Kia Carnival hits the Big Apple

Kia’s long-awaited all-new Carnival will hit town just before Christmas.

The third generation Korean people-mover is one of the few fresh-from-the-ground-up world premieres at this year’s New York International Auto Show.

Styled under the watch of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, the Carnival moves to a more cab-forward shape with a 40mm-longer wheelbase and shorter front and rear overhangs for improved interior space efficiency.

So, while the overall dimensions remain about the same, with the Kia retaining the outgoing nine-year-old model’s 2+3+3 seating configuration and sliding side doors, there is now more space for legs and shoulders.

The Carnival’s engineers have also raised the hip point, improving driver vision.

Kia describes the more horizontal dash layout as exuding a “premium” ambience, and backs this up with softer-touch materials and more contemporary features such as a centrally located touchscreen and an array of multi-media connectivity interfaces.

Whether the locally bound Carnival will boast the downloadable apps (that include internet radio streaming, Google Play and iTunes connectivity) touted for its US-market Sedona twin is unknown.

Storage solutions include a large bin between the front seats, a sliding second row that can be folded upright to facilitate bulkier items without the need to remove heavy bench seats, and a third row with a 60:40 split-fold design that retracts into the floor with one simple operation.

The Sedona twin’s second-row revolving ‘Captain’s Chairs’ (with an ottoman), Nappa leather upholstery and two-tone interior trimming are unlikely to make it on Australian Carnivals.

Behind the corporate ‘Tiger Nose’ grille will be a choice of two powerplants for our market – a new 205kW/336Nm (American-spec) 3.3-litre direct-injection V6 petrol (replacing the old 3.5-litre version) and a 2.2-litre common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel delivering about 140kW and 430Nm.

Both will drive the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Kia says the Carnival’s monocoque platform is completely new, with improved torsional stiffness courtesy of improved welding and bonding techniques, as well as 76 percent Ultra High and High Strength steel.

The pillars have been reinforced to provide extra roof strength, the result being an expected US vehicle safety rating of five stars.

There is a suite of new or improved active and passive safety items, including stability and traction control with Cornering Brake Control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Roll Over Mitigation.

For the first time, the Carnival buyer has the options of a forward collision warning system, radar-based automatic cruise control, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.

On the refinement front, the suspension’s dampers have been revised for a suppler ride, the rear subframe is better isolated to cut noise pathways from the rear suspension and the struts have been beefed up.

Plus, there’s more sound deadening material behind the front firewall and in the wheel arch housings while the sliding doors use a double sealing process.

Other features include a chilled glovebox, “high-power” USB charging, an AC outlet for small electronic equipment, surround-view camera technology to aid parking and an electric tailgate opener.

Kia Australia PR boss Kevin Hepworth expects the Carnival to attract “minor price increases” commensurate with the uplift in technology and safety features. Currently, the VQ Grand Carnival retails between $38,990 and $56,290 (plus on-road costs).

Though near the end of its lifecycle, the previous model still managed to dominate the sub-$55K people-mover class with a 35 percent market share last year, well ahead of the Hyundai iMax (18 percent), Honda Odyssey (12.4 percent) and Toyota Tarago (11.9 percent).

However, the new Odyssey forged ahead in the first three months of 2014 with nearly 25 percent of the revised sub-$60K segment, with the ageing Kia falling below 20 percent for the first time in years.

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