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Kia Carnival 2021 review: Platinum family test

How good does the new Carnival look? Less van, more SUV.

When I picked up the new Kia Carnival I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, look at it. Does this look like a boring old van to you? Hint: it’s not a boring old van. 

Granted, this is the top of the range, Kia Carnival Platinum, worth $64,680 before on road costs. It will fit eight people and competes with other people movers like the Volkswagen Multivan and also newer eight seat SUVs like the Hyundai Palisade

I drove it away for a long weekend a few hours out of Sydney for a girl’s trip with my daughters and some friends. Here’s how it did for this week’s family review.

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What does it look like?

This design is a step up on the last model, with black wheels, a new grille, and a brand new shape that is looking more and more SUV-like, with a longer nose and wider body.

This exterior design is a step up on the last model. This exterior design is a step up on the last model.

There are black tinted windows with a textured silver plate on either side and the whole effect is that of a much more flashy car. It definitely feels a less van than the previous model, a little more SUV.

Inside also feels more premium and it looks like you’re in a proper SUV here. Compared with other people movers that tend to look like a utilities van, this is next level.

  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.
  • The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car. The details in the exterior of the Carnival make it feel much more flashy car.

It’s got artificial leather seats but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between these and the real thing and a 'premium' steering wheel. It’s not leather either.

I can confirm the seats are comfortable on a long drive - sometimes I get an achy hip if I drive long distances but this 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat had me fully supported. 

The centre console is well designed, especially compared with other vans. The centre console is well designed, especially compared with other vans.

The centre console is well designed, especially compared with other vans, some of which don’t even have a centre console.

This definitely makes you feel like you’re in a car rather than a van and is more in line with Hyundai’s new Palisade which is an eight-seat SUV. 

How easy is it to use every day?

The best thing about the Carnival is the power operated door situation. You can open and close both back doors from the driver's seat, or from the middle row, or remotely standing outside the car with buttons on the key.

You can open and close both back doors from the driver's seat. You can open and close both back doors from the driver's seat.

Same with the boot. It makes things super practical and helps when driving kids around. The doors won't open if you're in Drive which is helpful if the kids accidentally press the button.

There are two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone with a wireless charger, a large centre storage bin and a few other shelves for odds and ends. There are bottle holders in each door. 

The middle row has climate control with directional air vents on the roof. The middle row has climate control with directional air vents on the roof.

The middle row gets cupholders at the back of the front centre console, plus you can put the middle seat down and get two more cupholders and a flat storage spot for tables and games consoles. And there's a bottle holder in the doors. There’s also climate control with directional air vents on the roof. 

Back row passengers get two cupholders and directional air vents. Back row passengers get two cupholders and directional air vents.

Back row passengers get two cupholders and directional air vents. The windows don’t open but there is good airflow throughout the car.

How spacious is it?

Space is good in the front seats, there is a lot of length for long legs and tall people won’t have an issue with head space. It feels very roomy and wide and practically like I'm in my lounge room.

There is so much space throughout the car, you can almost walk in because the floor is so low. And the kids can certainly wander around like it’s a mini room (they’re aged seven and nine). It feels much more roomy than SUVs, including the Palisade. 

All six seats in the back two rows are comfortable. I drove for three hours with two children in the second row, two in the back row, and received a big zero complaints.

Space is good in the front seats and there is a lot of length for long legs. Space is good in the front seats and there is a lot of length for long legs.

The second row slides forward if you need it to give more space to the back row and also to let those passengers climb into the car. 

I can sit properly in the third row without angling my knees, I’m 161 cm (5'3") and if you need more leg space, just slide the middle row forward. 

The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other. With all three rows in use the Carnival has 1139L of space - which is already huge - and with the third row down there’s a massive 2461L of space.

  • The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other. The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other.
  • The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other. The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other.
  • The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other. The boot is deep, you'll be able to stack loads of things on top of each other.

This is an improvement on the last model and I could fit everything two families needed for the long weekend away.

How does it drive?

It’s the driving that steals the show in the Carnival Platinum. It feels much more like an SUV with a very smooth drive and a powerful engine.

It’s the driving that steals the show in the Carnival Platinum. It’s the driving that steals the show in the Carnival Platinum.

This one is the petrol version which has a 3.5L six cylinder engine - there is a diesel option on offer for an extra $2000 if you prefer diesel. 

The Carnival feels much more like an SUV with a very smooth drive and a powerful engine. The Carnival feels much more like an SUV with a very smooth drive and a powerful engine.

It was so great to drive on the open road, there’s no shaking, and there’s no “loose” feeling, it had loads of power to overtake and feels more solid than people movers have in the past for me on highways.

It handles well around corners, the steering is easy to turn and it’s not too heavy on take-off, either. I really enjoyed driving it for three hours, there and back to our weekend away. 

The Carnival is extra long and can stick out a little in carparks. The Carnival is extra long and can stick out a little in carparks.

Parking is not too bad in the Carnival either, given the size. It is extra long and it can stick out a little in carparks, just so you’re aware.

The easy steering makes it doable to squeeze into parks and there is a great reversing camera to help you out, which also has a 360-degree display for a top view. 

What's the tech like?

There’s a 12.3-inch multimedia screen that connects to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the USB cord - this one worked seamlessly which is not always the case.

There’s a 12.3-inch multimedia screen that connects to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the USB cord. There’s a 12.3-inch multimedia screen that connects to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the USB cord.

I listened to music via Spotify and navigated with the maps app. You can also connect two phone via bluetooth if you like and throughout the car there are seven USB ports. 

How safe is it?

Safety is paramount for me as a mum (and especially when I’m responsible for driving other people’s kids around), and although it’s yet to be assessed by ANCAP, the Carnival Platinum appears to fit the bill. 

For advanced safety there’s blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist (which literally turns the wheel for you around corners and takes some getting used to, I’m still not sure if I like it).

There’s also auto emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, and smart cruise control amongst other things. 

You’ll get ISOFIX points on five seats and top tether points on five seats, which is an improvement over the last model. Plus airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags for all three rows.

How much does it cost to own?

The Kia Carnival Platinum costs $64,680 in petrol, before on road costs.

The Kia Carnival Platinum costs $64,680 in petrol, before on road costs. The Kia Carnival Platinum costs $64,680 in petrol, before on road costs.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.6L/100km and I averaged 8.0L/100km, but that was mostly highway driving. 

It's covered by Kia's seven year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000 km.


The Wrap

The Kia Carnival Platinum is such a practical car to drive, a point proved on this weekend where I had extra kids in the car to take away for the weekend. It drives beautifully, has advanced safety, good technology, and there is loads of space and storage throughout. Plus it’s looking less and less like a van which is the cherry on top. 

I gave it a family rating of 8.2 out of 10, my kids gave it the same - people movers are their favourite cars.

Likes

Spacious interior
Top spec styling
Feels more like an SUV

Dislikes

It's still a van
Large for parking
Abrupt Lane Keep Assist

Scores

Nedahl:

4.1

The Kids:

4.1

$60,990

Based on new car retail price

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