Believe it or not but vans don’t have to be daggy. I mean, the A-Team didn’t get about in a soft-roader SUV, did they?
OK, so while the new Kia Carnival isn’t exactly a GMC Vandura with racing stripes, it’s also a long way from the automotive beige cardigan look of most people movers.
It borrows a lot from the new Sorento, which is a good thing: it’s aggressive, modern and, while the C-pillar garnishes are a bit much, it stands out on the road — especially as it’s surrounded by family SUVs.
In fact, driving the new Carnival just hammers home how much better people movers are at comfortably hauling people and gear than seven-seat SUVs.
This thing is insanely practical, like a cave on wheels.
All eight seats offer good headroom and legroom, with all seats able to either be folded into the floor or slid a long way forward or back as needed.
It’s all done manually, even on our top-spec Platinum review vehicle but it all works easily. In fact, we’d argue even those who’d rarely, if ever, use the rear three pews would still benefit from the Carnival over a soft-roader.
With all three rows in place there’s still a hefty 627 litres of cargo space. Fold the third row down and you’ll have up to 2785 litres available. Madness.
But what’s really cool — yes, I used the word cool in a mini-van review — is how uncompromised the Carnival feels despite its practicality.
Yes, its 5155mm length, 1995mm width and 3090mm wheelbase can be tricky in the tightest of carparks but that’s about the only time you’ll notice it.
Not to mention, sliding doors make it a heck of a lot easier in said situations when loading and unloading kids and the 172mm ground clearance is equal to many SUVs and means you won’t be bottoming out on kerbs when you’re fully loaded.
The new architecture makes the van feel light on its feet, aided by the excellent diesel engine which gets it moving in relatively quick time while still being frugal. It may lack the all-wheel-drive of many seven-seat SUVs but only on loose or wet surfaces under excessive acceleration did the front-wheel power become noticeable.
The cabin is largely quiet of engine and road noise and it’s comfortable too; unlike rivals such as the Toyota Granvia and Hyundai iLoad, the Carnival doesn’t have to overcome commercial-van origins.
And the Aussie suspension tune means it is good enough on coarse roads and while COVID may have forced the Korean steering mapping to be applied to our vehicles for now, we didn’t find it to be an issue at all.
As we were in the Platinum range topper, the price tag was a significant $66,680 plus on roads.
That’s a lot for a people mover — in fact, you can get into a premium European offering for less.
But as with its Sorento brethren, the Carnival still feels worth it. It has just about every feature you could think of, plus a few you wouldn’t: you can open the sliding doors with the key fob, start the engine remotely to pre-heat or cool or heat the cabin, and the air-conditioning will even switch to circulating the air in the car when the sat nav detects you’re entering a tunnel.
It made the Polly Pipe a lot nicer each day.
Auto wipers and a digital driver display (coming soon) were the main omissions.
There’s a heap of safety tech available, which provided our only real frustration.
The lane keep assist was intrusive but easily turned off, unlike the adaptive cruise control.
Our test car also seemed to have a sensitive sensor, which saw the alarm go off when we parked with the window down on a windy day and also when our six-year-old decided to stay in the car on a trip to the servo.
Yes, it’s expensive and yes, you might cop flak for buying a people mover but the Carnival is about as good as urban family transport gets and many will be fine to take a ribbing for the practicality on offer.
Variant Kia Carnival Platinum
Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission Eight-speed automatic, FWD
Fuel economy 6.5L/100km
Variant Vi LX7
Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission CVT automatic
Fuel economy 8.0L/100km
Engine 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission Six-speed automatic, RWD
Fuel economy 8.0L/100km
Engine 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission Seven-speed automatic, RWD
Fuel economy 6.6L/100km