Toyota’s Tarago used to be the go-to vehicle for large families but there’s been a dramatic changing of the guard.
Kia’s Carnival now dominates the people-mover market, thanks to a mix of value, practicality and style.
The Carnival range starts at $51,690 drive-away for the V6 petrol version. Diesel power costs an extra $2000, while our top-of-the-range Platinum diesel test car will set you back a hefty $71,890. That said, the Kia is better value than its main rivals, the Hyundai Staria and Toyota Granvia. The Platinum’s cabin is smart looking and hi-tech, with an impressive centre screen that wraps into a semi-digital cockpit. There’s a wireless phone charger but you’ll need a cord to plug in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A 12-speaker Bose premium sound system makes the most of the digital radio, while built-in satnav is easy to operate. There are ample outlets for charging devices – three in the front and two each in the second and third rows – and thirteen cup or bottle holders. A clever internal intercom system allows the driver to talk to rearmost passengers via the audio speakers, making it easier for parents to get their point across to unruly kids. The Carnival is covered by an industry-leading seven-year warranty and a five-year servicing plan costs $2573 for five years.
The Carnival can seat eight adults in relative comfort, although the third row is a little tight for shoulder room when all three seats are occupied. The second row of seats can tilt and slide, making it easy to mix and match leg room with third-row occupants. There are some nice touches throughout the cabin, too. The second-row windows have sun shades, while automatic sliding doors on either side make it easy to get in and out. Entry into the third row is relatively simple too, with a simple lever release and a wide entry path. Airconditioning extends to all three rows and the second row has its own temperature controls. The front seats have plenty of adjustment and you can save two different settings for the driver’s seat. The seats are comfortable enough but you tend to perch on top of, rather than nestle into, them. An automatic tailgate makes life easier for parents who have their hands full, while the load area behind the third row is big and impressively deep.
The Carnival was awarded five stars in independent crash tests performed in January 2021, scoring strongly for adult and child protection. It has every active safety advice you’d expect on a car in its price brackets, as well as a couple that aren’t on competitors. There’s the usual auto emergency braking, which operates in forward and reverse, as well as lane-keep and blind-spot assist. The Carnival will also intervene if it senses you haven’t left enough space to oncoming traffic when turning into an intersection. If rear occupants try to exit when a car is passing, an alarm will sound.
ON THE ROAD
You’d expect a people-mover of its to corner like a courier van but the Carnival is surprisingly nimble for such a tall, long vehicle. It’s certainly no less composed than most seven-seat SUVs and the well-weighted steering inspires further confidence on a twisting road. The 2.2-litre turbo diesel is a corker, delivering ample overtaking power when needed and chugging along silently on the freeway. The only time you notice the telltale diesel rattle is during low-speed manoeuvres. It may cost more than the V6 but it is worth the investment. The suspension strikes a good balance between gliding over smaller bumps and settling quickly after larger undulations taken at speed.
Toyota Kluger Grande V6, from about $82,700 drive-away. Bigger diesel engine but significantly more expensive and cabin layout isn’t as practical.
LDV Mifa Luxe, from $72,990 drive-away. Opulent cabin but smaller, less powerful and significantly thirstier 2.2-litre petrol engine.
Hyundai Staria, from about $72,700 drive-away. Same engine and transmission but has all-wheel-drive. Shorter warranty and feels more van-like to drive.
It’s not cheap but the Carnival is the ultimate touring wagon for the bigger family. Spacious, comfortable and safe, with a frugal and willing diesel engine.
KIA CARNIVAL PLATINUM DIESEL
PRICE From $71,890 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING Seven years, unlimited km, $2573 over five years
ENGINE 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 148kW and 440Nm
SAFETY Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, rear-cross traffic alert with braking, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, radar cruise, safe-exit warning
SPARE Space saver
LUGGAGE 627 litres
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