[This article was first published on sgcarmart.com]
A bevy of luxury and safety features makes the Kia Carnival a very practical vehicle for the family, even if it has massive proportions.
With so many family-oriented car shoppers moving away from the tired and old MPV bodystyle for the trending and robust image of a large SUV, Kia has had to completely rethink its approach to the famous 'Carnival' nameplate, endowing its people mover with much needed beefy looks and a whole new 'Grand Utility Vehicle' cachet.
But does the new car deserve its new branding?
Well, from the outside things are looking good. The car certainly has all the size and pompousness to justify its regal branding.
At 5,155mm long, the Kia Carnival may just be a little shy off the total length of the undoubtedly grand Mercedes-Benz S-Class we recently tested, but easily has the luxury limo beaten when it comes to width and height.
And it's not just sheer mass that the Kia Carnival has to offer. It's quite the looker as well. Those chunky 19-inch rims, silver roof rails, and skid plates at the front and rear all give credit to that SUV-inspired cachet.
The power bulges on the bonnet as well as the elaborate 'tiger nose' grille, meanwhile, are nice touches that hint at the car's newfound strength just lurking underneath. But more on that later.
With the Kia Carnival claiming to draw from the best of SUVs and MPVs, you'd of course expect it to be one helluva practical car. And even here it manages to exceed expectations.
Those outlandish exterior proportions translate into generous space in the cabin for all first and second-row passengers. And even those at the rear-most bench will still find enough legroom and decent headroom for longer journeys, something that many seven-seat SUVs fail to offer.
Look even further back and you'll find a cavernous recess in the floor of the car for luggage, (it's where the third-row of seats fold into when stored away) so you get a very practical 627-litre worth of boot space even with all seats upright.
And once again, it isn't just sheer mass that is on offer here in the cabin. There are plenty of luxury features throughout as well. Opt for this seven-seater variant of the Carnival and all first and second-row passengers will get heated and ventilated electronically adjustable seats.
Those in the second row also get treated to lounge-style seats with a leg rest that is, again, electronically adjusted. And on top of that, there are two sunroofs that further lighten the already airy interior.
At the front, the dashboard of the Kia Carnival is a varied mix of different surfaces, but the button and switchgear layout is sensible and intuitive. And the same can be said of the infotainment system, accessed through a sizable 12.3-inch touchscreen.
You get two analog dials and Kia's 4.2-inch LCD supervision cluster in the instrument panel, however, instead of the 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster found in the Kia Sorento. You'll also be missing out on that awesome Blind Spot View Monitor system.
Thankfully, the 360-degree parking camera system offers up a high-resolution image and a variety of views to aid positioning this behemoth into tight spaces.
MPVs may have a reputation for offering an uninspired driving experience but this Kia Carnival is anything but.
Kia states the Carnival has received a host of handling improvements, ranging from a new suspension geometry at the front, to elongated lower suspension arms and a revised spring layout at the rear, and the net result is a car that not only rides comfortably over pitted surfaces, but also offers decent control of body movement should you show it a set of fast corners.
Power delivery from that 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel engine that is shared with the Sorento is also creamy smooth. In the Carnival, however, said engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic, which has eradicated that awful transmission whine that the dual-clutch system in the Sorento produced.
And if you're not a fan of diesel clatter, you'll be glad to note that insulation in the cabin of the Kia Carnival is excellent. Road noise is well suppressed, and you're separated from any engine vibrations thanks to newly developed liquid-filled engine bushes.
All these of course make the Kia Carnival an excellent vehicle to be driven in when you're covering plenty of highway miles.
But even if you're the one behind the wheel, 440Nm of torque from 1,750Nm, a tall seating position, as well as a well-calibrated adaptive cruise control and Lane Following Assist system mean you'll still get to cover long distances with minimal effort.
The whole carnival
At $209,999 for this seven-seater variant, shoppers here looking for a large MPV will most likely be cross-shopping the Kia Carnival against the recently launched and slightly smaller Honda Odyssey (available at $186,999 for the seven-seater), or the Toyota Vellfire (available at a far more commanding $242,888, all prices as of 26 May 2021).
But given the Carnival's wide breath of ability, I think those looking for something practical enough for an entire touring circus can do little wrong with Kia's new Grand Utility Vehicle. It truly deserves to be in a class of its own.
[Source article: sgcarmart.com/news/review.php?AID=1775]