Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the Kia Carnival SLi.
The new Kia Carnival offers family friendly transport for the larger family, offering a flexible option of seven or eight seats, with four variants; S, Si, SLi and range-topping Platinum.
Kia now offers both petrol and diesel engines across the range. Our test car was the diesel SLi Kia Carnival.
All grades of the 2015 Kia Carnival feature an eight-seat layout, but the middle seat in the centre row and both rear seats are fully removable if required.
The outward seats in the centre row ‘stand up’, detaching from the floor almost completely with the pull of a lever to allow for easier access to the last row.
A longer wheelbase for the new models also allows for easier access and a roomier interior, and cargo space has grown 77 litres with all seats in place to 960 litres.
There are three ISOFIX child restraint mounting points on each of the outward centre-row seats and on just one of the rear seats (there isn’t space for two child seats here).
All grades of the 2015 Kia Carnival offer air-conditioning with separate controls for the rear vents, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth, numerous bottle holders, storage compartments and stain-resistant cloth seats.
The SLi grade of the Carnival adds leather seats and leather for the steering wheel and transmission selector, tri-zone climate control, a DVD player, sat-nav, powered rear doors and tailgate, chilled glove box, a power-operated driver’s seat and push-button start.
All of the seats are comfortable with a good driving position from the captain’s chair, a large foot-rest and clear visibility. Only the centre seat in the middle row is likely to pose any challenge for larger adult passengers.
Some may disapprove of the foot-operated park brake, but the lever is well tucked-in and non-intrusive. One handy addition is the ‘conversation mirror’ for the driver, which in reality is a wide-angle mirror to keep an eye on children in the back seats.
Kia says the all-new Carnival’s platform is 74 percent stronger than its predecessor.
These new dimensions help in providing a stable ride and quite reasonable handling - certainly better than you might expect for a big family van.
Early models of people-movers of old felt more like cut down trucks from the driver’s seat, but the new breed manage to combine a decent degree of driving finesse with the space that buyers expect.
And so it is with the new Carnival. It offers a driving experience much closer to a family station wagon than a family van.
The relatively low profile tyres aid grip during semi-enthusiastic driving, yet still manage to suppress bumps surprisingly well.
The biggest bumps still found their way into the cabin, but while these big ‘hits’ were noticeable, the ride isn’t upset by typical less than perfect country-road surfaces.
While this is no hot-hatch, mum or dad will still be able to enjoy a drive on a winding rural road, without throwing the children around too much in the back.
Kia has opted for hydraulic power-steering for an improved feel; keener drivers will appreciate the ‘traditionalist’ approach here.
All Kia Carnivals are equipped with the same six-speed automatic transmission, which comes with an ‘Eco’ mode and manual shifting using the T-bar.
Where the V6 is ‘good’ (producing 206kW/336Nm), the diesel is excellent - with a bag full of usable torque available from rest, you’ll rarely be hunting for more.
It makes a distinguished diesel chatter on the outside, but it’s barely noticeable on the inside at any speed.
Having larger rear brakes aids a balanced feel from the brake pedal, and the stoppers are more than up to the job of hauling up the new Carnival.
Depending on the variant, the Carnival features six airbags, ABS, ESC, hill-start control, reversing camera, HID headlamps, high-beam assist, fog lamps, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning and more.
Disappointingly though, at this stage the Kia Carnival comes with only a four-star safety rating.
Summing it up; it’s entirely possible that the2015 Kia Carnival will prove to be the new segment leader. There are cheaper models in this segment, but few can stand eye-to-eye with the Carnival on performance and standard features.
The diesel engine in particular is a gem, and the Carnival’s interior is simply a nice place to be.
Then there’s the value-for-money equation in a segment where (large) family buyers, in particular, are likely to be shopping on value and at a firm budget.
Oh, and don’t forget the unbeatable seven year warranty too!
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.2 litre turbo-diesel producing 147kW and 440Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (only)
Safety: Four stars
Warranty: Seven years
Origin: South Korea
Price: SLi from $52,490