2012 Kia Grand Carnival Si CRDi Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road

  • Ancap

  • Value For Money

  • See Full Specs

What’s Hot

Big space, small pricetag, gutsy new diesel engine.

What’s Not

Plain packaging, lap-only belts for rear centre-seats.

X Factor

The big, sturdy Carnival can haul large loads with ease; that’s its ace with family and corporate buyers.

  • Country of Origin
  • Price
    $50,190 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    143 kW / 429 Nm
  • Transmission
    Sports Automatic
  • ANCAP Rating
  • Airbags
    Driver & Passenger (Dual), Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Head for 3rd Row Seats, Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)
  • L/100 km
  • C02
    213 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
  • Towing (braked)
    2000 kg
  • Towing (unbraked)
    750 kg
Kez Casey | Nov 23, 2011 | 10 Comments


Vehicle Style: People Mover
Price: $44,990
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.1 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.2 l/100 km


The headline change to Kia’s Grand Carnival is the recent addition of the R-series diesel engine. The same strong unit as in the Kia Sorento (and shared with Hyundai’s Santa Fe).

The new engine aside, there’s not much to pick as different.

It’s a better car for the new diesel though. Strong and torquey, the new Grand Carnival Si CRDi has an effortless ability to calmly carry eight, and with room to spare. And it’s still sharply priced.

Holding the number one spot for people movers, Kia’s roomy Carnival has found a solid niche among family buyers, and for increasing numbers of fleets.


Quality: A quick glance around the interior betrays the Grand Carnival’s advancing age, there’s hard surfaces aplenty but they’re all quite durable and built to handle the punishment of family duty.

We’d prefer the pale grey fabric trim a few shades darker (to help hide family spills and stains) but otherwise the Grand Carnival looks like it will go the distance.

Comfort: All three rows of the Grand Carnival offer plentiful head and legroom. Up front there’s plenty of space and the high seating position is upright but very commanding.

The middle row offers three individually reclining bucket seats - meaning no qualms about passenger comfort.

The third row is easy to access via the flip-forward middle row; it’s a little tighter with three abreast but still offers enough space and comfort for long-range journeys.

Equipment: The Grand Carnival Si comes with power windows (including swing-out rear quarter glass) fold away centre-tray and arm-rests for front seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker MP3 compatible CD player with USB and 3.5mm aux inputs, dual zone (front and rear) air conditioning, cruise-control, steering wheel audio controls, roof rails and front foglamps.

Storage: Along with a cavernous glovebox and two roomy storage spaces in the centre stack, the Grand Carnival provides large door bins front and rear.

Cargo space is also generous for a vehicle with three rows of seats. A deep 912 litres of cargo volume is available with the third row in place, but fold it flat into the floor and that grows to 2380 litres of open, high-roofed space.


Driveability: While the previous diesel offered in the Grand Carnival did a fair job of hauling the big body around, it wasn’t at its best in town. No such issue for the new 2.2 litre motor however.

The new diesel is seven kilowatts more powerful (now 143kW @3,800 rpm), a lot more torquey (429Nm @2000 rpm instead of 343Nm), and overall much better able to shift itself smoothly and calmly from stand-still, whatever the load.

While under test with a full complement aboard (collectively, almost 500kg of passengers), the Grand Carnival showed no signs of struggling, instead riding the strong torque through highway hills or just ferrying around town.

Refinement: While the engine revs smoothly, there is no mistaking that there is a diesel at work. Although a relatively modern direct-injection diesel, it is a little noisy and not quite up to the mark for refinement.

Otherwise, between the smooth transmission slurring gear changes imperceptibly and the hushed and quite composed on-road behaviour on the open road, with little wind or tyre noise, the Grand Carnival offers quite civilised practical transport.

Suspension: With a heavy bias towards comfort, the MacPherson strut front and independent rear is soft and wallowy; but passengers won’t mind with even the most teeth-rattling roads sailed over smoothly.

Braking: The brake-pedal is a little lifeless. There is nothing much happening over the first few inches of travel, then it hardens as it starts to bite. It would be better with more initial feel and less travel.

Fully loaded, braking performance through the all-wheel disc set-up is adequate but not as precise nor as strong as a smaller lighter wagon.


ANCAP rating: Four stars. (Euro NCAP result)

Safety features: Driver and passenger front airbags, head and thorax airbags for front seats, ESP with traction control, and ABS brakes. While outboard seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts centre seats in both middle and rear rows feature lap-only belts.


Warranty: Five years, unlimited km.

Service costs: Servicing costs vary, so consult your Ssangyong dealer before purchase


Toyota Tarago GLi ($52,490) - For many, Toyota’s Tarago is the first vehicle that comes to mind when there’s a crew to shift. But even in its most basic form it is a pricey option, not as spacious or frugal, but certainly quiet and comfortable. (see Tarago reviews)

Hyundai iMax CRDi ($42,490) - Thanks to its commercial vehicle origins, the iMax offers additional interior acreage. It lacks some refinement compared to the Grand Carnival but is not far behind. (see iMax reviews)

SsangYong Stavic SV270 SPR ($43,753 drive-away) - Seats seven at a lower price and with added equipment. There’s lots of space inside, but the controversial styling and unknown long-term quality may be a major turn-off for a lot of buyers (see Stavic reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


While the light-coloured interior could be an issue for young families, the Grand Carnival's sprawling interior space, punchy diesel and comfortable ride make amends.

It’s better to drive than you might expect, and has no trouble with a load on board. It’s a big unit for cramped city streets but manoeuvrable enough, and no-one inside will be complaining.

We’re happy to recommend it for value and overall competence but we do question the fitment of lap-only belts in middle seats in the rear rows. It’s something that safety-conscious families may not consider good enough.

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Filed under: Featured, review, Kia, diesel, van, korea, automatic, fwd, Kia Carnival, kia grand carnival, grand carnival, people mover, family, large, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 6a, 7seat, hyundai r-series diesel

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  • Greg Baldock says,
    4 years ago
    I bought the Grand Carnival because of its room and also enough power to tow a light caravan which it does quite well.
    Even though it has 2000kg towing capacity this ability is negated by being front wheel drive.Also a better diesel option would be great for towing.
    Otherwise love the vehicle
  • Poonam says,
    4 years ago
    I want to know more about Carnival Diesel
  • Phil S says,
    4 years ago
    1 like
    All very valid points, but are you marking the bus against a standard sedan / wagon comparison? This thing weighs in at 2 metric tonnes, can tow two tonnes (braked) and can safely (and comfortably) seat EIGHT adults.

    There is a very good reason that Kia have got by far the Lion's share (40%+) of the MPV Market - and the diesel Si spec doesn't disappoint.

    I own one, I do heaps of kms in it, and it's just the best "not-so-little" workhorse out there. Would I buy another - WITHOUT HESITATION. The Kia diesel's more fuel effcient than the Wife's Peugeot diesel wagon (2 litre HPI), and fixed costs of ownership (insurance, servicing) are very reasonable indeed.

    Take one for a test drive - and be prepared to be amazed. We were, and seeing as they can't keep up with deliveries, it seems many others were too . . .!smilesmile
  • Paul says,
    3 years ago
    I'm thinking of buying a Kia Carnival but would like to know if anyone has towed a boat with it? Have a 5.2m fibreglass boat (so heavy!)and would like some advice as to whether the car can tow ok and specifically what is it like on the boat ramp?

    • Darren says,
      3 years ago
      Hi Paul
      Hav you had a response a bout towing a boat
      I am thinking of doing the same thing with a 6 m qintrex
      Nice to no if you hard sum think a bout it
  • bryan gifkins says,
    3 years ago
    I am thinking of buying a kia carnival 2.9 diesel mpv. can you tell me where the dealers/showrooms are in chiang-mai. chiang-rai
    • bryan gifkins says,
      3 years ago
      dealers/ showrooms kia motors in chiang-mai/chiangrai please
  • car says,
    3 years ago
    "consult your Ssangyong dealer" WTH???
  • Ria Manila says,
    3 years ago
    im buying the white or silver crdi and i feel im the queen of d road so lovely so huge so comfy so stress free after a toxic day at work!
  • Hans says,
    2 years ago
    Just signed up for a new 2013 GC Si diesel in metallic grey with front nudge, slimline weather shield, 2000 kg tow bar, tint, mats, scuff plates, reverse sensor & camera for $45k drive away! E.O.F.Y. special biggrin

    Friends of ours bought a petrol version 12 months ago and loves its space and practicality.

    Test drove a petrol and diesel version back to back and even though the petrol engine is cheaper and accelerates faster for me the diesel gets the nod due to its superior fuel efficiency and effortless pulling power especially lower down in the RPM. KIA's capped price servicing for 5 years at 15000km/12 month interval is just the icing on the cake!
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