Updated Kia Carnival gains a new lease on family life

2018 Kia Carnival mid-life update: The updated Kia Carnival eight-seater has just been armed with life-saving autonomous emergency braking and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2018 Kia Carnival mid-life update: The updated Kia Carnival eight-seater has just been armed with life-saving autonomous emergency braking and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

BOUGHT a seven-seat SUV with a growing family and no need to go off road? You bought the wrong machine.

Despite being much-maligned, people-movers offer more space and greater flexibility than their SUV counterparts. The Kia Carnival has been better than the high-riding counterparts for years, and it's just got better.

But making a people-mover sexy is almost impossible, so Kia has pulled at the heartstrings instead with improved safety and infotainment apps in the latest Carnival.

The updated eight-seater has just been armed with life-saving autonomous emergency braking - functionality which can help avoid or reduce the severity of a crash from urban and highway speeds if the driver doesn't react quick enough - across the four-tier range. Technology which alerts the driver if wandering from a lane and radar cruise control are the other headline standard inclusions.

Smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have also been added as part of a bigger colour info screen design.

Prices have risen across four grades, increasing $1000 for the entry level S which now starts from $42,490 plus on-roads. The top-shelf Platinum diesel starts from $62,790.

Minor changes have been made to the front and rear bumpers, along with a range of small touches to make the Carnival more SUV-like.

Despite offering expansive space and oozing comfort, Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith knows convincing buyers a Carnival is more appealing than the white-hot SUV offerings is an uphill battle.

"It's one more child - the difference between an SUV and a people-mover," he said.


2019 Kia Carnival PE SLi.
The Kia Carnival in SLi specification. Warren Kirby


Engine options remain unchanged; there is still a choice of V6 petrol or four-cylinder turbo diesel but both are now partnered to an eight-speed automatic.

The latter delivers marginal average fuel consumption gains.

Kia Australia's ride and handling guru Graeme Gambold has given the suspension a make-over with increased damping and spring rates to deliver improved handling and ride quality.

"It's a big vehicle and some people drive it unladen and then on the weekend with all the kids and the gear so it has a very wide user window," he said.

Despite Kia giving this an Australia- exclusive set-up, including its own special hydraulic pump for the steering, it can feel too light and vague through the wheel.


2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.
2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum. Warren Kirby

Throw the Carnival into a bend with too much enthusiasm and it feels every bit of its two-tonne weight. It rolls like any SUV, but keep things sensible (and those travelling with eight on board are hardly looking for lap times) and the people-mover possesses impressive ride characteristics.

Our choice would be the diesel for its sub eight litres per 100km consumption ability, while the petrol is thirsty and hunts gears at low speed when you explore its power ability.

The wider torque band in the diesel offers more linear power delivery and it feels strong despite weighing about 100kg more than the V6.

Climb aboard and it's easy to see the Carnival was designed for generous Northern American rear ends.

The seats are wide and cushy, and there is an array of spots for drinks and nooks for storage. There isn't much excitement in terms of design, but it's simplicity appeals for those carrying eight in no-nonsense fashion.


2019 Kia Carnival PE S interior.
The base model Kia Carnival S interior. Warren Kirby

New lane keeping assist technology doesn't provide any steering input if the driver wanders, it provides audible and visual warnings.

And unlike Mazda's CX-9 seven-seater, the autonomous emergency braking only works while travelling forward and not in reverse - while rear cross traffic alert that provides warnings of other vehicles passing is only available in the top-spec variant.

The S and Si models have rear parking sensors, but adding front guides is $750 extra when dealer fitted.

Six colours are available with white the only no-cost option. A new metallic blue, as well as metal or silver cost $695, while black and white pearl are exclusive to the SLi and Platinum models.

Inside, the hues are restricted to grey in cloth or two-tone leather.


2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.
The loaded boot of a Kia Carnival Platinum. Warren Kirby

The Carnival has the best flexible seating configuration, with a 60-40 split-folding third row of seats able to fold completely flat to provide a large cargo area.

It's the only people-mover we've been able to use for extended family journeys, which included accommodation for six, suitcases and a bicycle box.

Servicing costs have increased by $35 for both petrol and diesel engines, with the average maintenance visit about $500 for the oil-burner and $485 for the V6. Intervals are annual or every 15,000km.


2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.
The 2019 model Kia Carnival Platinum. Warren Kirby


SAFETY Across the range has autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and radar cruise control.


DESIGN Bumper changes front and back, altered headlight clusters which sweep into the new look grille, and all alloy wheels have been redesigned to give a more "menacing" look.


TECHNOLOGY An in-house head unit includes a seven-inch screen for the entry-level S model (up from five), which expands to eight-inches for Si, SLi and Platinum. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard, as is digital radio for all models other than S.


MECHANICAL The eight-speed automatic borrowed from the Stinger sportback has been partnered to carryover engines.


2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.
The 2019 Kia Carnival Platinum. Warren Kirby


2018 Kia Carnival

PRICE From $42,490 plus on-roads (good)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 7yr unlim km wty (the best) servicing about $500 each for first seven services (ok)

ENGINES V6 petrol 206Kw/336Nm or 4cyl turbo diesel 147Kw/440Nm, 8sp auto (solid)

SAFETY Five star, six airbags, smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning (meeting expectations)

THIRST 10.8 litres petrol, 7.6L diesel (thirsty V6)

SPARE Space-saver (not great)

BOOT 960 litres (big) third row folded 2220 (massive)