Despite the vast array of SUVs of all shapes and sizes that are available now, there are few alternatives for a large family that need to cart everyone including the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.
At the top of that list is the Carnival, which remains Australia’s favourite people mover for good reason.
But rather than rest on its laurels the South Korean maker has brought a light refresh and further features to its bus for 2018, including important new safety technology and improved engine efficiency.
Vehicle Style: People mover
Price: From $42,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 206kW/336Nm 3.3 litre 6cyl petrol, 147kW/440Nm 2.2 litre 4cyl diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel consumption: 10.8, 7.6l 100km
The Carnival is available in four model grades – S, Si, SLi and Platinum – with a choice of either a petrol-powered V6 or a turbo diesel four-cylinder and has arrived in Australian showrooms with marginal price increases over its predecessor despite the extra gear.
Costing from $42,490 (plus on-roads) for the entry-level V6-powered S, and rising to $62,790 (plus on-roads) for the range-topping Platinum diesel, key among the changes are the adoption of an eight-speed automatic transmission and a comprehensive suite of driver aids, including automated emergency braking, lane departure warning and radar cruise control, on all variants.
Styling revisions amount to a new front grille, modified headlamps and a bolder new lower bumper section at the front, with chrome trim highlights and Kia’s signature ‘Ice Cube’ LED driving lights on high-grade models, plus new-look tail lamps, a wider chrome strip in the liftgate, modified rear bumper and redesigned alloy wheels on all models.
All Carnival models feature an eight-seat configuration with a host of thoughtful touches that cater for all occupants, including air conditioning vents to the middle and third rows, 10 cupholders, bottle holders in each of the four doors, shopping bag hooks in the boot and six power outlets, split evenly between USB and 12V, to keep mobile devices fully charged.
Standard features on the base-level S include 17-inch steel wheels, a reverse camera with rear parking sensors, cloth interior trim, manual air conditioning and a 7.0-inch colour touch screen with Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices.
Stepping up to the Si adds alloy wheels, electric folding exterior mirrors, LED tail lamps, tri-zone air conditioning and a larger 8.0-inch colour touch screen with sat nav and a premium JBL audio system.
SLi models have bigger 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, smart keys with push-button start, leather-appointed trim with electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, power-operated sliding side doors and rear tailgate while the flagship Platinum goes even further with 19-inch alloys, automatic high beam assist, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, a 360-degree camera, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel with wood trim highlights, a 7.0-inch colour TFT instrument cluster, window blinds for the second and third rows and a built-in torch in the boot.
The 3.3-litre V6 remains unchanged from its predecessor, producing 206kW and 336Nm, as does the 2.2-litre turbo diesel four cylinder that generates 147kW and 440Nm.
But the adoption of Kia’s own eight-speed automatic transmission improves performance through its wider spread of ratios and lowers fuel consumption figures, with the V6 having a claimed average of 10.8L/100km while the more expensive turbo diesel compensates for its $2500 premium with a lower claimed average of 7.6L/100km.
All members of the family are well catered for inside and there’s ample room for a bustling mob on eight seats across three rows. Large sliding doors provide easy access to most of the cushions and getting in and out of the third-row is decent with clever middle-row seats that fold and flip – something even the best seven-seat SUVs struggle to provide.
Everyone has good vision and there’s a huge array of small item storage spaces spread throughout, and the overall quality of materials is above par, including a crisp multimedia system that’s easy to navigate through its functions.
Upfront is also well presented and the driver and passenger are greeted with a clean dash design that’s contemporary with intuitive controls and the same design as Kia's latest models.
ON THE ROAD
We tested the updated diesel-powered Carnival on typical Australian rural roads in the Hunter Valley, where it proved exactly why it remains the most popular people mover in the country.
The eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly and intuitively to ensure the grunty motor sits within its sweet spot, either lazily loping along at low revs on the highway for maximum efficiency or tapping into its meaty mid-range pulling power when accelerating. We didn’t test it with a full compliment of passengers on board, but it certainly feels strong enough to handle it.
Taking advantage of minor structural changes, Kia Australia also revisited the Carnival's suspension settings as part of its localised tuning program, fitting stiffer front springs and revised shock absorber damping that is designed to make it feel more confident on the road.
In that respect, it has succeeded with the Carnival sitting secure through the bends yet remaining compliant and comfortable over small bumps.
What it can’t do is change the laws of physics, and it suffers from steering kickback and struggles to control the huge unsprung weight in the front wheel assemblies when it encounters a bigger, or sharper, bump.
It’s not a deal breaker, as it’s certainly not pretending to be a sports car, but it can feel busy behind the wheel on rougher roads.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Carnival proves its value as a spacious alternative to big SUVs with an important extra seat for large families. It’s stylish, spacious, comfortable to drive and affordable to own with Kia’s benchmark seven-year warranty and capped price service scheme, and the small additions in this mid-life update add up to a stronger proposition than ever before.
- Interested in buying Kia Carnival? Visit our Kia showroom for more information.