Designing a people mover for the road is simple: take a box, slap on four wheels and you’re done. But what do you do if you want a truly stylish people mover? Many companies have tried and some have failed. Some have come out with award winners, such as Honda and their Odyssey. To make a BIG people mover look nice is no easy task yet Korea’s Kia have done so with their 2016 Carnival. Carnival is also the vehicle of choice for a company that specialises in producing vehicles for disabled and wheelchair bound people, Automobility.
A Wheel Thing was pencilled in to sample the diesel engined Carnival, however due to an incident with that car, was given the keys to the petrol powered S, the entry level model. It’s an interesting price point, too, for the big car (it’s 5115 mm long) at $41490 as it’s both well featured as standard and just $500 more than the Optima Platinum…
Kia has fitted the Carnival with a 3.3L V6 and a 2.2L diesel four cylinder, with both available through the four level range. Power and torque from the petrol engine is 206 kW (6000 rpm) and 336 torques, at a high 5200 revs. This contributes to the woeful economy of the petrol powered version, with Kia’s own figures quoting 15.9L of unleaded for every 100 klicks covered in an urban environment, right where the Carnival’s main usage would be. It also explains an 80L fuel tank being fitted. Compare that to 147 kW (3800 rpm) and a more than handy 400 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm, with six litres of diesel LESS being consumed over 100 kilometres.
Transmission is a six speed auto and it’s one of the best around. Under almost all driving circumstances, gear changes were invisible, with the flick of the rev counter the only indication of a change. It’s responsive, reacting to throttle input instantly and works well enough in hustling the 2048 kg beastie along nicely. There’s plenty of whoa to match the go, with a beautifully weighted pedal feel, with bite on the 320mm/324mm discs, front and rear, as soon as you touch the brake pedal and hauls the Carnival up nicely.
Ride quality surprised, surprised in that it was softer than expected. The S rolls on 17 inch steel wheels, with 235/65 rubber, with that sidewall height accounting for some of it, surely. Driven at appropriate speed over the speed calming bumps locally had the Carnival barely registering their existence. Handling, however, wasn’t compromised, with a surefooted and deft feel to the steering being communicated. Turn in was mostly well balanced, with perhaps too much for some drivers. A Wheel Thing was certainly surprised by the alacrity at which the Carnival responded to a turn of the tiller.
Somehow, Kia’s design team have taken a box and made it look European. Complete with the brand’s “tiger nose” signature, the sweeping headlights and a kick in the window line, the looks bely the length, the near two metre width and 1755 mm height. They’ve engineered in a 11.2 metre turning circle, wonderful for the size.
There’s no shortage of interior space, with a 3060 mm wheelbase, even with seating for eight. Kia have spent time and money here as it’s a beautiful place to be and the mechanisms for folding the seats are no more complicated than pulling a lever. There’s not just split folding either, as each seat is individually mounted on rails. There’s aircon controls for the rear and with vents for both middle and rear seats. Family friendly? Oh yes, indeedy. With seats folded and removed, there’s a massive 4022L of space available.
All the seats themselves are wonderfully comfortable, especially for the driver and passenger. They also face a simple yet elegant dash, complete with dashboard mounted chiller for SLi and Platinum (the S gets a non chilled unit), a huge centre console storage locker, some of the best ergonomics you’ll see for a family car and a pleasing mix of plastcs, both for tactile and visual looks.
Being the entry level model, it’s a small screen for the radio (Really wish the Koreans would do RDS…) and a small display for the dash, with a insert that shows what can be shown further up the range (3.5 inch OLED display for Si and SLi, 7 inch screen for Platinum).
Being a family car, it’s loaded with safety, with airbags, electronics for driving aids (the Platinum gets the extra toppings like Lane Awareness and Rear Cross Traffic Alert) plus the 7 year unlimited kilometre warranty to sweeten the deal. Lob in 3 USB charging ports and 12V sockets, 14 cup and bottle holders and it’s abundantly clear just how much thought has gone into the Carnival.
The U.S. market is fickle, predominantly a 4WD ute or pickup market, yet the Carnival (Sedona in the states) has cut through enough to be named the best minivan. Even with the S being the entry level model, There’s plenty to love about the big people mover, bar the fuel economy for the petrol engine. It’s fun, this Carnival.
For the complete rundown on the range, click here: The incredible 8 seater Kia Carnival.