I feel like the Kia Carnival is this century's version of the Toyota Tarago. We all know someone that has owned, or does own one. It's quickly become the quintessential 'mum-mobile.'
For the past two weeks I've been testing the Carnival Si with my family of three. If you want to know if it made me feel like a 'soccer mum', keep reading for this week's family review.
The Carnival Si comes in at $54,980, plus on-road costs. It competes with the likes of the Hyundai Staria and Volkswagen Multivan. I’ve been driving the diesel version, but if you prefer petrol power, that will be about $2000 cheaper.
This is really affordable compared to these competitors as there isn’t a Multivan that competes at this price level. The equivalent second-spec-up Staria is about $7000 more, but does add all-wheel drive.
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What does it look like?
If I had to pick any family van purely based on looks, the Carnival is at the top of my list. From the sides, it looks like a people mover, but from the front, Kia has done a great job of making it look like an SUV. They’ve added detail to disguise the big bulky van look, and that is something I really appreciate.
Kia has done a great job of making it look like an SUV. (Image: Dean McCartney)
The wheels are 18-inch alloys and just like other Kia models, the Carnival is sporting the brand's signature broad grille.
The wheels are 18-inch alloys. (Image: Dean McCartney)
I've had the pleasure of driving around in the colour 'Ceramic Silver', and it’s the only one out of the six colours that comes at no cost. All other colours are an extra $695.
Let me tell you, you do not feel like you are driving a big van. I’ve been testing the 2.2-litre eight speed automatic diesel version and it handles really easily.
When you put your foot on the brake, at no point do you feel like you’re trying to slow a heavy vehicle down. It can be a little sluggish off the line if you’re on an incline, but if you put it in sports mode, you’ll get a little more oomph.
I know we can all agree there are parts of Sydney roads that need to be re-sealed, but the Carnival navigated everything with ease, and speed bumps weren’t that noticeable. Which is great when you’ve got sleeping children in the back.
The 2.2-litre eight speed automatic diesel. (Image: Dean McCartney)
The only times I noticed how large this car is was when parking. Even with the great reversing camera I didn’t have a lot of confidence trying to squeeze into shopping centre parking spots without scraping a door or a mirror.
Don’t worry, I didn’t damage anything but parking was certainly not as relaxed as usual in this car. For this reason I'd consider the next grade up with the 360-degree camera view.
I should also mention, although the reversing camera is very clear, if it's been raining, the rain covers the camera lens and makes it really hard to judge distances while reversing. Thankfully it has the coloured lines to tell you how far away you are from whatever is behind you.
This eight-seater has ample space, even if you need to use all three rows on a daily basis. Yes, you will need to use the boot storage vertically, but it still gives you 627L capacity with all seats in use.
You will need to use the boot storage vertically, but it still gives you 627L capacity with all seats in use. (Image: Dean McCartney)
If you don't need the third row and fold down those seats into the floor, you get a whopping 2785L of storage space. That's incredible!
Even as a passenger, sitting in the second and third row is really comfortable. There's plenty of leg and headroom.
2022 Kia Carnival Si I Seats
2022 Kia Carnival Si I Seats
2022 Kia Carnival Si I Seats
2022 Kia Carnival Si I Seats
Yes, the third row is a big squishier, but the second row can slide forward to give more space. If you need to sit three people in the third row, I'd put the kids back there as three adults would be a squeeze, but do-able for short trips.
What I’m about to mention, probably won’t be a deal breaker for many, but when you think about practicalities, it's something that bothered me on several occasions.
While this car is keyless entry, you still need to unlock it by pressing the button on the key fob. When you’ve got your hands full, having to rummage through your bag for the key is just annoying and not very practical.
Up front, although the Si is missing features from the top two variants, it certainly doesn’t look like it. The two-tone colour scheme has a very luxe feel to it, and Kia has been very smart in keeping the light cream colour just up front, away from sticky, dirty toddler hands.
The seats are a cloth trim in off-black, and while I always feel like fabric seats aren’t as practical as leather (and there isn’t any grade of the Carnival with real leather), the fabric finish doesn’t look cheap and they are incredibly comfortable.
There are four cupholders, plus two bottle holders, but the bottle holders in the doors are small and only fit a 600ml bottle.
There are enough spots for your keys, wallet and a specific space between the cupholders in the centre console for your phone. (Image: Dean McCartney)
Don’t worry, you’ll definitely fit your drink bottles in the cupholders in the centre. There are enough spots for your keys, wallet and a specific space between the cupholders in the centre console for your phone. And I can’t forget to mention it has dual-zone climate control.
Now there are some good things and some bad things about the second row. I feel like Kia didn’t think of your basic practicalities when it comes to the cupholders.
The ones in front, at the back of the centre console storage bin, are too far forward, and the ones that appear when you fold the second row centre seat down are too far rearward for my toddler to reach while he’s strapped in his car seat. And just like the front row, there are two bottle holders which are on the smaller side.
If you are a family that needs access to the third row on a daily basis, but don't need all eight seats, I would recommend removing the middle seat from the second row for easier access to the back row. (Image: Dean McCartney)
You’ve got two coat hooks and shopping bag hooks and the air vents have controls on the ceiling up above the drivers head - it’s in a great spot as your kids can’t reach and play with it, but the driver can adjust it while in the front.
If you are a family that needs access to the third row on a daily basis, but don't need all eight seats, I would recommend removing the middle seat from the second row for easier access to the back row.
Rather than having to flip and slide the side seat forward and climb through, you can walk through the centre with the isle that's created. It would make everyday use a lot easier.
Kia comes with it's long list of active safety features that are becoming standard with newer cars. For example, front AEB with car, pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and the maximum 5 star ANCAP safety rating from 2021 testing.
It’s also got some of these extra safety features I would hope to see in a family car. Like airbags that reach all the way back to the third row, a safe exit warning, speed sensing auto door locks, door open warning, and of course, being a larger car, having lane keeping assist with lane change assist, lane following assist and lane departure warning system are so helpful.
It has five top tether and five ISOFIX child seat restraint points, and like any car with three rows, it was easy enough to install the car seats.
For me, being eight months pregnant, it's more of a challenge just being comfortable crouching over my belly to reach the anchor point for the top tether seat, as it was at the base of the seat.
A lot of cars have it just half way down. It definitely wasn't difficult, but I did end up leaving it to my husband to do for me.
There are four variants of the Carnival, all of which come in a petrol and diesel option. The Si is the next one up from the base model, and while it is very obviously missing some of those fun, luxe features I know the the higher grade variants have, the interior still feels premium.
It’s missing things like automatic windscreen wipers, electric adjustable seats and there's no push button start. You need to insert the key to start the engine, which feels a little outdated.
The Si has this huge 12.3-inch touchscreen which is so seamlessly integrated into the dash, and the camera is so clear. (Image: Dean McCartney)
The Si has this huge 12.3-inch touchscreen which is so seamlessly integrated into the dash, and the camera is so clear. There is sat nav, an eight-speaker sound system, wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and USB charger points in every row: three up the front and two in both the second and third rows.
There is also this really cool 'Quiet Mode' feature. If your little one dozes off in the back, you just tap the button on the screen and it lowers the volume in the back two rows, so you can continue listening to what you want while keeping the volume away from your sleeping babe.
Kia has close to the best warranty and servicing out there. You’ll get a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and seven years or 105,000km capped price servicing.
Your servicing cost will be different every year (or each 15,000km), from a low of $349 to a high of $798 in the first seven years, with an average annual price of $538 over that period. Fairly steep.
You’ll get a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and seven years or 105,000km capped price servicing. (Image: Dean McCartney)
Kia claims the official combined cycle fuel consumption is 6.5L/100km. Now for someone who is not overly familiar with diesel cars, I was very impressed with how much I was getting out of a tank of fuel.
After 11 days I still hadn’t used more than half a tank. Over the two weeks, driving mostly through suburbia, but with a few highway trips as well, I averaged 8.8L/100km, which is still higher than the claim.
With the 72-litre tank brimmed, and using my real-world figure as a guide, you'll get 800km out of one tank, which for a large car is impressive.
For being only one up from the base model, I am so impressed with the Si Carnival. It’s not lacking any of the important safety features, especially the airbags reaching all the way to the third row. It’s comfortable, stylish and has everything you and your family will need.
There isn’t really anything bad to say about this car, besides a few things that were more annoyances, like the cupholders for the second row being too far away for my toddler to reach and needing to unlock the car using the key.
But, everything I didn’t like about the car wouldn’t be enough to put me off buying it. I could easily spend more and get some of the better features with the high variants, but truthfully, I don’t really see the need, it is great value for money. If you need a people mover, this is most certainly the car for you.
Easy to drive
Doesn't look like a big bulky people mover
Locking/unlocking using key fob
Cupholder placement for second row
No auto windscreen wipers, or electronic seat adjustment/door opening
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