Kia Carnival

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Kia Carnival
Kia Carnival

Kia Carnival

(June 2002)

The Kia Carnival people mover scores where it counts, with plenty of versatility, practicality and great value for money, though it’s a little lacking in performance, as Chris Fincham discovers

Big families on tight budgets have flocked to the Kia Carnival in droves since its arrival in 1999, pushing the cheap Korean seven-seater to the top of the people mover best-seller’s list in Australia. With a starting price at the time of under $30,000, the Carnival found favour with large suburban families who couldn’t afford more refined and expensive Japanese people movers and large four-wheel drives.

Cheapest in its class, the Carnival nonetheless fulfilled the basic requirements of any family transporter, providing plenty of seats and storage space, along with ample comfort and convenience. It also offered 6-cylinder power, normally the domain of more expensive models.

Kia now hopes to build on this success with the second-generation Carnival, which offers an even more versatile interior and more features whilst retaining its value-for-money selling point. The entry-level Carnival now costs $31,990 with five-speed manual or $34,990 with the four-speed automatic, which we tested here.

Kia has made some cosmetic changes to the Carnival’s exterior styling, including new headlights, grille and fog lights, though it still won’t win any beauty contests. Never mind, as the mums and dads that buy these types of vehicles are more likely to focus on what’s inside, and in this respect the latest Carnival shines. In fact, with middle and rear seats that split, fold, slide and can now be removed altogether, the Carnival offers an almost endless variety of people/load combinations.

For starters, the two separate centre seats slide fore and aft on rails for more legroom or luggage space. Fitted with armrests, they provide access to folding picnic tables at the back of the front seats – perfect for drive-through McDonalds.

To create more space for larger items, the centre seats and split rear bench seat can be removed individually. As an example, remove the seats on one side and it will accommodate four adults and a couple of bicycles.

The rear bench seat is wide enough for three young ones, or two adults, and the split section slides forward or can be removed individually. Access to the rear seats is via sliding doors on either side, and once inside it’s easy to manoeuvre throughout the cabin.

Up front the driver and passenger sit up high on flat, comfortable seats, trimmed in grey cloth with a grey plastic dash and console. The seats are adjustable, as is the steering wheel, so finding a comfortable position is no problem.

At the wheel most controls come easily to hand and the gearstick is tucked away in the console to allow easy walk-through access to the rear seats.

Visibility out the front and sides is excellent, but not so good out back. Reversing into a tight parking spot in particular is a guessing game, as objects below window height are hidden from the driver’s view. Parking is hard work anyway, given the five metre body length and large turning circle.

The Carnival may be budget-priced, but it still comes well-equipped with numerous storage areas and cup holders, and features like dual air-conditioning/heating systems, central locking, power front windows and mirrors, 6-speaker CD system, and adjustable roof racks.

Kia Carnival

The new model gets extra power sockets, twin sunglass holders above the driver, and a new interior lighting system. Safety and security features include a driver’s side airbag and engine immobiliser, but a passenger airbag and ABS are available.

Where the cost savings become evident is in the Carnival’s overall refinement and build quality. Grey cloth seat trim and carpeted floors are satisfactory, but loads of cheap-looking plastic and flimsy switchgear raises questions about long-term durability. Overall though, the versatility of the new interior set-up puts the Carnival on a par or even ahead of many of its rivals.

Another area where the Carnival displays its cut-price stripes is on-road dynamics. Sure, the 132kW, 2.5-litre V6 is the most powerful in its class, but there’s not enough grunt available low-down in the rev range to get the 1990kg Carnival moving swiftly in traffic.

Any attempt to push on results in over-revving as the four-speed auto struggles to find a suitable gear. It’s not a problem if you’re happy to potter around town, but not ideal when you’re running late for an appointment with a bunch of screaming kids in the back.

That said, the Carnival will comfortably cruise on a flat highway at 100km/h at 2000rpm; it’s when you tackle any incline that the auto’s hold button comes in handy. All that hard-revving also results in poor fuel economy.

Handling is a bit hairy too; push it too hard around a corner and the body will pitch, creak and roll, but to be fair most people movers offer less than car-like ride and handling. The soft suspension does a fair job of soaking up bumps, but take it down a cobblestone alley, as we did, and there’s a disconcerting amount of feedback transmitted into the cabin.

If you can overlook these shortcomings, and focus instead on the nifty interior and family-friendly features, the Carnival stands out as a budget-priced solution for any Brady Bunch-sized family. It doesn’t match the refinement, comforts or driveability of many of its rivals. But if you’re looking for something that can accommodate cargo as well as people, the Carnival should be on your short list.

Published. Saturday, 1 June 2002

Kia Carnival
Kia Carnival
Kia Carnival
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