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Kia Grand Carnival 2011 review

If you need a good value people mover, the Grand Carnival is currently the best choice.

The big Aussie families who need the most help into a new car have just lost a lifeline. The Kia Carnival has copped a $5010 price increase with the loss of the bottom-end family wagon and a new focus on the upmarket equipment favoured by more people mover buyers. Just like the Oldsmobile Silhouette driven by Chili Palmer in the 1995 movie 'Get Shorty', the new Grand Carnival is more like the Cadillac of minivans.

The 2012 update to the Carnival lineup means the loss of the short-wheelbase models and the end to the manual gearbox, which had held the potential bottom line down to $33,890. So the starter car is now the Grand Carnival V6 auto at $38,990. That's not cheap but it is still good value and Kia Australia has figures to support its move.

"Why have we discontinued the short-wheelbase Carnival? Because no-one was buying it," says Kia spokesman, Kevin Hepworth. "The problem with the short-wheelbase Carnival was that it was seriously compromised as an eight-seater. It was more suitable for a family of five who sometimes took friends along. People who wanted to travel with eight found the luggage capacity was lacking."

Kia says only five people bought a short-wheelbase Carnival last month, from a total of 362 deliveries, with the Grand Carnival Si - from $49,990 - accounting for more than half of all sales.


The 2012 Grand Carnival has had tweak with an optional 2.7-litre diesel engine and Bluetooth across the range, while everything from the Si upwards gets roof rails, electric windows for the third-row seats, rear aircon controls and heated mirrors. The Si also picks up alloy wheels.

Even the basic car has a 3.5-litre V6 engine and that gives it an edge over a Toyota Tarago, while the price line helps in a comparison with the Chrysler Grand Voyager now from $55,000 and the loaded Mercedes- Benz Viano from $74,990.

The price spread for the Grand Carnival has most of its meat in in the $40,000 range, although the top-line Platinum is getting pricey from $52,190. "You can still buy a very affordable Carnival," says Hepworth. And there is the five-year warranty to sweeten any deal.


There is nothing particularly special about the design or mechanical package on the Grand Carnival, although the 2.7-litre petrol engine is gone and most are now being delivered with the more powerful and efficient 3.5-litre, double-overhead camshaft.

Si, SLi and Platinum shoppers can now also go for the 2.2-litre, four- cylinder R-series turbodiesel, which has more power and greater efficiency than the 2.9-litre predecessor with 143 kiloWatts and a 429 Newton-metre thump of torque. There is a transmission upgrade for the '12 cars thanks to a six-speed automatic that's actually smaller, lighter and more efficient than the old five-speeder.


The Grand Carnival is a big box and there is no disguising its heft. It's the single biggest reason why some people like it - and other people movers - and others race straight to the chunkiness of an SUV. The upside is lots of space and lots of convenience, but the downside is an instant branding as a breeder.

The interior of the Carnival for The Waltons has some nice tweaks and touches, from the fold-down table between the front buckets to aircon controls for the back seats, lots of cupholders, easy-fold seats - with a third row that drops down flat - and even ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the outboard spots in the middle row. The top-tether mounts are also built into the seats so you don't get metres of belt trailing around the place.


There is no ANCAP star rating for the Grand Carnival, but the Carnival is a four-star performer since 2007 and that should translate directly to the long-wheelbase model. The safety package runs to ABS brakes and ESP stability control with front-side-curtain airbags in all models.


The Carsguide family feels just like Chili Palmer when the Grand Carnival arrives with automatic electric side sliding doors and a tail lift in the Platinum package. There is also leather across the cabin, punchy sound and alloys on the outside. But perhaps that's a package for hotel pickups ahead of families, although the bottom line is much more affordable than the Tarago V6, Grand Voyager or Viano. The leather is good with little ones but the bottom line is likely to be the bottom line if you really need eight spots for the crew.

Driving the Kia is exactly what you expect - nothing special. It rides alright, even with a big posse on board, it stops alright and the cornering is alright. But as the two-year-old says, "Where is the sports car daddy?"

It does have some punch with the V6 engine but it can get thirsty around town. There is definitely a case for diesel drive for interstate work. It's easy enough to park, with a nifty rearview camera built into the rear-vision mirror and a reasonable turning circle, but it's pretty big when you head into the supermarket spots.

So the Grand Carnival is all about practicality and nothing about driving, something proven by a driver's seat that's more like a cockatoo perch. It's too high, with no support, and does nothing to encourage either comfort or crisp cornering. Still, when you're loading a bunch of youngsters with bikes and balls, it does the job. And the Platinum pack makes life a little special - especially showboating with the electric doors.


The Kia kicks a goal over similar rivals by combining lots and lots of space for the money, more equipment for less money, a V6 that gets it moving, and a bottom line with five-year warranty backup. Anyone who says a big van just brands you as a breeder should try one for size - and flexibility and, yes, fun.

Anyway, there is always dark window tint if you cannot front up to the SUV stampede on the school run without some disguise.

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Range and Specs

Platinum 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 18,990 2011 Kia Grand Carnival 2011 Platinum Pricing and Specs
S 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,990 – 12,990 2011 Kia Grand Carnival 2011 S Pricing and Specs
Si 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,990 – 19,995 2011 Kia Grand Carnival 2011 Si Pricing and Specs
SLi 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,990 – 11,990 2011 Kia Grand Carnival 2011 SLi Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 58 car listings in the last 6 months

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