Why would you name a motor vehicle the Carnival? Is it because when it parades down main street people stop and watch in awe? Not this Carnival. Or is it because it inspires young women to drink too much and then expose their breasts? Definitely not this Carnival.
It must be called a Carnival because like most Carnivals there are a lot of people in it. Eight people to be exact can fit in this Carnival at a squeeze. It took only one driver, however, to get the party started when Car and SUV road tested Kia’s 2010 Carnival Ltd.
A quick walk around the Carnival quickly reveals a utilitarian vehicle that’s built solely for its people moving purpose rather than any glitz or glamour. There are some clear aesthetic similarities with Chrysler’s Grand Voyager in its slab sides, van-like dimensions and generic front. Practicality is evident through the Carnival’s tinted security glass, large wing mirrors and handy integrated roof rails. Although sharp styling isn’t a major focus for vehicles in the MPV segment the Carnival could still benefit from a freshen-up. But new sheetmetal shouldn’t be too far away with Kia’s range-uniforming tiger-nose grille a likely addition.
For any people mover it’s the inside that counts most and the Carnival has plenty on offer for its numerous occupants with three rows of seats providing for various layouts. The back row can be folded flat into the floor and the middle row can be folded up or completely removed to create an enormous, even loading area. It’s an impressive seating layout and even with all three rows in use there is a small but usable luggage area at the very back. The front seats are wide and flat offering decent comfort and great visibility but little lateral support. Leather comes with the Ltd model as does power adjustment for the driver’s seat and tri-zone air conditioning to keep rear passengers cool. There is no DVD system for the family but an eight-speaker Infinity stereo handles entertainment duties well.
One feature that is surprisingly handy is powered sliding doors on both sides of the Carnival and a powered tailgate at the rear. Controlled by the key fob it’s easy to have the doors open by the time you reach the vehicle carrying your shopping and closed again when you start again. The slow sliding motion also cuts down the chance of little fingers getting jammed and subsequent stress. Other useful kit on the lengthy Carnival Ltd spec sheet includes; reversing camera and warning sensors, steering wheel mounted stereo and cruise controls, rain sensing wipers, a trip computer and 17-inch alloys.
Cabin fit and finish isn’t the Carnival’s strongest suit and there is a plasticky interior atmosphere. That said, many of the surfaces are covered in tough wipe-clean materials which are consistent with the Carnival’s practicality-first ethos and the vehicles budget pricing has to show somewhere. There’s also a range of small storage options, 12V plugs and cup holders throughout.
Working behind the scenes on the Carnival is Kia’s 2.9L CRDi Turbo diesel unit producing 134kW of power and a healthy 343Nm of torque. It’s not a performance motor but does allow for reasonable progress. A 9.0l/100km fuel economy is achievable on the combined cycle. One issue with the engine is its power delivery that can be erratic, starting off sluggish and then coming on in a sudden burst as the turbo spools up. It also never feels comfortable when used hard and becomes quite loud and unrefined. It will get around town without issue but on the open road fully laden, plenty of room will be required for safe overtaking.
The diesel engine is mated to a 5 speed automatic transmission, which is a competent unit and goes about its work with minimal fuss. Manual gear changes are available through a sequential shift capability on the gear stick. This is a handy option for holding the motor in gear to draw out all available power.
Dynamically the Kia is best suited to a leisurely pace. Soft suspension gives it a generally comfortable ride but rough uneven roads can unsettle it. The Carnival holds the road well with enough grip to stay safe but there is a liberal dose of body roll. There’s a high feel to its movement and must be handled accordingly. It’s firmly at the van end of the people-mover-scale while a competitor like the Honda Odyssey has much more of a station wagon dynamic but lacks the Carnival’s space.
Being a family vehicle safety is always going to attract scrutiny and the Carnival has the features buyers are seeking. An electronic stability programme, ABS, brakes, six-airbags, kiddie door locks, ISOFIX points, and seatbelt pretensioners are all standard fare.
The strongest virtue of the Carnival like most Kia models is in its price and at $53,990 you get a lot of equipment, comfort and class-leading space for the money. The entry-level EX Carnival has most of the Ltd’s more useful features and priced at $46,990 is also worth a look. Both vehicles come with Kia’s excellent 5-year/100,000km warranty and 1500km first service.
The Carnival is caught a bit short in power and handling ability but that won’t concern many buyers in the mini-van segment. What I respect about the Carnival is that it makes no attempt to masquerade as something it’s not. It’s a vehicle intensely focused on practicality down to the smallest detail with limited thought for aesthetics and gimmickry. What it gives buyers is comfortable, safe and spacious travel for the driver and 7 others. If you need the extra seats, don’t care about going fast and you want peace of mind motoring for the next 100,000km then take a long look at the Kia Carnival.
Price: 53,990 (EX diesel $46,990)
What we like:
- General practicality
- Very spacious
- Price and warranty
What we don’t like:
- Bland design
- Weak driving dynamics
- Erratic power delivery
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Kia Carnival Ltd (2010) – Specifications
Engine type 2.9L DOHC CRDi Turbo Diesel
Displacement (cc) 2902 cc
Compression ratio 17 : 3
Max. power 134 kW @ 3800 rpm
Max. torque 343 Nm @ 1750 – 3500 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 9.0L / 100 km
CO2 emissions (g/km) 224
Gear box 5 speed automatic with sport shift
Front suspension McPherson strut
Rear suspension Multi link
Tyres 225/70 R16 235/60 R17
Overall length 5130 mm
Overall width 1985 mm
Overall height 1830 mm
Wheelbase 3020 mm
Min. ground clearance 167 mm
Kerb weight min./max 2009 / 2141 kg
Interior volume (1st/2nd/3rd) 1770 / 1530 / 1390 litres
Fuel tank capacity 80 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 750
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 2000