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Carnival is pleasantly basic

When shopping for a Carnival it's best to opt for a post-2000 model which is equipped with safety features.

There are many vehicles that could do the job, including the many and varied four-wheel-drives that have become so fashionable in recent times, but the one vehicle purpose-designed for the task is the people mover. While people movers provided an answer, back in the late 1990s they were usually financially out of the reach of many people who most needed them.

But in 1999 along came Kia with its Carnival. Priced well below the others, it was an instant hit.

There was nothing remarkable about the Carnival, but with a base price under $30,000 it was $5000-$6000 less than its nearest rival and proved popular. Where other people movers made some pretence of style, the Kia could best be described as pleasantly basic.

It had four doors for access to the passenger zone and a lift-up hatch to get to the boot behind the rear seat. There was seating for seven in three rows with reasonable space behind the rear seat for goods. The second and third rows could be removed with extra flexibility delivered through the ability to split and fold the rear row.

A 2.5-litre double overhead camshaft V6 provided ample power with either a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto.

At first Kia offered one level of Carnival, the Wagon, and you drove away with airconditioning, power windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, AM-FM sound and central locking.

In 2000 a model upgrade delivered an airbag for the driver and a CD player, plus a new higher spec model, the Classic, which had leather trim, dual airbags, a power driver's seat, remote central locking and alloy wheels.

Another upgrade in 2001 saw the Wagon and Classic badges replaced by the new LS and LE. There was a long list of standard features in the LS, including dual-zone airconditioning, six-speaker CD sound, while the LE also boasted alloys and leather trimmed seats and doors.

The Carnival's V6 suffered from head gasket failures, which Kia fixed by replacing the engine.

Models built between September 1999 and March 2002 were most prone to the problem.

It showed up as a gradual loss of power over a period of time and, according to Kia, it is not possible to detect before it actually occurs.

Check the body for bumps and scrapes from the daily grind of a family hack that's often not particularly well treated. Look carefully at the interior for stains and marks caused by heavy traffic and children misbehaving.

It's best to go for the post-2000 models equipped with airbags, which offer the best secondary safety protection. Anti-lock brakes weren't available which detracts from the Carnival's primary safety picture.


Things to look for

  • Later airbag-equipped models are best
  • Make sure it has a service record
  • Roomy and flexible interior
  • Look for interior stains and marks
  • Check for signs of engine overheating
  • Well equipped
  • Seven seats to move the tribe
  • Check for bumps and scrapes on the body


Kia Carnival


Price: Early Carnivals can be had for as little as $10,000 in manual or auto. The 2000/01 Classic is $14,000.

For the better equipped post-2001 LS models pay $15,000 to $19,000 (2003 model). Add $1500 for the LE.

Engine: 2.5L/V6, 132kW/220Nm

Economy: expect about 11.5L/100km

Rating: 45/100

Verdict: Well-equipped, value-formoney people mover, but beware of engine overheating problems.



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