[This article was first published on motorist.sg]
The all-new Kia Carnival elevates affluence to a whole new level, combining luxury and space into a huge, powerful package.
Picture this - You have settled down with your partner and have started a family together. There are children and parents to ferry around, not to mention large volumes of cargo such as weekly shopping and baby strollers.
You need a car that can do it all; something that can transport everything around in safety and comfort. Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to the Kia Carnival.
With massive proportions and a commanding body shape, this giant is set to challenge existing MPVs such as the Toyota Alphard, Honda Odyssey and Nissan Elgrand.
The Carnival is striking to look at, both in terms of looks and size. It has an overall length of 5.1 metres, meaning you are bigger than even most vans on the road. Walk up to the car and you begin to shrink in comparison.
In a bid to attract more customers in today's SUV-crazed market, Kia has also classified the Carnival as a "Grand Utility Vehicle" or GUV, the first in its class to carry that title.
Upfront, an attractive LED daytime running light (DRL) design and headlamps form the headlight cluster. These DRLs have a ridged design, a welcome change from traditional straight or curved DRLs found on other vehicles.
The headlight cluster integrates well with the 'tiger nose' grille, a design trait on current generation Kia models.
A full strip of LED lights spans across the entire width of the rear. The Carnival does come with a rear wiper, tucked neatly away above the rear window.
Both the sliding doors and tailgate are powered, and it will even close automatically when it senses someone walking away with the car key in their pocket. This is an especially helpful feature when you are unloading items and do not have any available hands to close the tailgate.
The sides also feature a Crash Pad Garnish, which are 3D embossed satin chrome plates that complement the chrome bumper trims surrounding the vehicle.
Both trims of the Carnival come with stylish 19-inch alloy rims as standard, a welcome addition to the factory options from Kia.
These alongside the other design traits like the roof rack and chrome plates really give the car a more muscular and regal appearance, setting it apart from the other MPVs on the market.
Even with all of the seats folded up, the Carnival still has copious amounts of boot space. With a recessed floor, it has a staggering 627 litres available, meaning you can fit an entire family's worth of luggage with ease, and still have space leftover.
Best of all, the huge recess allows the third-row seats to be folded flat, giving you even more space for bulky items. A trip to IKEA is no problem for this giant.
Thanks to its massive size, the Carnival provides generous amounts of space for all occupants in the cabin.
Large automatic sliding doors provide easy access for rear passengers, and even include exterior puddle lamps to illuminate where passengers are stepping at night.
This test unit is the more expensive 7-seater variant, with the second row fitted with a pair of lounge seats. These seats are extremely comfortable and can be electronically adjusted.
When fully reclined, they still offer enough legroom for taller individuals. On top of all that, major plus points for this vehicle is the addition of heated and ventilated seats for both the first and second rows, as well as full leather seats for the entire vehicle.
Window curtains are available for the second and third rows, offering additional privacy and shade from the harsh sunlight.
Unlike other 7-seater vehicles with cramped third-row seating, the Carnival has so much space that even adults can sit comfortably in the back with enough legroom. Plus, there are dual sunroofs that further lighten up the already spacious interior.
You do get 3-zone air-conditioning in this car, with two for the driver and front passenger and the remaining for the rear passengers. The vents are also located throughout the ceiling and floor of the vehicle, ensuring that all occupants including the third row are able to receive sufficient amounts of cool air, something which other MPVs fail to offer.
The only gripe we have with the rear is the position of the air-conditioning controls. Instead of placing it in the middle where passengers on both sides can access it easily, Kia chose to mount the controls off to the right side above the sliding door.
Upfront, the driver and front passenger both benefit from electronically adjustable seats, with additional memory settings for the driver.
The seats are separated by a huge centre console that features a 15W wireless smartphone charging pad in addition to a number of USB ports. The charger's indicator will show orange when it's charging and green when charging is complete.
What's more, the centre glove box is so big, you can even fit handbags or tissue boxes into it with ease.
The car features a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system that allows you to perform various functions such as selecting audio sources or configuring vehicle settings. The screen is tilted slightly towards the driver and has great visibility even under direct sunlight.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality are also included, and phone projection enables your apps to be mirrored on the touchscreen, providing added convenience for navigation.
However, these systems are not wireless, and in order to utilise them, you would have to connect to your smartphone via a USB cable.
For the driver, a 4.2-inch LCD screen in the middle of the analogue instrument cluster provides crucial driving information. The steering wheel features multifunction controls, and these buttons can be used to toggle information hands-free while driving.
To top it off, the Carnival features a BOSE premium audio system. Audiophiles will be happy to note that you can fine-tune various audio settings via the centre touchscreen, allowing you to customise your music exactly the way you want it to sound.
Despite its large proportions, the Carnival is actually very easy and safe to drive on the roads, thanks to an abundance of safety features. These include:
Crucially it has the surround-view monitor, which is a 360-degree camera that automatically turns on if the car senses an approaching kerb or wall. This is a lifesaver when manoeuvring the vehicle through narrow or tight car parks. The cameras are amazingly clear, and parking the car with this system, including parallel spaces, becomes a breeze.
Unlike other vehicles where the safety features become so intrusive that you just want to turn them off completely, the Carnival's features are very intuitive to use, and they do not distract you from the overall driving experience.
The features are also easy to activate. With a press of a few buttons on the right side of the steering wheel, you can engage the smart cruise control and lane following assist, effectively enabling the car to drive itself on expressways, only needing human assistance when negotiating sharper turns.
Of course, for safety reasons you would obviously still need to have your hands on the steering wheel, if not the cruise control system would not function properly. In practice, this driving assist combination is a dream to have on expressways, making every journey effortless no matter how far we needed to travel.
Although the Carnival does have a myriad of safety features under its belt, what it does lack is the blind spot view monitor found in the Kia Sorento.
To summarise, the fully digital instrument cluster in the Sorento would display a blind spot camera when you used the turn signals, giving you more visibility when changing lanes. This is a system desperately needed in the Carnival due to its sheer size but is blatantly absent.
The Carnival's beating heart is a 2.2-litre diesel engine that produces approximately 198bhp. That might not sound like a lot, but being a diesel, it does possess a lot of low-end torque, with the engine producing 440Nm of torque at just 1,750rpm.
What this translates to is that despite its hefty weight, this behemoth is still able to accelerate and overtake other vehicles confidently. More often than not, other motorists will gawk at you for trying to overtake them, only for them to be pleasantly surprised when you end up ahead of them at the next intersection.
The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which performed well during our testing and was really smooth when rowing through the different gears.
One common complaint is that diesel engines are traditionally loud and rowdy when in operation. However, the engine in the Carnival is very civilised. Combine that with the copious amounts of sound dampening material found throughout the vehicle, you get a cabin that is extremely quiet. It's so quiet in fact, that you can even pick up the sound of your smartphone vibrating while on silent mode.
Granted, the engine does produce a bit of a racket whenever you try to floor the pedal. However, in most situations when you're just cruising about, the car sounds gentle.
As long as you don't corner too enthusiastically, the Carnival is pretty solid through turns. You don't get any fancy sport suspension in this car, but at the same time, you don't get the usual drama you experience with other large cars when cornering.
Additionally, the car's vehicle stability management continuously monitors road conditions and adapts the car to them, helping to iron out bumps and dips in the road. This thing will gallantly take on any road in Singapore, and you really gain more confidence the more you drive.
When we first encountered the Carnival, the team thought it would be a drag to test and drive around, with its enormous proportions. However, when we were due to return it, no one wanted to see the car go, and we all wanted to continue driving it.
Yes, the Carnival is huge and massively impractical in most car parks. But, while driving and ferrying passengers around, the car shines in its own unique way. Its powerful considering its size, and it feels nimble on the road.
Even with a group of drivers, no one wanted to volunteer to drive it, instead fighting to sit in the back to enjoy the immense comfort that the chairs provide.
Best of all, it looks fantastic. Kia really nailed the design of this car, and you feel special driving around in it, attracting stares from other motorists all the time.
In essence, it is truly in a class of its own.
[Source article: motorist.sg/article/946/mreview-kia-carnival-the-gentle-goliath]