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Brand New Kia Carnival

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What's Hot

Big space, small pricetag, gutsy new diesel engine.

What's Not

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


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

Overall Rating

On The Road
Value For Money


Country of Origin
$50,190 (plus on-road costs)
4 Cylinders
143 kW / 429 Nm
Sports Automatic


ANCAP Rating


L/100 km
213 g/km

Towing and Luggage

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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