The Kia Carnival was Australia’s favourite people mover almost immediately after arriving in 1999, and after over 15 years – the Carnival has proven itself as the go-to family vehicle.
We drove one of the first new Carnivals to arrive at Motorama Kia, to see if it’s up to scratch.
After nearly a decade of service, the Grand Carnival is retiring – handing over the reigns to a new generation that hopes to take the throne once again in the fight for a spot in the family budget.
Certainly compared to anything else in the segment, the Carnival is one of the sleekest offerings.
Stepping inside, Kia has carried the premium touches to the interior. On the Si, soft touch trim and a clean, sophisticated dash centred around the 8” full touch colour LCD screen gives it an air of luxury. The one thing you'll notice about the cabin is the space; there's enough room to stretch out and manage to not hit anything for a while. The drivers seat is luxuriously supportive, well bolstered on the corners.
The turbo diesel is smooth from a standstill and powerful at speed, despite being smaller than the V6 petrol variant offered in the Carnival range. Fuel usage is kept at a miserly 7.7L/100km for combined urban/highway driving. In our test, we were able to achieve 10.0L/100km on the dash computer in a city-biased drive, with a sprint around town and then finally out on the highway to get to footy training, bringing our Carnival pretty close to the official ‘urban’ fuel usage cited by Kia (9.7L/100km.)
Acceleration is quick for a car that’s hauling north of two tonnes, while handling has been sharpened considerably since the last model was born; moving between lanes is precise and effortless, the Carnival really putting the ‘move’ in ‘people mover.’
The six-speed auto transmission is flawlessly smooth, moving up and down the range with no hesitation or sudden gear changes. Cornering is more precise than in some other large cars – with little body roll to show for the heft of the car. U-Turns aren't daunting at all, a nimble turning circle of 11.2m keeping the Carnival sorted in narrow car parks and tight side streets. Visibility is not a problem, large mirrors plus a reversing camera and rear parking sensors allow you to get a handle on what's happening around the car.
On the road, the Carnival has clearly been tuned to suit all 8 passengers. Sitting in the drivers seat is no longer a chore to haul the family truck around, Kia has tuned the Carnival for Australian roads to provide a more spirited ride – it’s no sports car, but you won’t be bored to death either with sharper steering, smoother suspension and a livelier driving dynamic.
The foot operated parking brake isn’t intrusive at all – your can rest safely in the footwell without fear of bringing the car to a sudden stop. Braking is nicely adjusted, quickly and safely bring two tonnes to a stop without any hesitation.
Inside, the Carnival has genuine space for seven passengers and their everyday stuff, lowering the third-row will leave you with a five-seater that can carry everyone’s luggage back from the airport and stowing all six rear seats will give you enough room to throw a dinner party with 4022 litres of usable space.
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to seating, the rear seats as well as the middle centre row seat are removable to free up space and access in the cabin. We got five adults into the Carnival, one in the front passenger seat and two on each row of seating with no complaints about space.
Despite losing a few millimetres in length and height from the last model, the new Carnival sits on a longer wheelbase which means inside space has improved even though the outside has slimmed down. Access to the rear seats has never been easier, with the outside centre row sliding easily out of the way – our passengers certainly weren’t squeezed in between a narrow gap to get to their seats.
The centre console could store a two-tiered wedding cake with space left over to throw in a travel umbrella. The cooling glove box (standard on SLi and Platinum models) can keep a couple of water bottles from losing their chill. Handy storage around the cabin means nobody will intrude on anyone else’s space, USB points are included meaning devices can charge while entertaining the troops at the back.
At the time of writing, the Carnival has not been ANCAP-tested, but is expected to score a 4-star rating – thanks to stringent new rules introduced at the start of the year. ANCAP knocked the new people mover out of qualifying for the fifth star by requiring seatbelt reminders on second-row fixed seats, which Carnivals that have already been complied for sale do not have. A factory update due in August 2015 from Kia will address this issue and bump it back up to 5-stars on paper, but it’s is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.
Especially considering that the Carnival plays to win when it comes to safety in every other aspect, with six airbags, 3-point ELR seatbelts on all seating positions, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, rear view camera and reverse-parking sensors standard on entry-level models. Moving up through the range, you’ll gain active safety measures including dusk sensing auto headlamps, forward collision detection, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection and lane-change assist depending on the model.
As tested, the Carnival Si Diesel will set you back $47,990 – with premium paint at an additional cost.
All figures are recommended retail prices and exclude on road costs.
Premium paint is available with Bright Silver, Platinum Graphite and Deep Blue adding colour if you don’t want the standard Clear White. (Aurora Black is only available on SLi and Platinum models.)
The Carnival is covered by Kia’s 7 year, unlimited kilometre warranty with 7 years of capped price servicing and roadside assist thrown in for good measure. Servicing intervals are at 15,000kms or every 12 months, whichever occurs first.
After so many years at the top, Kia is looking to reclaim its status as Australia’s top selling people mover; with a new look, as well as an updated, user-friendly interior.
Aimed squarely at families and corporate fleet buyers – the Carnival offers the best of both worlds as a spacious everyday barge that can be transformed into a luxury people mover at the drop of a hat.
Motorama Kia has demo models of the new Carnival to test drive now, so you can get the whole crew in to see it in action.