The Kia Carnival accounts for half of people-mover sales Down Under, but after three years is the big Kia still ahead of the game?
What we liked:
• Interior space
• Smooth, tractable engine
• Plenty of features
Not so much:
• Foot-operated park brake
• Wheel spin off the mark
• Spare wheel position
What’s it all about?
The third-generation Kia Carnival arrived in 2015 and this is the Carnival SLi CRDi, which sits below the premium Platinum and above entry-level S and Si. We’ve already tested the Carnival Si CRDi.
How much will it cost?
The Kia Carnival SLi starts at $52,490, but as tested with Premium Paint ($695) it costs $53,185 (plus on-road costs). There are no current deals being offered for the Carnival, an upgraded version of which arrives by mid-2018.
Premium Paint is the only factory option, while local dealer-fit accessories range from a $99 cargo organiser to a $1103 towbar kit (including towbar, hitch, wiring and fitting).
The Carnival comes with Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty with unlimited kilometres for private use. For business use such as rental vehicles or hire cars, it’s seven years/150,000km.
Free roadside assist is offered for the first year of ownership; it is extended every year that the Carnival is then serviced by a Kia dealer.
Capped-price servicing is available for seven years/105,000km, the price capped (at the time of writing) at $3407 for the period. Service intervals are one-year/15,000km.
Why should I buy it?
The Carnival comes loaded with standard gear, including leather seat trim, electric adjustment for the driver, power-operated sliding side doors and tailgate, sat-nav (with traffic information), 8.0-inch centre touch-screen and dual front/single rear climate control.
You have to stump up the extra $8800 for the Platinum to get features like heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, 360-degree camera, active cruise control and autonomous braking.
The Carnival feels wide when squeezing down the narrow streets of Sydney’s inner-west (and for good reason: at 1985mm it’s the widest people-mover on the market) but it has a good turning circle and its camera and sensors help make parking simple.
The Carnival has a spacious cabin. There’s a heap of leg, head and shoulder room for all occupants.
Seats do not have much side support but then you don’t feel as though you’ll fall off them at the first corner. The seating is really versatile with, for example, a 40/20/40-split second row with outer seats that cantilever to allow third-row access. The fore-aft sliding second row won’t bite the ankles of the third rowers — even when set back there’s still plenty of foot/leg room.
The Kia Carnival SLi is easy to drive, with simplicity being the theme for controls and instruments. However, the foot-operated park brake comes from The Brady Bunch era. How about an electric park brake, Kia?
The Carnival’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel is smooth, quiet and has very little turbo lag while the six-speed auto gets on with the job of changing gear without a fuss.
There’s plenty of the turbo-diesel’s meaty mid-range torque to get you bubbling along to school drop-off in time. Perhaps a bit too much though when taking off from a standing start from a junction — as you turn the corner you’ll get the inside front wheel to spin.
With big outgoings for things such as Bronsyn’s haiku tuition you’ll appreciate the Carnival’s low appetite for fuel. We achieved 7.1L/100km during highway cruising and an average of 10.3L/100km around town.
There’s not much athletic ability in the Carnival’s DNA. The steering’s neither precise nor has much feel and the Carnival has a solid grasp of the concept of understeer when pushed hard, but none of that really matters to most buyers.
What probably does is that the Carnival doesn’t have any dynamic vices and has a supple ride. It’s only when you’re heading out of town to Hortense’s jousting tournament that you notice the front suspension wallows a bit on rough secondary roads.
Forget airbags, ABS or even autonomous driving; the big improvement in automotive technology in the last 30 years has to be the drink holder. Nothing exemplifies the advances in hydration-assist than the Carnival. There are 14 drink holders (four in the centre console, one in each door, two in the second-row centre seat back and two each side in the third row).
If your children suffer screen deprivation anxiety, you’ll be comforted to know that there are three USB ports (and three 12-volt sockets) in the Carnival (one of each in the front console, the deep centre bin and one on the back of the centre console).
When is it available in Australia?
The Kia Carnival has been on sale in Australia since 2015, with 2.2-litre turbo-diesel or 3.3-litre V6 petrol engines.
Who will it appeal to?
The Kia Carnival SLi has a clear mandate, and that is to move up to eight people and their luggage around in relative comfort. It clearly appeals to families with lots of kids but also to commercial operators such as rental car companies and hire car operators.
The third-row seats are stored in a deep well under the floor so when they are raised there’s a massive 960-litre boot space available.
All that boot space has meant Kia had to find somewhere less orthodox to fit the temporary spare wheel. It’s under the right side of the vehicle at about its midpoint — not ideal if you’re changing a wheel on the roadside.
If you have four children that need to travel in baby capsules or child seats, there are tether points for each in the Carnival (and three Isofix mounting points).
The Carnival has a surprisingly high 2000kg towing capacity. That means it’ll tow most camper-trailers and single-axle caravans.
Where does it fit?
The Kia Carnival SLi sits in the VFACTS people-mover segment where so far this year it accounts for more than half the sales volume.
Key rivals include Honda Odyssey, Hyundai iMax and Volkswagen Multivan. Other competitors include the LDV G10, Mercedes-Benz V-Class and Toyota Tarago.
So, what do we think?
With the Carnival Kia seems to be bucking the industry trend of releasing a new or refreshed model every five minutes. Yet after three years on sale, the Carnival is just as relevant to its segment as it still offers the right blend of space, comfort and features.
2018 Kia Carnival SLi CRDi pricing and specifications:
- Price: $53,185 (plus on-road costs)
- Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Output: 147kW/440Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Fuel: 7.7L/100km (ADR Combined)
- CO2: 199g/km (ADR Combined)
- Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP