Nedahl Stelio

31 Jan 2018 • 17 min read

I’ve spent the last month squashed into the back of five seaters, literally stuffing my shoulders in between my children’s car seats, because my sister-in-law is visiting from overseas and I have been deemed 'the smallest adult in the family' (read: the only one who can fit in the backseat with the kids. It’s not a skill to boast about).  

So, while I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of driving a van, I was looking forward to the comfort an eight-seater people mover would bring while my sister-in-law is staying with us. 

I drove the Kia Carnival for a whole week. It was the top-of-the-range Platinum in the petrol version. So what did I think of having a van for the family? It’s not my dream car as I only have two children, but if you’ve been a prolific breeder and have six kids, the Carnival is a pretty fab choice. 

How spacious is it?

Let’s get straight to the point because that’s why we’re all here -  the space! The Kia Carnival is an 8-seater that actually fits eight adults comfortably - unlike most seven-seater SUVs where you wouldn’t particularly want to volunteer to ride in the back.

It’s comfortable in all three rows with so much leg space and head space that you won’t feel like you might develop pins and needles in your limbs after a long road trip if you're stuck at the back.

Yes, all the rows can fit full-size adults comfortably. Yes, all the rows can fit full-size adults comfortably.

The front and back windscreens are huge which contribute to the open feeling. And while you might be put off by the size on first glance, you’ll appreciate the feeling of luxury the space gives while driving. 

My children thought it was fantastic, and wanted to immediately try out the back. I was able to easily access the third row by putting the second row down and climbing in.

The windscreen is huge which contributes to the open feeling. The windscreen is huge which contributes to the open feeling.

Unexpectedly, the boot is rather large. Even with all three rows up, it’s much bigger than most SUVs because it’s deep. Sure, luggage will have to sit on top of one another, but you can’t really argue with 960 litres. The third row folds flat, so if you only have five passengers but need a spot the size of a small lounge room to fit your drum kit, the 2220 litres of space lets you do that. 

You can’t really argue with 960 litres. You can’t really argue with 960 litres.

How does it drive?

The Kia Carnival Platinum has a 3.3-litre engine, which is big and means the car drives beautifully, with lots of power for getting up hills and overtaking. It really makes you feel confident while driving. 

Despite the size, the big engine makes overtaking easy. Despite the size, the big engine makes overtaking easy.

That’s also helped along by the height - high cars always make me feel safer on the road and there’s no denying the Carnival’s size. People actually move out of the way for you... or are Sydney drivers just learning good manners? I can’t tell which in this car. 

The size does have its downfalls. It feels big because it’s quite wide, and that means getting into car spaces has been a fairly slow affair this week. I relied heavily on the parking sensors, front and back and also the 360 degree parking camera which showed what was behind the car and also the view from the front. Still, it took a little while to land.

The size makes parking a bit problematic. The size makes parking a bit problematic.

It’s a smooth drive though, and while not exactly zippy, I was able to three-point-turn and u-turn easily.

The steering was responsive and it has great visibility through all windows in the car, especially the back window, because they’re so large.  

How easy is it to use everyday?

Weirdly, every time I went to leave the house, there was almost a feeling of relief that I would be driving the Carnival. I’m not sure what I can put this down to, besides the fact that it is such an easy, reliable drive.

I knew there’d be enough room. I knew the children were happy in it. I knew that I’d be safe. I knew that it was probably the most practical car I’ve ever driven.

I always knew that there'd be enough room and the kids would be happy in it. I always knew that there'd be enough room and the kids would be happy in it.

There are 10 - count ‘em - 10 cupholders. Two in the front, four in the middle, four in the back. There are air vents in every row and tri-zone climate control with strong air coming out of the vents for second and third row passengers - great because the windows don’t open in the back row so the air vents are vital.

There are ten cupholders! There are ten cupholders!

Storage is a big feature in the Carnival, with a deep centre storage bin, extra storage at the front passenger’s legs, a double glovebox - one of which is cooling - pockets on the back of the seats plus large storage in the four doors for bottles and anything else the kids want to throw in there. 

The back doors slide open with a holding down of a button on the key, or there are two buttons inside the car which also open them, another feature the girls loved and it really helps with what probably are heavy doors. The boot closes with a touch of a button too. 

What does it look like?

So, here’s the clincher. Despite it being a fantastic drive, super practical and having oodles of space, it’s still a van, innit? And even though it’s a sporty looking van, with a tapered front and sides, it still looks like a van. You really can’t escape it on the outside.

It's a sporty looking van, but still a van. It's a sporty looking van, but still a van.

Inside is treated the way you’d expect a van to be treated. Lots of practicality, without any flash. The dash looks good and the centre console does have some shine to it, but it’s all fairly standard with a whole load of buttons cluttering up the centre. 

There are perforated leather appointed seats which are heated and cooling. The steering wheel has a wood-look, leather-look finish which also heats up if it’s freezing outside.

Leather seats have heating and cooling modes, the wood-look steering wheel heats up, too. Leather seats have heating and cooling modes, the wood-look steering wheel heats up, too.

What’s the tech like?

It comes with a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen but no Apple Carplay or Android Auto. There’s also no digital radio. It is easy enough to use however because there are a whole bunch of buttons underneath the screen which actually control most things, and that’s what you end up using. 

The 7.0-inch touchscreen has no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The 7.0-inch touchscreen has no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The sound is quite good and I could happily turn up the volume and forget that I was a mum for one second in my busy week, even though I was driving the biggest mum-car ever, and little things like the doors being able to open automatically and closing the boot with a button really help when you’ve got your hands full. 

What’s the safety like?

The Carnival is equipped with six airbags, including one each for driver and front passenger, and side curtain airbags that extend down to the back row. 

There are three ISOFIX points and four top tethers for children’s car seats. Plus all the safety bells and whistles you’d expect in a family vehicle like this, including 'Auto Emergency Braking', blind spot monitoring, lane departure alerts and a 360 degree camera so you can see the front as well as the back of the car while you’re in it. Welcome to 2018.

What does it cost to run?

At $58,790, the Kia Carnival Platinum is less than most top-spec seven seater SUVs. Fuel consumption is a bit on the high side, as you’d expect having such a big engine, with Kia claiming 11.6L/100km on the combined cycle. It comes with Kia’s seven year/unlimited km warranty. 


The Wrap

So, the people mover is exactly that: a people mover. I wouldn’t personally opt for a van unless I had six children or unless I had to ferry around a bunch of adults all the time and wanted them to be in comfort (Parents perhaps? And in-laws? With room for aunts and uncles?). 

If that’s you then the Kia Carnival is one of the best options around, with a powerful engine, comfort in every seat and more boot space than you could ever have imagined. 

I gave it a family rating of 7.5 stars out of 10, taking points off for interior styling and the general big feel of the car to drive. My children gave it eight teddies out of 10 - they thought the third row really rocked.

Likes

Interior space
Comfort
Smooth, powerful engine

Dislikes

The look of a van
Interior style
Feels big to drive

Scores

Nedahl:

7.5

The Kids:

8

$61,290

Based on new car retail price

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