Kia pretty much owns the people mover segment and after driving the latest incarnation of the Carnival it's easy to see why. It's big, seats up to eight people, there's a substantial amount of luggage space leftover and it doesn't cost an arm or a leg. Why would you bother with anything else?
Two engines and four models from which to choose: S, Si, SLi and Platinum _ all of them auto (no diesel S). The turbo diesel version costs $4000 more than a petrol V6, but it's the one you want.
The range has recently upgraded with the addition of Kia's killer 2.2-litre turbo diesel together with a six-speed automatic that gives the driver the option to change gears manually.
Bluetooth is also now standard across the range with steering wheel phone and audio controls and two sets of two 12 volt outlets front and back.
Priced from $56,190 the top of the range Platinum comes with pretty much everything including leather, tri-zone airconditioning and a sunroof along with a power tailgate and sliding rear doors.
Still basically old tech. The engine and transmission are state of the art, but the car itself is due for replacement which probably won't happen until 2013. The green lit dash is a dead giveaway because all the latest models now have orange backlighting.
The 2.2-litre diesel delivers 143kW of power and an impressive 429Nm of torque. We don't have any performance figures, but let's just say it will surprise the pants off other drivers.
No trip computer so no distance to empty which is also an indication of the Carnival's age. Marks deducted for the space saver spare too. Can tow a 2000kg load.
Kia recently dropped the short wheelbase version which was a good move. The bigger better Grand Carnival has more room inside and especially more boot space with the third row of seats in use. Can't wait to see what Kia's design guru Peter Schreyer does with this one when he gets his hands on it? The K7 concept could point the way and looks in shape like a larger version of the Soul.
Gets four out five stars for safety, with six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes. SLi and Platinum get a reversing camera too (built into he rear view mirror). Platinum also gets reverse parking sensors.
Not based on a commercial vehicle and as such drives just like a car. Smooth and easy to steer with a high driving position. Drive is through the front wheels and for a large vehicle it is amazingly light on its feet. Five minutes after getting into this one I recalled why I like this diesel so much ... it has to be one of the smoothest and most powerful out there.
Cruises easily, with good acceleration off the line and strong mid-range response. Not phased by lots of passengers and sips lightly too. Rated at 6.6 litres/100km, we got 500km out of half an 80-litre tank.
Just the ticket, bus ticket that is. Does what it does with little fuss. The competition is all smaller or more expensive, with the exception of Ssangyong's visually challenged Stavic. Cheaper to buy, maintain and run that a four-wheel drive wagon and has more space inside.
KIA GRAND CARNIVAL DIESEL
Price: from $44,990
Warranty: 5 years/unlimited kilometres
Resale: 46 per cent
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety: ABS brakes, ESC, front-side-curtain airbags
Crash rating: four-star ANCAP
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel, 4-cyl, 143kW/4239Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; front-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon, 8 seats
Thirst: 8.1L/100km; CO2 213g/km