With seating for up to eight people, the Kia Carnival has been the go to option for big families for many years.
It’s also one of the few people movers that offers a decent amount of luggage space, even with the third row of seats in use.
You can get into a Carnival for as little as $42,990 plus on roads, but that’s for the basic, petrol powered model.
If circumstances forced you to drive a people mover, however, you’re probably going to want something a bit special — something like our Platinum test vehicle.
That’s where things start to get tricky, because the people who most need a people mover are usually those that can least afford one.
Still, in a small segment with historically low turnover, Kia is no doubt better off selling higher grade models for greater profit.
What’s it cost?
Prices start from $43,990 for the petrol S with an auto.
Then comes the Si at $47,990, SLi at $52,490 and Platinum at $60,290.
If you want a diesel add $2500 to the price.
Competitors include the LDV G10 ($29,990), Honda Odyssey ($37,990), Hyundai IMax ($43,990) Volkswagen Caravelle ($52,590) and yes, they still sell the Toyota Tarago, although its been a while between new models ($45,490).
The designers of Carnival reckon its layout is modelled on first class air travel, with individual seats for front and second row passengers, and overhead consoles and air conditioning vents.
There’s tri-zone climate air conditioning, with vents for the second and third rows.
The power adjust front seats are heated and cooled, with a tilt/reach adjust steering wheel that is also heated.
Second and third row passengers also get sunshades.
The interior is finished in a classy two-tone light/dark grey leather combo, but there’s plenty of generic black plastic in evidence that serves to bring down the tone.
The dash is dominated by a large 8.0-inch infotainment unit, with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus 8-speaker JBL premium audio — but alas no CD. (no DVD screens in the back for the kids either).
There’s 12v, AUX and USB ports at the front of the centre console, 12v and USB in the console box plus another USB port for rear seat passengers.
Carnival has a five-star safety rating, with six airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, eight three-point seat belts, Electronic Stability Control incorporating Cornering Brake Control and Roll Over Mitigation plus rear parking sensors.
There’s also Lane Departure Warning, Smart Cruise Control and Electronic Parking Brake.
Platinum adds Blind-Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, High Beam Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert which warns against other cars driving behind the Carnival in car parks.
What’s it go like?
We like the economy of diesel, but confess to a secret hankering for the sound and punchy delivery of the petrol V6.
The 3.3-litre Lambada II direct injection engine produces a healthy 206kW of power and 336Nm of torque, the latter at 5200 revs.
It’s mated to an 8-speed auto, with power to the front wheels and is equipped with a switchable ‘Active Eco’ drive mode.
This automatically adjusts engine power, reprograms the transmission’s shift points, and limits the power of the heating and ventilation systems in order to maximise fuel efficiency.
Our test vehicle rode on 19-inch alloys and was finished in a deep chroma blue which looks almost purple in some light.
Given that it’s the Platinum model, the range is obviously yet to make the transition to the current GT-Line naming regime.
Kia has done a great job with the design, lowering the height and broadening the footprint, to give the wagon a meatier, more car-like look, although at 5.1m it’s still a big unit.
This transformation transfers to the drive experience which is also very car-like, with an overhead reverse camera to take some of the sting out of parking.
Acceleration is reassuringly brisk, the steering light with comforting, progressive braking.
A digital speedo makes it easy to keep track of your speed and the navigation system warns of approaching school zones and fixed speed cameras.
A power tailgate and powered, sliding rear doors are fitted, making it easier to open and close the big, heavy doors, with individual seating for front and second row passengers.
There’s heaps of legroom in the back, even for third row seats, and it’s an easy vehicle to get in and out, earning the nod of approval from elderly passengers.