2015 Kia Carnival review

Kia’s 2015 Carnival people-mover features fresh styling, upgraded mechanicals, improved safety and convenience features, along with significant improvements to refinement and quality.

The Korean-made ‘breeder bus’ majors on functionality, with acres of interior space, a flexible eight-seat interior, the choice of petrol or diesel engines and an extensive list of standard features spread across a four-variant model range (S, Si, SLi, and Platinum).

The all-new 2015 model is based on a new platform that begets a stronger, stiffer body, more sophisticated SUV-like styling, enhanced safety features and driver aids, along with a new petrol engine, revised diesel engine, and localised suspension tuning, designed to optimise ride and handling.

Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Tarago, Hyundai iMax, Volkswagen Multivan.

Hard to go past if bums on seats with space to burn is the priority, but Citroen’s C4 Grand Picasso drives around it dynamically and looks better to boot.

PLUS: Acres of interior space; torquey turbo-diesel; decently refined; versatile seating configuration; impressive safety features in top-spec model
MINUS: Still drives like a small bus; you need to spend big to get the full suite of safety features

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

While this third-generation 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 space-hungry 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.

Also SUV-like is the eight-variant model range’s pricing, which for petrol versions starts at $41,490 for a base V6 S, rises to $45,490 for the Si, nudges $49,990 for the SLi, and tops out at $57,490 for the V6 Platinum.

The diesel option adds $2500 to each variant, meaning the range-topping Platinum diesel will place the bathroom renovations on hold at a wallet-wounding $59,990.

Speaking of bathrooms, with a kerb weight of 2100kg and the potential to haul several hundred more kilos of human payload, the Carnival demands decently gutsy petrol and diesel powertrains, and making the case for spark ignition is Kia’s new Euro V-compliant Lambda II 3.3-litre GDI V6, which musters a respectable 206kW and 226Nm while returning a combined average of 11.6L/100km.

Compression ignition is catered for with a carryover 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that’s had a freshen-up to modestly boost its outputs to 147kW and 440Nm diesel.

We like the more instant throttle response of the V6, but the gruffer and more muscular diesel would get our vote for its superior 7.7L/100km efficiency and greater driveability.

Both engines drive the front hoops via a respectably smooth and responsive six-speed auto, featuring pseudo-manual shift mode and an arguably more useful active-eco mode for enhanced fuel consumption. 

Space and functionality are, of course, paramount in this category, and the new 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.

Surprise-and-delight features include a motherload of storage compartments, multi-boxes, chilled glove compartments and no fewer than 10 cupholders. There’s also a convex ‘conversation’ mirror to ensure mum can give kids her patented ‘Julie Bishop Death Ray Stare’, and a special stain-resistant seat fabric, presumably for kids who have just received said stare.

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

Safety is well covered with six airbags, a rear-view camera and the usual array of ABS, ESC, TCS, EBD and BAS acronyms. It’s only when you step up to the full-fat Platinum, however, that you unlock blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control, lane-departure warning and forward collision warning.

Former Toyota Australia suspension guru Graeme Gambold helped tune the Carnival’s MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension for local conditions, his efforts ensuring a decently disciplined ride-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.

Kia Carnival GDI SLi
Engine: 3342cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v
Max power: 206kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 336Nm @ 5200rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 2100kg
0-100km/h: N/A
Fuel economy: 11.6L/100km
Price: $49,990
On sale: Now

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