Is there anything interesting about its design?
The Kia brand’s upward trajectory has accelerated over the last decade, and much of that success can be traced back to the company’s recruitment of chief design officer, Peter Schreyer in 2006.
With superstar cars like the original Audi TT and Volkswagen New Beetle already in his portfolio, Schreyer rapidly applied discipline, consistency and creative flair to the Korean brand’s entire range.
And the Carnival is a grand canvas to work with, measuring just over 5.1m long, a little under 2.0m wide, and more than 1.7m tall.
But magically, super-sizing the signature ‘tiger nose’ grille (with added bling from last year’s update) and sweeping headlight clusters delivers car-like looks that mask the Carnival’s substantial proportions.
The mid-life refresh also brought LED DRLs and a more aggressive treatment of the lower air intake, now integrated with the front fog lights. The rest of the exterior is virtually unchanged, except for LED tail-lights and a higher and wider diffuser panel in the rear bumper.
Kia says in developing the Carnival’s interior layout, its design team was inspired by first class air travel. And while that aspiration is a big reach for a humble people mover the results are impressive.
The approach is simple and restrained, yet far from bland. The two-tone ‘leather-appointed’ seats, with red contrast stitching, look and feel premium, while strategic use of ‘piano black’ finishes and soft-touch materials around the dash, doors and console of our SLi version (second from the top in a four-model line-up) does indeed give the cabin a ‘pointy end of the plane’ feel.
Although the interior layout has remained fundamentally unchanged since 2015, two pieces of thoughtful design still deserve special mention. First is the flexible and oh-so-easy-to-use fold-up function of the outer second row seats. A not-too-heavy pull of a single lever on the base raises each into a vertical ‘standing’ position close to the front seat, instantly providing a wide access lane to the rear row. Beautiful.
And speaking of the third row, pull a central handle on the rear seatbacks and the 60/40 split unit will gently concertina fold into the deep cargo well underneath to form a larger, flat load floor. And the reverse process is just as easy. Brilliant.