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Kia Grand Carnival 2006 review: road test


Most people prefer to put their family into a four-wheel drive, even though the Honda Odyssey is a wonderful device and the Chrysler Voyager has been the people mover pace-setter for years.

Styling is the big drama, because they are big boxes. Usually ugly, too.

But there are powerful reasons for moving a people mover higher up the list to consider, particularly if you really need to carry seven people in car-like comfort and safety.

The latest Kia Grand Carnival proves the point.

It is an all-new, bigger, much better model of the vehicle that has been Australia's favourite people mover in recent years.

The Grand can even carry eight people, or provide cabin flexibility and seating choices most families only dream of.

We have not been as impressed by a people mover since our first drive in the "giant egg" Toyota Tarago.

Toyota has lost the plot since then, but the first purpose-designed Tarago — there was a previous model in the 1980s, but it was a delivery van with seats — had a combination of space and comfort, performance and value then impossible to beat.

Now there is the Grand Carnival, which does it all for $36,990.

It has a new 3.8 litre V6 engine with a five-speed automatic and real performance, airconditioning, remote central locking, power steering, roof rack, tinted glass and electric windows and mirrors, with electric opening for the middle row of windows.

On the safety front, there are twin airbags and anti-skid brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, and optional side and window bags. But Kia has missed one target — with only lap belts in the middle seats of the two three-seat rows.

The South Korean company says the Grand is all new, which means more built-in refinement and safety, as well as the new mechanical package.

The quad-cam V6 engine, with variable valve timing, produces 184kW and 343Nm. That's up from 132kW and, crucially, 220Nm in the previous 2.5-litre Carnival.

The shortie Carnival continues and Kia is regularly delivering more than 200 a month to lead sales in the people-mover class.

The numbers could change in coming months as Kia moves to direct distribution in Australia, but it is a winner.

And it has made an impressive comeback after the early engine troubles that sent many Carnivals back to dealers for major work.

On the road

The Grand Carnival is surprisingly good in a lot of ways. Most ways, actually. It is a brisk drive, handles acceptably well, is not a gas guzzler and has the sort of refinement, comfort and space which many families really need in their new car.

It does a much better job of carrying people than the vast majority of four-wheel drives and it is impossible to do better on the value front.

The flexibility of the cabin is incredible. The middle row of seats do a double-fold job for access to the third row, and they fold flat to the floor to create a huge boot space.

The seats also lift out, there is a walk-through between the front buckets, and even the doors are sliders on both sides.

And so we come to the test car, one of the vehicles Kia had at the Australian Open tennis. It's stacked with stuff not included in a regular Grand Carnival: rain-sensor wipers, full leather upholstery and electric sliding side doors.

None of it is essential, unless you want to impress your friends with toys and trinkets.

We disregarded the extra gear, though Grand Carnival buyers could still snap up one of these cars with about $10,000 of added fruit as a secondhand deal from a Kia outlet.

Apart from the huge cabin with all those seats, we were were most impressed by the performance. The Grand really gets along, and you don't have to push it hard. It has more than enough torque for overtaking, still does well with a full load, and won't kill the budget at refuelling time.

The handling is fine for the class and the job, but it will never be a sports car. And it is pretty easy to park, with a turning circle that is actually tighter than the shortie Carnival.

Lined up against its rivals, the Grand Carnival does not have the class or refinement of the Honda Odyssey, but it has a lot more space and will carry more people.

It is much better value than a Voyager, beats the Mitsubishi Grandis on value and space, and is far better looking and more proven than the Ssangyong Stavic.

And the Tarago, the former king of the class? Too expensive, not enough space and doesn't go.

Which means the Grand Carnival now runs second overall to the Odyssey, but leads the class by a comfortable margin after you have done the value adjustment and taken into account that it puts the "people" into people mover in 2006.

The bottom line

More families should be looking at a Grand Carnival before they dive straight into a trendy four-wheel drive

Pricing guides

Based on 12 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

(EX) 3.8L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,000 – 7,700 2006 Kia Grand Carnival 2006 (EX) Pricing and Specs
EX Luxury 3.8L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,000 – 10,780 2006 Kia Grand Carnival 2006 EX Luxury Pricing and Specs
Premium 3.8L, ULP, 5 SP $8,000 – 12,320 2006 Kia Grand Carnival 2006 Premium Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 11 car listings in the last 6 months

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