What’s hot: Strong engine, contemporary interior, vast space, drives well.
What’s not: A little too much engine noise, pale trim not family friendly.
X-FACTOR: Able to carry eight people with room to spare and a small thirst - this is the clever way to move a crowd.
Vehicle Style: People mover
Price: $47,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 147kW/440Nm 2.2 diesel | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.7 l/100km | tested: 9.1 l/100km
But an SUV with its higher floor and raised suspension has a few compromises when it comes to 'third row seats'. As for carrying eight people, you’ll need to spend big dollars on a hulking 4x4 wagon for that kind of capacity.
So if comfort and carrying capacity are top priorities, a people-mover might be the better way to go.
And with a run of fresh models on the scene, the segment now looks more appealing than ever.
For most of the past few years, Kia’s Carnival has been top-dog in annual family-bus sales. An all new Carnival will likely keep it on top.
For this review we’ve looked at the Si diesel; it carries a few more toys than the entry level S variant and promises more frugal running thanks to its diesel engine.
Handsome new looks and a contemporary interior also join the party and the end result is a car vastly improved.
- Standard features: Tri-zone climate control, air vents for all three rows, cruise control, trip computer.
- Eight seats, cloth seat trim, fold-flat third row, sliding middle row with ‘stand up’ rear access.
- Ten cup holders, four bottle holders, three USB charge points, three 12v power sockets, shopping bag hooks on front seatback and in cargo area.
- Infotainment: 8-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/CD six speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and music connectivity, USB audio input, satellite navigation.
- Luggage capacity behind third row: 960 litres, behind second row: 2220 litres, behind third row: 4022 litres
Our first gripe with the Carnival’s interior is the pale grey trim. It’s a little hard to tell if it will remain 'family friendly' in the long term; it shows grubby marks quickly but, on the other hand, is also relatively easy to clean.
Soft-touch plastics cover almost every surface you can lay your hands on, and the open layout for the controls is easy to navigate.
There’s now a centre console between the front seats in place of the previous models walk-though. It removes a little versatility but makes for a more car-like feel, it also houses a gargantuan storage space, something that’s bound to come in handy.
The colour scheme does help showcase the vast amount of room on offer. In each of the three rows, there’s ample usable space for adults.
And, as expected, the third row has the least width but is by no means a penalty box.
Access to the rear-most seats is a breeze - the outboard stand up second row seats flip forward into an upright position allowing unencumbered access to the ‘back-back’.
That second row can also be slid fore and aft, but, even in the rearmost setting, still leaves plenty of room in the very rear.
Slide that second row forward and you can restrict legroom quite a bit, but open up a massive cargo space out back. The third row seats fold flush into the boot floor with a quick and easy single action.
A tick then for the multi-configurable and highly-flexible seating.
The all important cargo measurements are 960 litres with all three rows in place, fold the back seats and you've got 2220 litres to play with. With the middle row of seats in their ‘stand-up’ position a sizable 4022 litres becomes available.
As for spec, the Si adds features like rear privacy glass with solar-cut side windows, power folding mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, one-touch power window on all doors, three-zone (driver, front passenger, and rear) climate control, 3.5 inch instrument display with digital speedo and an eight-inch touchscreen centre display with DVD player and satellite navigation.
That’s on top of standard inclusions like remote central locking, six-speaker audio, rear park sensors and reversing camera, dusk-sensing headlights, LED daytime running lights, folding armrests for the outboard second-row seats, multi-function steering wheel and cruise control.
ON THE ROAD
- 147kW/440Nm 2.2 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Disc brakes, ventilated at front, solid at rear, foot-operated parking brake
- 17-inch alloy wheels, 235/62 R17 tyres.
- Towing capacity: 2000kg (braked) 750kg (unbraked)
The Carnival offers two engine options, a 3.3 litre petrol V6, with fairly respectable outputs for a large people mover, or a 2.2 litre turbo diesel - as tested here.
With a muscular 440Nm of torque on tap between 1750 and 2750rpm the diesel is the pick of the pair.
Unlike some modern diesels that deliver a rush of torque in one sudden moment, the Carnival is more gentle 'off the mark'.
You might not go so far as to call it particularly swift, but your passengers will probably appreciate the relaxed progress all the more.
Peak power measures 147kW at 3800rpm, but rushing the engine past its strong mid range is completely unnecessary. It will happily pull cleanly and strongly without ever having to venture beyond around 2500rpm.
Drive is transmitted to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic. Once again blistering pace and split-second gear shifts aren’t the order of the day, nor are they missed.
Instead the transmission shuffles smoothly and unobtrusively through gears.
On the open road there’s enough torque that kickdowns are rarely required, but, if needed, the box will pluck a lower ratio and stick to it. No second-guessing or hunting for the correct gear here.
Road and wind noise are well-controlled. And, as is par for the course in the people mover class, rear passengers reported a touch more road noise but didn’t rate it as excessive.
For all its strength and tractability, the engine loses marks for its typically diesel soundtrack. Its most obvious at idle where it can be vibey and clattery, but smoothes out once rolling, the soundtrack is a constant companion though.
Ride quality is tuned for comfort and works brilliantly in that respect. Over speed humps, sharp bumps, a rutted tarmac the Carnival barely transmits a single imperfection to its occupants.
It’s a big, heavy, beast of burden and as you’d expect it doesn’t handle like a sports sedan (why on earth would you expect it to?) but it still maintains excellent control. There’s no unwarranted floating or ‘porpoising’, just sure-footed control.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars. The Carnival scored 30.48 out of 37 possible points. A full report on the ANCAP results can be found here.
Safety features: The Carnival’s safety suite includes ABS brakes, stability control, three-point seat belts and adjustable head restraints for all seats, four top-tether and three ISOFIX child seat restraints, rear view camera and rear park sensors.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Your needs in a people mover may vary widely - so do the people movers on offer in Australia. Some like the Multivan, Valente and iMax are based on commercial vans (and it shows).
Others, namely Tarago and Odyssey, are petrol-powered only. Then there’s the quirky one, the C4 Grand Picasso, although it still does a fantastic job as a family freighter.
Amongst this lot there’s a mix of front and rear wheel drive, petrol and diesel engines, and various clever seating and cargo solutions. Thorough investigation is a must to find the right fit for what you want.
- Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline
- Mercedes-Benz Valente
- Hyundai iMax CRDi
- Honda Odyssey VTi-L
- Toyota Tarago GLX
- Citroen C4 Grand Picasso
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re going to spend a lot of hours behind the wheel, the new Carnival is a comfortable and stylish place to spend the time. The lower specced Carnival S will do the job just fine, but the Si tested here throws in a few more worthwhile features.
Large families are sure to like the spacious accommodation to help quell the ‘who-sits-where’ kerfuffle, and business owners pressing their Carnival into shuttle-bus duty will appreciate the ease of passenger loading.
Keep in mind Kia’s industry leading seven-year warranty and the Carnival offers reassuring peace of mind - something owners of more troublesome earlier Carnivals are sure to appreciate greatly.
Throw in the more svelte styling (if you squint a little bit it might even look like an SUV) and the vastly improved interior compared to the model it replaces, and the Carnival becomes a very attractive proposition.
The only cloud hanging over the Carnival range is its widely remarked upon 4-Star ANCAP rating ("a result of less than optimal performance in the frontal offset crash test and the omission of a required safety assist technology (rear seatbelt reminders)" ANCAP).
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
Carnival - 3.3 V6 petrol
- S - $41,490
- Si - $45,490
- SLi - $49,990
- Platinum - $57,490
Carnival - 2.2 4cyl diesel
- S - $43,990
- Si - $47,990
- SLi - $52,490
- Platinum - $59,990