Kia ’s people-mover MPV, the , commemorates 25 years this year. We recently took one on a road trip to Mpumalanga to remind ourselves, once again, why it makes for a consummate travel chariot.
Launched early last year, the Carnival decidedly replaced the Sedona with an all-new model that elevates both comfort and refinement levels. However, before we delve into our recent jaunt to the province of the rising sun, let us recap on the Carnival and what it offers. Dual sliding doors and seven seats in the instance of the entry-level EX and the flagship SXL.
Power comes in the form of a 2.2‑litre turbo diesel engine (148kW and 440Nm) that is allied with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It offers 1 138 litres of luggage space with all the seats in place, which is ideal for a family road trip. Slotting between the EX and SXL is the EX+ that comes standard with eight seats, making it the most versatile of the three trim levels. It is this latter model that we used for our sojourn and it is probably the one that will net most sales by virtue of better practicality without compromising on the slew of conveniences and comfort features befitting Kia’s flagship model.
Setting off on a wintery Friday afternoon, we nosed the eight-seater MPV onto the N12 East from Gauteng towards Mpumalanga.The vehicle quickly settled into its stride, the turbo diesel thrumming in the background, all the while delivering a huge seam of torque ensuring that keeping up with traffic or the occasional overtaking was a cinch. Perching in the pound seat, the view of your surroundings and the road ahead is excellent, while wind insulation was mostly good, save for the driver’s side window seal that exhibited some wind noise.
However, the rest of the vehicle never skipped a beat, while acres of leg room ensured all passengers lounged in comfort. On the smooth surface of the N12 and N4, the Carnival was unsurprisingly competent but it was when we left the national road for the R36 towards Sabie that the vehicle’s suspension was put through its paces.
The damping is supple at worst, while overall body control is impeccable for what is essentially an MPV, making it easy to thread the vehicle through the snaky roads dotted by pines, making for spectacular vistas. The Panorama Route, in particular, is hands-down one of the most beautiful pieces of road in South Africa. If only the municipality gave the surface the attention and maintenance it deserves, it would make for great road trip excursions for tourists and locals alike.
The Carnival’s comfort levels continued to impress as we spent time in its sanctuary, ensconced in those sumptuous chairs and drinking up the beautiful scenery, which made us appreciate that we do, indeed, live in a beautiful country. On Saturday morning, we left Graskop Gorge Lift Co, headed to Hoedspruit via Tzaneen on the R532, which has fewer potholes, but was still not great. The Carnival took it all in its stride, making its way between the mini craters with the alacrity of a much nimbler vehicle.
The two-hour journey was dispensed with ease and we arrived at Kapama River Lodge relatively refreshed, thanks to the effective climate control that kept the cabin cool as we cruised along, averaging around 7.4 litres/100km of diesel, exemplary for a vehicle of this size. Our return leg to Jozi on Sunday morning took us via Nelspruit and down the N4 once again, making the four-hour sojourn one of absolute comfort and great memories spent with friends.
For me, that is the main purpose of such vehicles and the Kia Carnival is unequivocally one of the models in the segment worth a second glance. It is spacious and comfortable, as well as offering a host of convenience features to ensure an enjoyable driving experience.
At a starting price of R869 995 and topping out at R1 094 995, it offers exceptional value in this segment and you would be hard-pressed to find a package as well-appointed and as keenly priced.
So, when all is said and done, should you buy one, then? The answer, at least in my small book, is a resounding, “Yes!”