that’s how it’s meant to look in the teaser sketch.

Notable changes are the squared-off profile lines with a blacked-out C-pillar, a familar trait you’ll see on most modern SUVs, including the latest Chevy Suburban, GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, Kia Telluride, and other modern large SUVs.

The van door gutter blends seamlessly into a strong character line running under the windows, and the roofline now has gently negative slope tailing off the rear of the boxed-over rear-end. The changes make the Sedona appear to sit higher, like an off-roader, and touches like the new aggressive front fascia accents help signal the new direction.

Of course, this is not the first attempt as reinventing the minivan. Ironically, the current Chrysler Pacifica more embraced the design legacy of the minivan, with a larger greenhouse and a familiar van-like teardrop silhouette. The current Honda Odyssey employs character lines that run nowhere, in what I fear was a desperate attempt to cut at a design until it stood out and felt modern. All along, somebody should have just been slapping door runners on a three-row SUV they already sold.

The South Korean market will get the new Carnival this year after its debut in the summer, but if we’re still getting the converted Sedona version, it will likely go on sale in the U.S. as a 2021 model year car early next year.

Regardless of whether the new not-van is good or not, I can’t get over the new acronym they’ve come up. They want us to call minivans “GUV.” “Ello, GUV!” It just might catch on in some markets.