The Carnival is KIA’s latest and largest people-mover, its name resuscitated to replace the previous KIA Grand Sedona. The Carnival or Grand Sedona has always existed in a space of relative blandness. It’s a MPV after all, and that’s a difficult one to make sexy or intriguing or provocative. It’s design brief puts space and the practicality of people-moving right at the top and therefore design prowess takes a back seat in most cases. That was the story until KIA and Hyundai designers decided they’d had enough. The Hyundai Staria emerged and whether you like it or not, that got our attention…a braai-side argument for another day. The KIA Carnival then made its appearance cutting a less controversial design and one that certainly made me think, mmm…that’s not so bad. I’d happily be seen in one of those. The cool modern family.
I’d never have said that before but the new Carnival really does stand out. It’s a car that’s good from far but also just as considered in the details. From the tiger nose grille, as KIA calls it, to the classy side profile with just enough chrome-look and black trim pieces, this SXL model is thoroughly well penned. The rear is fairly bland but the full length taillight design brings it to life.
The SXL is the fanciest of them all, made with a 7-seat configuration. A 2-2-3 setup means the SXL is set up to offer a choice mix of luxury and practicality. There are 8-seat options in the line-up and these mean a bigger market to which the Carnival can be sold. Think about the business use cases from shuttle options for fancy hotel chains to funeral homes and then of course, the large family that requires space, practicality and some appeal(like mine). The KIA Carnival seems to have it all.
The interior is equally tempting, if not more so. You’ll find KIA’s most modern interior presentation here and it’s a very considered attempt at luxury meeting practical motoring. The driver is catered for with a user-experience that is easy to use yet brimming with well-meaning tech. these cars come with KIA’s ADAS(Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and they bring together technologies such as lane change assistance, adaptive cruise control and even blind spot viewing and lane change mitigation. It’s all good stuff in addition to KIA’s latest drive by wire setup, a console of drive buttons, drive mode selectors and a few other luxury comforts. Ventilated and heated front seats are top draw, leather all round and they’re exceedingly well apportioned, comfortable for all.
Practicality you ask? Properly good. There’s a lot going on with this car. Dual, sliding doors that are operable by interior, exterior and smart key buttons as well as automatic tailgate similarly operable. And then of course, the seating configurations and options with the ability to even remove these should you so choose. I didn’t because I didn’t need to but the option makes for a thoroughly practical space. Well-appointed from front to back and with 7 USB ports, chauffeur space adjustment from the second row and sunshade blinds, this Carnival really gets it right for what it is. My big commendation is the boot space. Even with all 7 seats being used, you can still enjoy the depth and height of the boot, with over 1000-litres of usable space. That’s proper.
The drive is properly impressive too. Remember, this car is lengthy (5.15m) and has 3 rows. Power comes from KIA’s newest 2,2 turbo diesel mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed auto. 148kW and 440Nm is nothing to scoff at, and it does ensure that the size of the Carnival doesn’t detract from decent shove. There’s a smack of lag but not much. Once it kicks in, the Carnival is powerfully endowed. Be careful with the front wheels scratching for traction from time to time. Efficiency was equally impressive. Our urban driving saw us maintain a sub 9,4l/100km overall and we did a fair amount of hauling with the full family of five and luggage to match.
Despite its power, the ride is commendably comfortable and the cabin a pleasant place to ride, no matter where you sit. There's no wallowy ride no matter where you're seated and outward visibility is still very good no matter the seat configuration. Blind spot monitoring also helps with eyeing out when to change lanes. The SXL also comes with sun-visors in the rear which we found uber helpful, giving premium practicality to the experience.
Some things to consider? Your actual need. Do you need 8 seats or 7? If it’s the former, you’ll need to go for the slightly(really) less feature-filled EX+ of SX. These are about R145 000 or R25 000 cheaper than the SXL, but with less tech.
Other things to consider? Its competition. There are many but they stretch into definitively different segments. Think Opel's new Zafira Life; Volkswagen Kombi; Merc's Vito; Hyundai's Staria. But you can also look at any 7-seat SUV's from Mahindra to Everest and everything in between. The KIA Carnival does many things that each of these or some of these can do as well.
I was thoroughly impressed by the Carnival. It’s a really well thought out product and also a generously specified vehicle not just in the parts bin allocation but in the entire design and packaging of the product. Its packaging forces it into being considered alongside some other luxury SUVs(not MPV’s) and in that light, it wins in some areas and would struggle in others. But that’s not even where it truly sits.
Kudos to KIA on going the extra length here. Here’s a Dad wagon in which I’d be happy to take the kids to soccer and some.