Kia Carnival

Korean ‘breeder bus’ majors on functionality and space

GED BULMER

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IN A move that will puzzle McDonalds marketers, the just-launched 2015 version of Kia’s popular people-mover has dropped its established Grand’ prefix to become, ‘Grand’ prefix to become, simply, the Carnival.

While this third-gen offering may not sound as sumptuous as its predecessor, Kia has thrown the lot at its ‘breeder bus’ to deliver a package sure to prove more satisfying for big families.

This new Carnival completes the successful design overhaul of Kia’s range by German styling whiz Peter Schreyer, who dropped the van’s height by 55mm and adopted blockier SUV-like styling to create its sleeker silhouette.

The effect is, shall we say, ruggedly handsome, and while we doubt anyone is going to think you’ve bought a Jeep, the new look may help shake some of the negative baggage usually ascribed to this vehicular genre.

With a kerb weight of 2100kg and the potential to haul several hundred more kilos of human payload, the Carnival demands gutsy powertrains, and making the case for spark ignition is Kia’s Lambda II 3.3-litre GDI V6, which musters a respectable 206kW/336Nm while returning a combined average of 11.6L/100km.

Compression ignition is catered for by a carryover 2.2-litre turbodiesel four that’s had a freshen-up to modestly boost its outputs to 147kW/440Nm. We like the more instant throttle response of the V6, but the torquier diesel would get our vote for its 7.7L/100km efficiency and greater driveability.

Both engines drive the front hoops via a respectably smooth and responsive six-speed auto with a pseudo-manual shift mode.

Space and functionality are paramount in this category, and Carnival’s 40mm of additional wheelbase translates into extra legroom for all three rows.

The range of seating configurations is impressively versatile, including a 60/40-split third row that folds flat into the floor, innovative new ‘stand-up’ seats in the second row make it easier to get in and out, and a removable centre seat enables a walk-through configuration… or a game of 10-pin bowls.

If shifting house is more your thing, the Carnival has this covered, too, with 960 litres of boot space available with all seats in position, expanding to 2220L with the third row folded, or a truly cavernous 4022L with all seats stowed. We recommend leaving a trail of bread crumbs if heading back there.

There’s a motherload of storage compartments, chilled glovies and cupholders (10!). But only the full-fat Platinum unlocks blindspot monitoring, active cruise, lane-departure warning and forward collision warning.

Suspension guru Graeme Gambold helped tune the Carnival’s strut front and multilink rear suspension for local conditions, his efforts ensuring a decently disciplined ride and handling balance. The ride errs on the firm side when unladen, but settles down nicely with a load on board, while the steering is accurate enough, though light and largely feel-free.

A slippery test route over cyclone-soaked back roads in south-east Queensland and northern NSW showed that the big Korean can be hustled along at a decent clip without endangering life or limb. But the reality is that buying this big, blocky beast is more about channelling your inner school-bus driver than it is about nailing apexes.

So, dad, if you’re late with the school lunches, just take a chill pill and enjoy the enhanced ambience of the quieter, calmer Carnival cabin.

01 BIG GIRL

She’s still a big girl, the new Carnival. Wheelbase has swollen to 3060mm, yet it’s the same width as the old shed (1985mm) and slightly shorter (5115mm). Forward planning might help when

02 CLEVER GIRL

Useful features include electric sliding doors and an autoopening tailgate on SLi and Platinum models that activates simply by standing behind the car for a few seconds with the key in your pocket.

03 FANCY GIRL

Carnival’s eight-variant range starts at $41,490 for a V6 S and tops out at $57,490 for the V6 Platinum. The diesel adds $2500 to each, meaning the rangetopping Platinum diesel is a wallet-wounding $59,990.

Starstruck

IN A testament to the vagaries of ANCAP crashtest ratings, had Kia’s new Carnival launched in 2014, it would have achieved five stars, not the four-star rating it now wears. In practical terms the car is no less safe, but new ANCAP rules mean that, to achieve the top star rating, cars must have seatbelt reminders for every fixed seat. A Kia spokesman said the second-row seatbelt warning was not a requirement for other markets, so had to be engineered specifically for Australia. There had also been some confusion over classification of the new ‘stand-up’ seats in the second row and the removable centre seat, as the latter does not require a seatbelt reminder under the new rules. Kia is confident that Carnival will have five stars by August, when Oz-specific second-row seatbelt reminders will debut.

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