What is it?
Kia calls it the Grand Utility Vehicle, as opposed to the usual nomenclature: Multi Purpose Vehicle. It may not look huge in the photos, but it lives comfortably in the “minivan” class of cars. For the uninitiated, the minivan is the American definition of a large MPV.
Yes, in almost every conceivable manner. It is only out-sized by the largest SUVs on the road, and that list includes the Infiniti QX80, BMW X7 and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Park one at your typical car park and the Carnival begins to flex its size.
Its hulking visual presence can also be attributed to several SUV-ish design elements, namely the boxy proportions, huge grill up front, black lower plastic trims that run lengthwise, large stylised C-pillars and roof rails. Not to mention, I was very perilously close to getting stuck in car parks with 1.8m height restrictions. Potential owners should stick to 1.9m and above clearances for a peace of mind.
Locally, the Carnival is offered in 7- or 8-seater formats, with other markets having up to 11-seaters. I tested the 7-seater model, as such, the middle row seats are not designed for quick removal for more cargo space.
However, with the rear seats folded, and the middle row seats set furthest apart, it is possible to fit a full-sized 26-inch mountain bike with space to spare. Even with all the seats up, the deep boot does seem to have ample storage for a day out with the whole family.With all this space available, you can have a comfortable picnic in the back too. Bring along some folding trays, and it is a perfect place to have your quick meals. I wish Kia had made the centre console removable, to make it possible to walk from the front row to the rear without getting out of the car.
Big on comfort
As a victim of being in the middle of an A**hard’s last row of seats on a trip to Malaysia, the Kia Carnival’s 60:40 split seats are very comfortable, even if you are still rubbing shoulders with two other adults. Leg room is aplenty if you remind the middle row passengers to spare some thoughts.
The middle row is arguably the 7-seater Carnival’s party piece. Two captain seats with seat ventilation, electrically adjustable of course. The front row isn’t left out too, with electrically adjustable seats with memory function, and the all-important seat ventilation.
Big on technology
For entertainment on the go, the 12.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system comes with Android Auto and Apple Carplay support out of the box. The system is very responsive to inputs, with a little lag switching between screens. Nestled below the entertainment, are the comfort controls for the three-zone air conditioning. There is another panel for rear passengers to adjust cooling, but it can be locked from the front row.
Spending time fiddling with the infotainment system made me grateful for the Carnival’s front vehicle departure warning, which is part of the Driver Attention Alert (DAA).
Other smart features and acronyms in the Carnival that you should know:
- Smart Cruise Control: It’s radar guided, although a vehicle straying into your lane will make the Carnival brake a little too much for my liking.
- Parking Distance Warning (PDW): Essential and works well, coupled with Surround View Monitor (SVM), makes parking this behemoth a breeze.
- Lane Following Assist (LFA): Confused only by the worst painted road markings, it kept the Carnival dead centre on the expressway lanes.
- Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA): Untested but I’m sure it works.
- Blind-spot Collision Warning (BCW): It bongs, and firmly steers you away from dangers approaching from the rear.
- Safe Exit Assist (SEA) with Power Sliding Door: Works with fast moving passing traffic.
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
- Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
- Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC)
The most you will use is USB, of which the Carnival has five ports, three in front, and two located on the back of the front seats for rear passengers. If wires are not your thing, there is a Qi charging zone too.
A grand drive
The Carnival is a two ton MPV, but it gets up to speed briskly without much drama. The diesel engine pulls strongly with the eight-speed gearbox which is generally smooth, except for the occasional jerk when downshifting under load. Fuel economy for my test drive with me and a friend (with plenty of stop-go city driving) stood at a good 8.1 L/100 km (12.34 km/L).
Driving position is excellent, as you loom over smaller cars on the road. Visibility is good too, with the large windows providing enough visibility. It is a luxuriously soft ride overall, a good trait to have when I barely can hear the engine in the cabin. It does lean noticeably around corners, and the steering feels uninspiring to use with little feedback of road conditions.
Road noise is bearable most of the time, but it gets very noticeable at 90km/h, which is made worse by the Carnival’s cavernous space. The big wheels do look great, but the 235/55R19 Continental CrossContact RX mud and snow rated tyres are less desirable on a MPV.
The big end
Few large and luxury MPVs exist, and they are predominantly Japanese. The Kia Carnival is an immediate stand out with its SUV-like looks and an interior that (arguably) has a better visual synergy than its rivals.
At S$204,999 for the more practical 8-Seater and S$210,999 for the 7-Seater, it sits between its rivals in terms of pricing. I would pick the Carnival, mainly for its tough SUV look, good equipment spec and fuel economy.