Honda Odyssey VS Kia Carnival
- Best-looking people mover
- Tons of space in a slight package
- Secure handling and good ride
- Feeling old
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety feature
- Subtle but effective updates
- Handsome looks
- Surprisingly refined
- Diesel can be vocal
- Lots of glass heats up interior
- Lane departure warning annoys
Honda's sleek Odyssey has long been a popular choice for Australians in need of more seats/better contraception. As the years have gone by, however, the people-mover market hasn't so much shrunk, it has collapsed into a black hole, taking a bunch of competitors out of space and time.
The Odyssey stands with the ancient Tarago and gigantic Kia Carnival as the only real options if you don't want an SUV to shift lots of people and gear. And to not have to put up with people telling you you're driving a commercial van in drag.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
When it comes to buying a people mover, the category leader is Kia's Carnival, with Honda’s Odyssey a distant second, and daylight coming in third and fourth.
The third generation – known as the PE - was released in 2015, and has subsequently proven a hit, particularly with buyers looking for space and a bit of luxury as well.
Kia has added the running changes recently made to the identical US market Sedona, and has included a few touches to make it specific for Australian audiences.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Odyssey is dependable for a number of reasons - it seems built to last, is good to drive rather than good enough and the interior space is crammed into a fairly small outer body, aiding its likely cause as a city-dwelling family wagon or uber Uber.
Seven-seat SUVs have certainly taken over this space. None have managed eight seats, though, which the Odyssey does, and none can pull off a flat, walkthrough interior, the gigantically expensive Tesla Model X excepted.
And like all good cars, the Odyssey does exactly what it says on the box.
Is an old-school people mover still relevant in the days of seven-seat SUVs? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Kia's Carnival has the people mover market all sewn up, but perhaps it should be looking at claiming some scalps within the larger SUV segment as well. It has a more comfortable, quieter ride than many of its rivals at similar price points, as well as a great deal more flexibility when it comes to people and cargo.
The Kia Carnival definitely should be added to the shopping lists of people who are looking for a vehicle that can suit many lifestyles and is flexible enough to deal with towing, cargo carrying, and the occasional full load of excited soccer kids.
It is perhaps a bit expensive for some family units, although the base model S now offers extra value, thanks to the additional safety inclusions.
The pick of the range for us is the SLi. It offers most of the inclusions of the top-spec Platinum - though it does miss out on items like rear cross-traffic alert - and the 18-inch rims are the perfect balance of looks and ride comfort. The diesel is the pick if you cover any sort of distance regularly, while the thirstier petrol will be cheaper to maintain for urban duties.
Do you see the Carnival as a viable alternative to the SUV? Let us know in the comments below.
When Toyota's Tarago went all cool and spaceship in the middle of the 1990s, the segment became instantly cool... well, cooler. The first and second generations were solid if unspectacular efforts, distinguished by 'normal' car doors for the rear rather than the psychologically van-like sliding doors. The third and fourth generations are the versions everyone remembers - sleek and stylish, it really looked pretty good for an MPV.
This fifth generation isn't quite so successful and is probably the most delivery-van like. The higher bonnet and boxier profile are further complicated by an extraordinarily busy grille and light arrangement, with more chrome than is probably necessary. It makes the Odyssey look a bit bluff and the sliding doors are a bit van-ish if not more useful, especially in tight spaces.
The spacious interior is filled with light from huge expansess of glass all the way down the car. There are a few clever features, like the front quarter window to help place the car while parking. It's a gracefully ageing space but with some nice touches like the touchpads for the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) controls. The dodgy wood is less welcome and should be dispatched post-haste - it looks aftermarket and is obviously plastic.
Not much to see here in terms of exterior upgrades for the new Carnival, with changes limited to a refresh of the front bumper and grille, along with tidied up tail-lights and some tweaking to the rear visage.
New alloy rims also feature across the range, while small touches like button activation for the sliding doors (where fitted) has also been included.
The Carnival's basic tenant of a handsome, muscular, well proportioned van remains fundamentally unchanged. It's an absolute contrast to previous generations.
On the interior, changes are limited to slight upgrades in trim for the seats and dash, but you'd be hard pressed to see the difference between the two cars. The single biggest change up front has been the welcome deletion of the foot activated park brake, which has been replaced by an electronic switch between the two front seats.
This necessitated a redesign of the centre console, which has allowed Kia to add a larger bin between driver and passenger.
Overall the Kia is roomy airy and spacious, and reflects the company's new school design philosophies with elegantly simple graphics and subdued use of colours.
The big reason the VTi is more practical than the more expensive S is that the lower-priced car has one extra seat. The middle row of the VTi-S is made up of two swivelling-sliding captain's chairs with old-school business class style leg rests. The VTi's middle row is far more conventional with that extra seat, meaning a total of eight.
The middle row can slide fore and aft and the seatback reclines. Life is a little desolate in the back row, with few convenience features apart from a fixed glass window so they can watch more fortunate people. To be fair, the seats back there are comfortable and offer better-than-expected legroom, and there are even ceiling-mounted air vents.
Despite having eight seats, there are "only" six cupholders on board and you can only get to two if the middle row is fully occupied. The third row has them built into the mouldings either side of the seats. Front-seat passengers also score a handy, pop-out-and-up tray that will fit two big phones right next to the two USB ports.
Boot space is, as you would expect, variable. It starts at 330 litres with all seats in place, which is smaller than an HR-V's boot. A very neat trick is the way the back row folds right into the floor. If you weren't paying attention, you'd think Honda short-changed you and sold you an absurdly tall wagon.
Drop those rear seats and let the middle row-dwellers have all the available space and the boot expands to 1332 litres. Push the middle row forward and you gain another 340 litres to 1672, although you won't have much legroom. Fold all of the rear seats and you have 1867 litres. The second row doesn't come out and it is rather in the way, but it's handy if you've got a long flat pack or modest shelves or cupboards to shift. Great for a bunch of balloons, though. With room left for a clown or two.
Flexibility is the key to the Carnival. It offers seating for eight, although technically speaking at least a couple of those eight occupants need to be quite small. The third row has seating for three as well as an ISOFIX point, but the centre position is very narrow, and would only really suit a kid.
The second row is designed around two seats that act almost as captain’s chairs without the rotation, with a large, wide jump seat between the two. There are two ISOFIX points there as well, while cupholders reside in the pull-down centre arm rest, and bottle holders feature in both the rear sliding doors. Those doors, of course, offer a great deal of flexibility in terms if ingress and egress.
The higher you go up the food chain in the Carnival range – namely the SLi and Platinum models – you’ll get electric sliding side doors, which now have an opening button on the exterior handle, as well as a switch on the B-pillar.
All grades of Carnival score roof vents for all three rows, as well as connectivity access for the second row, plus items like better audio speakers from renowned company JBL and higher grades of interior materials.
Fundamentally, though, there's not a lot of functional difference between the base S and the top spec Platinum. The third row can be folded into the floor to create a flat loading area, and even with the third row of seats in place there is a generous cargo space – 960 litres, in fact - thanks to a deep recess in the boot floor.
A space saver spare is the only option, though, which isn't ideal for such a large car.
Up front, it’s a simple, clean and elegant layout for driver and passenger, although the very deep dashboard takes some getting used to. The front of the dash is made of a shiny, hard plastic, so it would be advisable not to treat that with a cleaning product that could create reflections.
The sloped windscreen is huge, and there are portholes at the base of the A-pillar to aid with forward and side vision. There's plenty of visibility all around the cabin, with the Carnival’s relatively low waistline giving even third row passengers a decent view.
Centre console controls do vary between the three grades, with the base model S being the simplest and easiest to manage. The touchscreen system has been updated in the S and now offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
Two cupholders sit line astern between driver and passenger, and there's an oddments bin under the dash that offers 12-volt power and USB charging points. Additional charge points are located in the deep bin between the two seats.
The driver and passenger's doors have long pockets divided for bottles and objects, but the sides aren't particularly high so you can't put taller items in there with ease. In all, the Carnival has 10 spots for drink bottles, so if your kids are like mine, the car will be the place to look for a spare one.
There's also an unusual split glove box arrangement in the Carnival, and the lower part is lockable.
Second and third row seats are actually adjustable for backrest inclination, while the second row can also be slid forward and back on a rail system. This promotes real flexibility with passenger and cargo carrying arrangements. For example, you can stow the left row of seats down for longer items and still have room to carry people on the right-hand side.
In fact, if you're considering a larger SUV as your potential family vehicle, it would be wise to stop and have a look at something like the Carnival which offers truly impressive flexibility for all sizes of family.
Price and features
Honda offers two specifications in Australia; the VTi and VTi-S. This week we spent time with the more practical, eight-seater VTi, the version that does without the famous captain's chairs.
The $37,990 VTi undercuts the S by nearly 10 grand, which is quite a difference. The VTi leaves Japan with 17-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, reversing camera, cruise control, auto headlights, leather steering wheel, power windows, folding heated mirrors and a space-saver spare.
The passenger-side rear door also has an electric slide, with a button on the dash and the key fob for remote activation. It's a neat party trick.
Honda's ageing multimedia software fills a 7.0-inch touchscreen with jagged old graphics and fails to fill it with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, like in the Civic and CR-V. The sound is fine, but it's not a great system to navigate or use.
Prices on the eight-strong range have risen by $1000 for the base model S diesel and petrol cars, by $1500 on the two Platinum variants, and by $2500 on the mid-level Si and SLi grades in both fuel types.
The range now kicks off at $42,490, plus on-road costs, for the 3.3-litre six-cylinder petrol S, and tops out at $62,790 for the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel Platinum.
The S ($42,490 in petrol, and $44,990 in diesel) offers AEB, lane departure warning, reversing camera with sensors and adaptive cruise control as standard, along with automatic lights, 17-inch steel rims, a 7.0-inch multimedia screen and 3.5-inch OLED screen between the dash dials, a digital speedo as well as cloth trim and manual air-con.
The $47,990/$50,490 Si adds items like multi-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, nicer seat fabrics, tinted front side glass, LED combo rear lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter and an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav.
The $52,490/$54,990 SLi scores 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, part-leather interior with sunshades and an eight-way powered driver’s seat, while the top shelf Platinum - at $60,290 in petrol and $62,790 in diesel - scores additional safety aids like rear cross-traffic alert and high-speed capable blind spot monitoring. It also gets a higher level of interior trim, tinted glass and 19-inch rims out of the box.
The natural competitor to the Carnival is Honda’s Odyssey, while the Volkswagen T6 Multivan is also on the shopping list, and the Carnival outpoints both for standard inclusions at its price points, despite the price rises.
Engine & trans
Hey remember the Odyssey V6? Yeah, me too. It was great. Almost nobody buys people movers anymore and even fewer people buy big-engined ones, so the V6 disappeared into the black hole.
The Carnival comes in two flavours, both on Kia’s 'N' front-wheel drive platform. The petrol engine is a 3.3-litre direct injection V6 that makes 206kW/336Nm, while its turbo-diesel engine makes 147kW/440Nm, both backed by the aforementioned eight-speed auto.
The auto can be overridden with a manual selector on the gear shifter, but no paddles are offered anywhere in the range. Honestly, though, it really doesn't need overriding, unless you're trying to hoof it up a steep incline; it works perfectly well in whatever terrain you're covering.
There is an 'Eco' mode switch in the Carnival, but again we really never touched it. It’s a car that just works; turn the key or press the button, fire it up, and away you go.
The small capacity diesel can be gruff at low revs, but it smooths out admirably as road speed rises.
From (ambit) claims of 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle for the diesel (a decrease of 0.1L from the pre-facelift car) and 10.8L/100km for the V6 petrol (a drop of an impressive 0.8L), we posted a lower-than-spec, dash-indicated average of 7.5L/100km average over 120km in the S spec diesel, and a higher 11.2L/100km in the petrol Platinum over a similar distance.
The petrol car weighs a maximum of 2146kg and the diesel is 2195kg at its heaviest.
Both engine types use an 80-litre tank, and the V6 is happy to sip on regular unleaded.
With modest power and torque outputs and a fairly lazy CVT auto, the Odyssey is a very relaxed car. It almost encourages you to sit back and cruise. Actually, you're forced to, because it's not very quick. You can hustle if you're in a hurry, but only when it's just you on board. The 2.4-litre is readily overwhelmed when loaded up to the gills. Which, in the end, doesn't matter, because seven passengers aren't looking for the Craig Lowndes Experience in an Odyssey.
It has car-like manners and you really only feel you're in a long box when you come to park. The reversing camera is certainly helpful but the strange habit of leaving out parking sensors from the spec list (Subaru does it too) is baffling.
It corners securely and the body is kept well under control by a reasonably supple suspension set-up. It certainly rides better than the Carnival and is streets ahead of the Tarago, which is a roly-poly mess with little in the way of feedback for the driver.
The Odyssey actually puts me in mind of the smaller HR-V - competent and composed, if nothing outstanding for the driver.
The transmission also has an annoying quirk - every time you lift off, you can hear Maria Sharapova moan, or the sound of a jet engine winding down. You really only hear it when the radio is off, but it's slightly unnerving.
The Kia Carnival impresses as general, road-going car, despite its people mover origins. It's super quiet in the cabin no matter what powertrain you choose, and that impressive refinement persists even on rougher, broken roads in country areas.
Wind noise at the national speed limit is impressively low as well, with just the merest hint of a rustle around the larger exterior mirrors.
In many ways, this actually suits the character of the Carnival, giving it a long-range ability that other people movers can't quite match. It's very steady at the helm and is a cinch to drive on long runs with very little wheel work needed to keep it on the straight and narrow.
Kia Australia has also further refined and revised the suspension tune, namely by adding stiffer front springs to further firm up that steering feel, and it's also specified a new set of shocks all round to give the car high-quality ride and handling.
The shocks themselves are surprisingly sophisticated in their tune, and work particularly well at mid to higher speeds. They can be found wanting at lower speeds on very bumpy roads, though, especially teamed with higher spec Carnivals which use larger diameter rims and lower profile tyres.
This can create a choppy ride when conditions are less than perfect, but Kia reckons it’s designed to work with multiple bodies and stuff on-board, and that chattery feeling will dissipate when more load is added to the car.
Speaking of cargo, the Carnival can actually take up to 1000kg of payload – which, of course, includes people - which is quite a considerable figure for this category of vehicle. It can also tow up to 2000kg of trailer with an impressively high downball weight limit of 200kg.
Neither the 3.3-litre V6 petrol or the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engines have been changed in this update, but Kia has upgraded the auto transmission from a six-speed to an eight-speed unit. While the six-speed was very good, the eight-speed is better again, and it’s allowed Kia to lower its claimed combined fuel economy numbers for both versions.
The Odyssey has six airbags and, crucially, the curtain airbags stretch the entire length of the car. You can add to the list ABS, stability and traction controls, two ISOFIX points in the middle row and three top-tether anchorages.
Irritatingly, none of the advanced safety features you might want on a car carrying so many people are available, such as AEB or lane-departure warning. Reverse cross traffic alert is only available on the VTi-S.
The Odyssey scored five ANCAP stars in May 2014.
AEB at city and inter-urban speeds is now standard across the range for the Carnival, and lane departure warning is standard as well. Adaptive cruise control uses the same radar as the AEB system, and is also included across the range. It's a simple yet well-calibrated system that works well, with well-calibrated gaps between cars and a good control of speed reduction.
Honda offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which goes some way to covering the deficit to the Kia Carnival's seven-year coverage.
Service intervals are every six months or 10,000km and the first 10 are covered under Honda's Tailored Servicing arrangement. This means capped pricing for up to five years or 100,000km, with costs bouncing between $267 and around $300, give or take a few bucks. Also in the schedule are a range of adaptive items. These seem reasonably -priced and include things like air filters, brake and transmission fluid.
Roadside assist is available at extra cost.
Of course one of the key attractions of Kia is its long warranty period which is seven years/unlimited km, which is complemented by seven years of roadside service as well as seven years of fixed price servicing.