It’s the sensible choice for those who fancy tea and Tim Tams at three. It is tough and reliable. Above all has enough space to transport the team to a game, then double as the playing field upon arrival.
Kia calls Carnival a CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle, making it sound like something requiring a séance on a beach. Please note, the Kia USA website says it is a Mini Van, a term to strikes terror into the hearts of thousands.
“No No,” Kia OZ says. Carnival is a sort-of stretched version of a Sorento.
That means it is based on an SUV instead of a fridge, like most other people movers. Most people movers are called mini-vans for a reason, they’re small vans. Small vans are very unattractive, Victor.
Rather than laboring the point any further, let’s move swiftly to particulars.
The likeness to Sorento is uncanny, especially at the front end. S, Si, SLi and Platinum models look similar but don’t be fooled. Platinum is a precious metal, and that means it costs a lot.
Because it is the most expensive offering, Platinum gets sexy“ice cube” 4-point DTRLs (daytime running lights), like a Porsche 718. It is finished off with shiny chrome 19” wheels, like a Jaguar, and electric rear side doors like a Tesla. Kia is more modest than the show-off-look-at-me Tesla, so the doors slide rather than swinging upward. We like that.
If you linger round the back too long, the hatch will beep at you, then sweep majestically skyward with the campest of flourishes, as long as the key is secreted about your person.
LED tail lights stop people from banging into you from behind, and LED head lights are so bright that they look like the Christmas lights the Queen would choose.
The Si is the model fleets will pick, but pleb does not mean pov, at least not in this case. It misses out on the LED headlights, and makes do with 17” alloys, but still looks a million bucks. SLi is in-between, so has in-between alloys of 18”.
If you think Carnival is big, you’re right, it is. It is around 700mm longer than a Mazda 3.
The cabin is more capacious than Lady Bracknell’s handbag, and far better kitted out too. Smart entry means you don’t need a key (in the upper models), and it has push button start.
Leather has been lavished upon the furnishings with gay abandon. The top model looks positively posh.
All designations have a fabulously punchy audio system, but only the bottom model misses out on the JBL 8-speaker system. It makes do with a 7” colour touch screen instead of the 8 incher of the top 3.
It doesn’t miss out on the Apple Carplay or Android Auto though. Pairing your phone through Bluetooth is a simple 20 second affair following on-screen instructions any fool could manage.
A simple dash includes driver instruments with MFD (multi function display) which has a digital speedo mode. Hooray!
Menus are accessed via simple steering wheel buttons where settings can be found, including that nifty magic tailgate. You can turn the auto-open function off if you simply can’t abide unbridled convenience.
Further settings be fettled in the centre console screen. There, traffic camera warnings should be turned firmly off if you value your sanity. If not, the nagging lady in the dashboard will bark commands at you every five minutes. She is telling you about so many cameras, so many times, that you have no idea which particular one she is referring to. Get in the bin!
The rest is good news, with Kia menus being a snip to find, manipulate, and save. Oh, and the is DAB radio too so be sure to enter Buddha and Gorilla alongside Fine Music and ABC FM in to your “favourites”. Variation is important on long trips.
Seating for 8 is a stroke of genius. You can fling chairs in all directions. 3rd row entry is so easy and can be done from either side of the 2nd row. If you don’t want the 3rd row, you can fold them away for a handy flat rear floor.
You can tumble them forward or leave them in the garage if you want. The space they vacate leaves a massive well in the rear floor to fill with ice and champers at picnics. Imagine! You’ll be the belle of the ball.
Features of the 3rd generation Carnival have been given a particularly picante flavour by the clever product management team. They’ve shoved goodies galore, packing Carnival to the gunnels with tidbits for safety and comfort.
Heated seats and tri-zone climate control in some models, and Smart Cruise, AEB, and lane departure in all models. Carnival is a buxom beauty, and you find yourself wandering worryingly close to road markings. She will beep 50 times a minute, so you’ll either ignore it or switch the lane departure off. Nothing beats looking through the windscreen to keep a car properly in the lane.
The excellent 8-speed auto (from Stinger) has also been included as standard.
Other features include:
- Power driver’s seat
- Power passenger’s seat (platinum) with walk-in switch
- Auto lights, intermittent wipers (shock horror, no auto wipers)
- Privacy glass (tinted rear and side windows)
- Auto door locking
- 3X USB ports and 3X 12V power outlets
- 10, yes 10, cupholders.
- Coat and shopping hooks
- 4X bottle holders
- Power auto operated rear tailgate
- Power side rear doors.
- Euro 5 engines
- 3V6 petrol, 206kw/336Nm, or 2.2L Diesel, 146kw/440Nm
- Consumption (L/100k) 10.8 or 7.6
- CO2 (g/km) 252 or 202
- Weight 2,094kg or 2,137kg
- 8 speed auto (replaces 6 speed in prev model)
- Front wheel drive
- Electric parking brake (replaces foot operated in prev model
- 2,000 towing capacity with 200kg towball rating
Hydraulic power steering gives Kia actual road feel, not the simulated sensation you get with electric steering.
After a short period of adjustment you find yourself flinging the portly princess around in a way she has no right to favour you with. There is an abundance of assistance which some might find a little too light
Suspension is surprisingly supple. Admittedly we only had 2 on board, but Graeme Gambold told us he tuned the suspension for a medium load. With a medium load suspension tune, it will easily handle a full load. So, if it was this good with 2, how would it have been with 4, or 6, or even 8? Positively sumptuous!
There is no hiding her heft. None the less, Carnival handled corners with unexpected deftness a van-based people mover would simply be unable to match. Rejigged springs and front subframe, and delicately tweaked dampers, gives the Kia more of an SUB-like personality rather than that of a cumbersome aged-care-home bus.
I could easily picture a very long trip in the second row, seat way back, legs stretched out, and armrest down. Think “winery tour” with cheese and nibbles.
The diesel felt far more up to the task. As smooth as the V6 petrol is, it frequently felt a little breathless.
- Parking sensors front (plus rear for top 2 models)
- 6 airbags
- Blind spot and lane assist
- Lane departure warning
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Auto headlights
- 3-point seat belts all seats
- Impact sensing door unlock
- Temp spare tyre
NOTE: some safety features are model dependent
- Audio sound
- CarPlay/Android Auto
- Good quality manufacture and materials
Not So Good Bits
- No auto wipers
- blind spot not in base models
People movers have an image, and deserved or otherwise, they’re seen as a slightly daggy mum’s taxi. Image aside, Carnival drives very well and the top model is stuffed full of goodies.
There is more space inside than in some city apartments. The cabin feels like a well-appointed ball room, and the exterior gives an impression of a country pile, with wheels. There is a charming ambience with intelligently designed flexible seating. Not only can you leave the 3rd row in the barn, but the centre of the 2nd row as well.
If you were to look only at the front, you’d swear you were looking at a Sorento.
That diesel is a peach, and the auto is superb. I had to nit-pick to find something for the “not so good bits”, none of which were deal breakers. If I had the need for an 8 seater, I’d lay down my shekels in a thrice.
The only real competitor is Honda’s Odyssey, so the Kia wins on looks alone before you even get inside.
Facts and Figures
- Engine petrol: 3.3V6 petrol, 206kw/336Nm
- Engine Diesel: 2.2L Diesel, 146kw/440Nm
- Transmission:8 speed auto
- Safety: 5 star tested 2015
- Origin: Korea
- Warranty: 7 yr/unlimited (7yr 150,000 for fleet buyers)
- Price: $44,990 – 62,790
- My Rating: 8/10