The score could potentially spoil Kia's marketing efforts for the all-new family car that, despite carrying significant safety technology improvements, will not be able to boast a top rating.
Of the most recent crash tests for people-movers, only the Proton Exora and SsangYong Stavic have failed to win five stars, with all other models (including Kia’s own Rondo) scoring the maximum safety rating.
Kia Australia’s Kevin Hepworth said in 2013 that Kia had a firm goal to have every car in its local line-up wearing a 5-Star ANCAP sticker, no exceptions.
The company has now been forced to make an exception, launching its initial Carnival range this week with a 4-Star rating.
In part, the Carnival's failure to achieve five stars is a result of its own popularity, with overseas demand pushing its scheduled 2014 Australian launch into the new year - and into a new phase of ANCAP's constantly evolving and tightening requirements.
Had the Carnival been tested last year, it would have confidently crashed its way into a top score, but new safety testing rules for 2015 dictate that seatbelt reminders be fitted to all first and second row ‘fixed’ seats.
The new Carnival’s outer second-row seats lift up off the floor to stand upright while remaining ‘attached’ to the vehicle, allowing for much easier access to the third row.
As the pair of third row seats is removable, likewise the middle seat in the second row, none of these seats require a seatbelt reminder under ANCAP requirements.
But ANCAP believes the two outer seats in the middle row qualify for the reminders. Kia read the rules differently, so the Carnival doesn’t have them.
Kia’s commitment to 5-Star ratings on all its local models means the Carnival WILL get the necessary seatbelt reminders later in the year, but those 'enhanced' models won't arrive until sometime in the third quarter.
Importantly, when this occurs, Australia will be the only market in the world to have a Kia Carnival on offer with second row seatbelt reminders.
There is however a 'double standard' in the market at the moment which may leave Kia rightfully aggrieved.
Models from some other companies imported under new ‘shared’ guidelines with Euro NCAP carry 5-Star safety ratings, despite some of these lacking second row seatbelt reminders.
But for now, the all-new Carnival will have to serve at least a few months in Australia with a 4-Star ANCAP safety rating.
"We were disappointed with what occurred. If we had have brought the car in on December 31, 2014, it would be a five-star car," Kia Motors Australia communications chief Kevin Hepworth told media this week.
"The goals changed and we’ve just got to live with that. We’re making production changes now, and hopefully by the third quarter we’ll have the car right."
Mr Hepworth said the company is confident that buyers considering a family car will do their research and find that despite the 'missing star', the new model is heavily equipped with high-level safety technology.
Watch for TMR's first-drive review, and full rundown of the new model's features, to come later this week.
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