Need space for eight? Join Kia's Carnival
Motoring journalists - and parents - Grant Edwards and Vani Naidoo review the eight-seater 2015 Kia Carnival.
MALIGNED with a lifeless stigma, the people-mover is regarded as a curse by many.
Some say it's a sign they've the owners have given up on life and resigned themselves to the routine of soccer training, regularly supermarket sojourns and decades of sticky fingers showing no respect for vehicle interiors.
But the new Kia Carnival has a swagger that which aims to break the nexus.
Grant: The redesigned front end is a hint there is something different about the new Carnival.
The SUV-like styling gives a bold new look, and it's actually not a bad thing to look at, considering its the ability to haul a netball team and its coach.
Vani: Kia has done well to pep up the exterior of this Carnival, and the new grille and bolder new lines are obviously in keeping with the rest of the range.
In the end, it is still quite van-like, but do the people who need a vehicle of this size really care? Doubt it.
When you have to carry four kids and their friends, just getting them all in is a victory. And so glad they have stuck with the sliding doors - it makes getting the kids in and out a breeze, especially in tight car spaces a breeze.
The Carnival's strength has always been practicality and this one is no different.
G: Electric sliding doors are a boon for easy access and the Carnival remains the segment leader for seating flexibility.
We regularly travel with a bike, four adults and two kids, along with associated suitcases, and it has proven the practicality winner for the ease with in which the seats drop into the floor for an excellent load space.
V: The interior space is truly incredible. We moved a couple of bulky armchairs during our week in the Carnival and it gobbled them up effortlessly. I like how easy it is to raise and lower the seats, too.
There have been noticeable changes to the interior, especially up front, and with great storage ideas and 10 cup holders no one is going to go thirsty.
G: Through the console there are some brilliant storage options, including a deep centre console, and plugging your phone or MP3 player into the USB or 12-volt port is easy just below the stereo.
Everything works cohesively, the central touch-screen is within easy reach and the driver has nice, crisp displays. The leather seat trim is great, too, for family travels.
V: It certainly has all the niceties drivers seem to expect these days and our top-of-the-range model was brimming with features including power adjustable, heated and ventilated seats; tri-zone climate control; sat nav; HID headlights and adaptive cruise control. The sunshades on the second and third row are a nice touch.
A good reverse camera with parking sensors and an excellent turning circle make it easy to park, too.
G: The greatest omission is a five-star safety rating. ANCAP only gave the Carnival only four after the head-on test found there was the potential of serious injury to the legs and feet of the driver - ...even though the North American Highway Safety Institute gave it full marks.
V: And despite the car offering other safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning (in the Platinum model), four stars instead of five will be a consideration for buyers. I know it would be for me. On the plus side, though, it does travel well for a people-mover
G: Powered by a 2.2-litre diesel, this model gets along swiftly. It's remarkably quiet, too, although the steering can be vague at times - probably not the greatest concern for drivers who are hardly likely to be punting it into a bend with enthusiasm. Parking can be a bit of a challenge due to the sheer size, and you do need to make full use of the sensors.
V: The handling is pretty predictable but it feels fairly balanced and does well with bumps and irregularities on what are not the best roads in the world. It can be heavy around corners, especially the really tight ones when the back ends takes a moment to get around, but it is enthusiastic under acceleration
G: Not glossing over the safety aspect, I still rate the Carnival higher than the key competition, including the new Honda Odyssey VTi-L ($46,040), Toyota Tarago GLX V6 ($57,490), Volkswagen Multivan TDI400 ($56,990) and the Hyundai iMax SLX CRDi ($41,490).
V: Have to agree with that and fuel economy, especially in the diesel, is more than reputable for a vehicle of this size. We did a litre more than Kia's figures of 7.7 litres/100km, but it's hard to complain about that.
This Carnival may have dropped Grand from its name, but it has lost nothing in terms of practicality.
Model: Kia Carnival SLi diesel.
Details: Five-door, eight-seat, front-wheel-drive people-mover.
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel generating maximum power of 147kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual mode.
Consumption: 7.7L/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $52,490.
What matters most
What we liked: Balanced and predictable handling, seating flexibility with ample room for eight, quiet on road.
What we'd like to see: Five-star safety rating, better steering feel.
Warranty and servicing: Seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist (as long as you maintain dealer servicing) with capped price servicing. Services are annual or every 15,000km - average price is $406. Free map upgrades for first two years.