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Kia Carnival 2015 review: road test

Kia's supersized Carnival takes eight, their luggage and all their devices.

There's an interesting insight into the evolution of the modern family in the new Kia Carnival.

For on-board entertainment, the previous Carnival made do with a CD player. The new model has three USB ports and three 12-volt power outlets to make sure that all on board can charge their mobile devices on the run and avoid — heaven forbid — conversation with any other occupant.

It also caters for the modern obsession with hydration with no fewer than 10 cup-holders and four bottle holders.

The big Korean people-mover also allows for average Australians being bigger than they used to be — there’s more room in all three rows, while the Carnival’s middle row seats stand up rather than tumble forward, giving more space for those climbing into the third row.

As people-movers go, the Carnival is the supersized version. Kia says that roughly 60 per cent of private Carnival buyers have three or more children, but for anyone who believes only eight is enough, this thing will comfortably swallow a family of eight and their luggage.


Having shrunk the Carnival overall, the designers also squeezed more room in between the front and rear wheels, which means the cabin is bigger than its predecessor in every vital measure.

All three rows have more legroom and the rearmost seats have more headroom thanks to a less tapered roof. Lanky teens will no longer be able to avoid the back row.

Apart from the luggage area, the Carnival also has a stack of storage space — two gloveboxes and a huge centre storage bin that can comfortably fit a couple of two‒litre bottles standing up.

There’s also a sliding tray on top for smaller items you don’t want to lose in the abyss.

Utilitarian to its core, the new model still lifts the game inside, with higher quality materials on the dash and a classy two-tone grey leather trim on the more expensive models.

The top glovebox felt a little stiff opening and closing but all in all the cabin is a suitably premium environment.


The base model makes do with a small infotainment screen and small reversing camera, cloth seats and no digital speedo.

As a range, equipment levels are pretty good. Which is just as well, because the new model is a couple of grand dearer than the one it replaces.

Starting price for the S is $41,490 and the Platinum diesel model tops out at an eye-watering $59,990.

Most private buyers will fall somewhere in between — the Si is from $45,490 and the SLi from $49,990.

The S is targeted largely at fleets, which account for three in four sales.

Up from the base model you get a bigger screen and satnav and further creature comforts.

The more expensive models also get remote electric sliding doors and a tailgate that opens after three seconds if you stand next to it with your key in hand.


The Platinum could lay claim to being Australia’s safest people-mover, with a vast array of collision avoidance technology including lane departure and blind spot warning, auto dimming headlights, distance-keeping cruise control and rear cross‒traffic sensors.

The safety gear isn’t available as an option on cheaper models.

There’s another safety caveat. The Carnival gets only a four-star rating from our crash test authority because it doesn’t have seat belt reminders in the second row.

The car was supposed to arrive before new regulations came into effect on January 1, and had it been on time it would have rated five stars.

The factory is racing to fit them by September, when the Carnival will get five stars.

The rating hiccup is more anomaly than genuine safety issue though, and with six airbags including curtains extending to the third row, the Carnival is expected to be safer than many five-star cars.

On the road

The first thing you notice about the Carnival is the steering feel, or lack of it.

Despite being tuned locally for Australian conditions, the Carnival steering feels too light and vague by people-mover standards, around town as well as on the freeway.

It feels better once it loads up through bends, though, and the rest of the driving experience is solid.

The suspension effectively cushions occupants from bumps and imperfections in the road surface without wallowing on bigger bumps or leaning excessively through corners.

At family-friendly cruising speeds, the car feels relaxed and predictable in its responses.

There are two engine options, the 2.2-litre diesel being the pick — it loses little to the 3.3-litre V6 in performance and is significantly less thirsty.

The V6 officially uses 11.6L/100km of unleaded but we saw about 14.0L through a drive on hilly country back roads.

The diesel returned about 9.0L in a mix of suburban and freeway running.

Kia has dropped the premium for a diesel from $4000 to $2500.

Both engines are relatively smooth, although some rattle can be heard from the diesel at lower speeds.

Elsewhere the driving experience feels pretty refined, although our test drive was held in pouring rain so it was hard to get an idea of cabin noise.


The Carnival pretty much nails its brief as a full-size people-mover for larger families and makes more sense than a lot of seven-seat SUVs asking the same price.

Whether it can return to the top of the sales charts while charging a premium over the very good Honda Odyssey remains to be seen.

Watch the new Kia Carnival in action here.

Pricing guides

Based on 120 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Platinum 3.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,100 – 34,540 2015 Kia Carnival 2015 Platinum Pricing and Specs
Platinum (W/O 2ND ROW Heated) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $27,600 – 36,520 2015 Kia Carnival 2015 Platinum (W/O 2ND ROW Heated) Pricing and Specs
S 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $19,000 – 26,400 2015 Kia Carnival 2015 S Pricing and Specs
Si 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $21,200 – 28,820 2015 Kia Carnival 2015 Si Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 117 car listings in the last 6 months

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