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Kia Carnival 2018 review

Kia has added running changes, and has included a few touches to make it specific for Australian audiences.
The successful Kia Carnival has been updated for 2018 with new gearboxes and more safety equipment as standard, along with - finally - Apple CarPlay.

When it comes to buying a people mover, the category leader is Kia's Carnival, with Honda’s Odyssey a distant second, and daylight coming in third and fourth.

The third generation – known as the PE - was released in 2015, and has subsequently proven a hit, particularly with buyers looking for space and a bit of luxury as well.

Kia has added the running changes recently made to the identical US market Sedona, and has included a few touches to make it specific for Australian audiences.

Kia Carnival 2018: S
Safety rating
Engine Type3.3L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency11.6L/100km
Seating8 seats
Price from$22,800

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Prices on the eight-strong range have risen by $1000 for the base model S diesel and petrol cars, by $1500 on the two Platinum variants, and by $2500 on the mid-level Si and SLi grades in both fuel types.

The range now kicks off at $42,490, plus on-road costs, for the 3.3-litre six-cylinder petrol S, and tops out at $62,790 for the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel Platinum.

The S ($42,490 in petrol, and $44,990 in diesel) offers AEB, lane departure warning, reversing camera with sensors and adaptive cruise control as standard, along with automatic lights, 17-inch steel rims, a 7.0-inch multimedia screen and 3.5-inch OLED screen between the dash dials, a digital speedo as well as cloth trim and manual air-con.

  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (S variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (S variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (SLi variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (SLi variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)

The $47,990/$50,490 Si adds items like multi-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, nicer seat fabrics, tinted front side glass, LED combo rear lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter and an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav.

The $52,490/$54,990 SLi scores 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, part-leather interior with sunshades and an eight-way powered driver’s seat, while the top shelf Platinum - at $60,290 in petrol and $62,790 in diesel - scores additional safety aids like rear cross-traffic alert and high-speed capable blind spot monitoring. It also gets a higher level of interior trim, tinted glass and 19-inch rims out of the box.

The natural competitor to the Carnival is Honda’s Odyssey, while the Volkswagen T6 Multivan is also on the shopping list, and the Carnival outpoints both for standard inclusions at its price points, despite the price rises.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Not much to see here in terms of exterior upgrades for the new Carnival, with changes limited to a refresh of the front bumper and grille, along with tidied up tail-lights and some tweaking to the rear visage.

New alloy rims also feature across the range, while small touches like button activation for the sliding doors (where fitted) has also been included.

The Carnival's basic tenant of a handsome, muscular, well proportioned van remains fundamentally unchanged. It's an absolute contrast to previous generations.

  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (S variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (S variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)

On the interior, changes are limited to slight upgrades in trim for the seats and dash, but you'd be hard pressed to see the difference between the two cars. The single biggest change up front has been the welcome deletion of the foot activated park brake, which has been replaced by an electronic switch between the two front seats.

This necessitated a redesign of the centre console, which has allowed Kia to add a larger bin between driver and passenger.

Overall the Kia is roomy airy and spacious, and reflects the company's new school design philosophies with elegantly simple graphics and subdued use of colours.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Flexibility is the key to the Carnival. It offers seating for eight, although technically speaking at least a couple of those eight occupants need to be quite small. The third row has seating for three as well as an ISOFIX point, but the centre position is very narrow, and would only really suit a kid.

The second row is designed around two seats that act almost as captain’s chairs without the rotation, with a large, wide jump seat between the two. There are two ISOFIX points there as well, while cupholders reside in the pull-down centre arm rest, and bottle holders feature in both the rear sliding doors. Those doors, of course, offer a great deal of flexibility in terms if ingress and egress.

The higher you go up the food chain in the Carnival range – namely the SLi and Platinum models – you’ll get electric sliding side doors, which now have an opening button on the exterior handle, as well as a switch on the B-pillar.

There's not a lot of functional difference between the base S and the top spec Platinum. There's not a lot of functional difference between the base S and the top spec Platinum.

All grades of Carnival score roof vents for all three rows, as well as connectivity access for the second row, plus items like better audio speakers from renowned company JBL and higher grades of interior materials.

Fundamentally, though, there's not a lot of functional difference between the base S and the top spec Platinum. The third row can be folded into the floor to create a flat loading area, and even with the third row of seats in place there is a generous cargo space – 960 litres, in fact -  thanks to a deep recess in the boot floor.

That space rapidly multiplies as seats fall flat, with an impressive 2200L with the third row stashed, and a cargo van-like 4022L when the second row is folded. A Toyota HiAce has 6000!

A space saver spare is the only option, though, which isn't ideal for such a large car.

There's plenty of visibility all around the cabin

Up front, it’s a simple, clean and elegant layout for driver and passenger, although the very deep dashboard takes some getting used to. The front of the dash is made of a shiny, hard plastic, so it would be advisable not to treat that with a cleaning product that could create reflections.

The sloped windscreen is huge, and there are portholes at the base of the A-pillar to aid with forward and side vision. There's plenty of visibility all around the cabin, with the Carnival’s relatively low waistline giving even third row passengers a decent view.

Centre console controls do vary between the three grades, with the base model S being the simplest and easiest to manage. The touchscreen system has been updated in the S and now offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.

Two cupholders sit line astern between driver and passenger, and there's an oddments bin under the dash that offers 12-volt power and USB charging points. Additional charge points are located in the deep bin between the two seats.

  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)

The driver and passenger's doors have long pockets divided for bottles and objects, but the sides aren't particularly high so you can't put taller items in there with ease. In all, the Carnival has 10 spots for drink bottles, so if your kids are like mine, the car will be the place to look for a spare one.

There's also an unusual split glove box arrangement in the Carnival, and the lower part is lockable.

Second and third row seats are actually adjustable for backrest inclination, while the second row can also be slid forward and back on a rail system. This promotes real flexibility with passenger and cargo carrying arrangements. For example, you can stow the left row of seats down for longer items and still have room to carry people on the right-hand side.

In fact, if you're considering a larger SUV as your potential family vehicle, it would be wise to stop and have a look at something like the Carnival which offers truly impressive flexibility for all sizes of family.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The Kia Carnival impresses as general, road-going car, despite its people mover origins. It's super quiet in the cabin no matter what powertrain you choose, and that impressive refinement persists even on rougher, broken roads in country areas.

Wind noise at the national speed limit is impressively low as well, with just the merest hint of a rustle around the larger exterior mirrors.

The Australian-spec Carnival features hydraulic steering, which was a result of incompatibility with Kia's electric steering system in the conversion from left- to right-hand drive.

2018 Kia Carnival. (SLi variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (SLi variant shown)

In many ways, this actually suits the character of the Carnival, giving it a long-range ability that other people movers can't quite match. It's very steady at the helm and is a cinch to drive on long runs with very little wheel work needed to keep it on the straight and narrow.

Kia Australia has also further refined and revised the suspension tune, namely by adding stiffer front springs to further firm up that steering feel, and it's also specified a new set of shocks all round to give the car high-quality ride and handling.

The shocks themselves are surprisingly sophisticated in their tune, and work particularly well at mid to higher speeds. They can be found wanting at lower speeds on very bumpy roads, though, especially teamed with higher spec Carnivals which use larger diameter rims and lower profile tyres.

This can create a choppy ride when conditions are less than perfect, but Kia reckons it’s designed to work with multiple bodies and stuff on-board, and that chattery feeling will dissipate when more load is added to the car.

  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)
  • 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (Platinum variant shown)

Speaking of cargo, the Carnival can actually take up to 1000kg of payload – which, of course, includes people - which is quite a considerable figure for this category of vehicle. It can also tow up to 2000kg of trailer with an impressively high downball weight limit of 200kg.

Neither the 3.3-litre V6 petrol or the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engines have been changed in this update, but Kia has upgraded the auto transmission from a six-speed to an eight-speed unit. While the six-speed was very good, the eight-speed is better again, and it’s allowed Kia to lower its claimed combined fuel economy numbers for both versions.

Both Kia and its parent company Hyundai are forging enviable reputations for excellent transmissions, and it continues in the Carnival.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The Carnival comes in two flavours, both on Kia’s 'N' front-wheel drive platform. The petrol engine is a 3.3-litre direct injection V6 that makes 206kW/336Nm, while its turbo-diesel engine makes 147kW/440Nm, both backed by the aforementioned eight-speed auto.

The auto can be overridden with a manual selector on the gear shifter, but no paddles are offered anywhere in the range. Honestly, though, it really doesn't need overriding, unless you're trying to hoof it up a steep incline; it works perfectly well in whatever terrain you're covering.

2018 Kia Carnival. (GDi petrol engine shown) 2018 Kia Carnival. (GDi petrol engine shown)

There is an 'Eco' mode switch in the Carnival, but again we really never touched it. It’s a car that just works; turn the key or press the button, fire it up, and away you go.

The small capacity diesel can be gruff at low revs, but it smooths out admirably as road speed rises.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

From (ambit) claims of 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle for the diesel (a decrease of 0.1L from the pre-facelift car) and 10.8L/100km for the V6 petrol (a drop of an impressive 0.8L), we posted a lower-than-spec, dash-indicated average of 7.5L/100km average over 120km in the S spec diesel, and a higher 11.2L/100km in the petrol Platinum over a similar distance.

The petrol car weighs a maximum of 2146kg and the diesel is 2195kg at its heaviest.

Both engine types use an 80-litre tank, and the V6 is happy to sip on regular unleaded.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

AEB at city and inter-urban speeds is now standard across the range for the Carnival, and lane departure warning is standard as well. Adaptive cruise control uses the same radar as the AEB system, and is also included across the range. It's a simple yet well-calibrated system that works well, with well-calibrated gaps between cars and a good control of speed reduction.

The lane departure system is a bit too vocal, and can be switched off if it gets annoying. Kudos, too, to a sat nav system that offers speed sign recognition and voices warnings for camera points.

The Carnival is currently rated at a maximum of five ANCAP stars, after the company revised the car twice to ensure it achieved that figure.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Of course one of the key attractions of Kia is its long warranty period which is seven years/unlimited km, which is complemented by seven years of roadside service as well as seven years of fixed price servicing.

While current prices reflect the six-speed variants, expect to pay around $3400 for the first seven years or 105,000km of diesel ownership, and close to $3120 for the petrol model.


Kia's Carnival has the people mover market all sewn up, but perhaps it should be looking at claiming some scalps within the larger SUV segment as well. It has a more comfortable, quieter ride than many of its rivals at similar price points, as well as a great deal more flexibility when it comes to people and cargo.

The Kia Carnival definitely should be added to the shopping lists of people who are looking for a vehicle that can suit many lifestyles and is flexible enough to deal with towing, cargo carrying, and the occasional full load of excited soccer kids.

It is perhaps a bit expensive for some family units, although the base model S now offers extra value, thanks to the additional safety inclusions.

The pick of the range for us is the SLi. It offers most of the inclusions of the top-spec Platinum - though it does miss out on items like rear cross-traffic alert - and the 18-inch rims are the perfect balance of looks and ride comfort. The diesel is the pick if you cover any sort of distance regularly, while the thirstier petrol will be cheaper to maintain for urban duties.

Do you see the Carnival as a viable alternative to the SUV? Let us know in the comments below.

Pricing guides

Based on 261 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Platinum 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $38,900 – 49,720 2018 Kia Carnival 2018 Platinum Pricing and Specs
S 3.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,800 – 31,020 2018 Kia Carnival 2018 S Pricing and Specs
Si 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $29,700 – 38,940 2018 Kia Carnival 2018 Si Pricing and Specs
Sli 3.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,000 – 40,590 2018 Kia Carnival 2018 Sli Pricing and Specs
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 261 car listings in the last 6 months

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