Kia’s new standout family car
A people mover is typically the vehicle you need, rather than the one you want. As a breed they've been overtaken by the seven-seat SUV, because mums and dads love the fact they can transport a large tribe in something that looks vaguely stylish.
Kia is hoping to turn the tables to an extent with the new Carnival.
The latest version of Australia's favourite people-mover has a longer, more aggressive snout and SUV styling cues in an attempt to woo people away from seven-seat SUVs.
The brand's chief operating officer Damien Meredith believes the new model will expand its buyer base.
"I think that what will happen with this Carnival is that you'll see more of the non-traditional people-mover buyers look at the car, I think from that large SUV segment," he says.
Looks are subjective, but the Carnival is still unmistakably a people-mover, albeit one with a little more street cred, particularly in GT-Line trim where it has big gansta-like black rims.
More importantly, the new Carnival is bigger and better in almost every detail inside. Every model except the entry level S has a huge centre screen that wraps around into the digital instruments in front of the driver, giving the dash a premium look and feel.
Elsewhere, the Carnival caters well for the modern family. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are standard, there are USB plugs and air vents in every row of seats and you can pair two phones via Bluetooth - one for the driver and one for family DJ.
There's also an intercom system that uses the car's speakers to project the driver's voice to rear passengers. In a quirk of product planning, the cheapest model has a smaller centre screen but is the only one to have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety has improved as well. Aside from the usual auto emergency braking, lane keeping and blind-spot detection, the Carnival "reads" speed signs, stops you from turning across oncoming traffic and brakes if you're reversing out of a parking spot into a passing car. On higher grades the side doors won't open if there's a car approaching from behind and the cruise control will automatically keep a safe distance from the car in front.
Prices are up significantly across the board, though. The S petrol starts at $46,880 plus on-roads ($50,390 drive-away) and tops out at $66,680 ($69,990 drive-away) for the GT-Line diesel. That's up from the previous model, which started at $43,190 and finished at $63,490. Diesel power adds $2000.
Meredith says the increase in technology means the Carnival still represents "a great value equation".
The new Carnival is longer and wider than before, creating more room for passengers and luggage. Unlike seven-seat SUVs, there is room for passengers and their luggage when all seats are full. On higher grades, the two sliding rear doors and the tailgate open at the touch of a button and can be closed via the key fob.
Two engines are available. The cheapest models are powered by a 3.5-litre petrol V6 putting out 216kW and 355Nm, but 80 per cent of sales will be the 2.2-litre diesel, which has less power (148kW) but more torque (440Nm) for lugging big loads.
More importantly, the diesel uses roughly a third less fuel, sipping just 6.5L/100km on the official test. On a 200km freeway trip we saw low 6L per 100km and around town it hovered around 11-13L/100km. The new diesel - paired to an 8-speed auto - is smoother, more efficient and quieter, making light work of hills and overtaking manoeuvres.
The Carnival is also surprisingly good to drive. It feels planted and predictable through corners and soaks up bumps and road ripples without getting flustered. As a touring vehicle for family vacations, it has few peers.
If you like a family vehicle that does what it says on the box, the Carnival takes some beating. It's spacious, well equipped, comfortable and safe.
KIA CARNIVAL VITALS
Price: From $50,390 drive-away
Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 148kW/440Nm or 3.5-litre V6, 216kW/355Nm
Warranty/servicing: 7 years, unlimited km, $2572 over 5 years
Cargo space: 627L
Spare: Space saver
Originally published as Kia's new standout family car