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Car reviews - Kia - Carnival


We like
Terrific interior thoughtfulness, enormous boot space, great ownership prospects, child seat provisions, great turbo-diesel engine, new tech inside
Room for improvement
Annoying speed sign safety system added, prices are creeping up, V6 petrol struggles for traction at times

Revised Kia Carnival people-mover refines its craft, but has some price hikes to contend with

16 May 2024



KIA Australia could have done nothing to the Carnival and it would have continued to be the dominant player in the people-mover segment – but that’s not how things work.


Instead, the updated Carnival has seen a pretty big revamp for 2025 and beyond, with a raft of added technology, safety kit, and a revised suspension and steering tune that wasn’t possible for the brand to instil in its large family bus first time around due to COVID-19 restrictions.


What hasn’t changed – at least at launch – is the powertrain range, with the choice of a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with 148kW and 440Nm, an eight-speed auto and front-wheel drive; or a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with 216kW/355Nm, also with an eight-speeder and FWD.


There is a petrol-electric hybrid model coming, but initially it will only be offered in the top-spec GT-Line grade, and it’ll be the most expensive Kia Carnival ever.


The range itself has seen price changes and name adjustments as well.


The base model S starts from $50,150 for the V6 petrol and the diesel is from $52,380 (all prices listed are exclusive of on-road costs), while the newly named Sport grade adds $5900 (petrol $56,050; diesel $58,280), while the mid-spec Sport+, which happens to be this correspondent’s pick of the range, is $62,380 for the petrol and $64,610 for the diesel.


At the top there are two GT-Line grades, with the GT-Line Lite listing at $66,350 (petrol) or $68,580 (diesel), and even more feature-rich GT-Line flagship topping seventy grand (petrol $70,680; diesel $72,910).


The GT-Line HEV hybrid version costs a whopping $76,210.


The cabin has seen changes, with a new 12.3-inch touchscreen media system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, while the dashboard on S and Sport models comprises a 4.0-inch digital info screen and a pair of digital readouts for speed and revs. 


Grades above that gain a 12.3-inch driver info display with Blind Spot View Monitor, and it’s a far more cohesive cabin look as a result.


Those corresponding grades – Sport+, GT-Line Lite and GT-Line – also get an electric tailgate and electric side sliding doors, both of which make parenting a bit easier. All grades have eight seats; cloth trimmed in the S, and fake-leather finished in all others. That’s right, even the GT-Line misses out on actual leather.


However, the GT-Line model does have some features to lure buyers in, such as a dual sunroof layout, head-up display, and the brand’s Remote Smart Parking system that can start, reverse or drive the car into a parking space using just the key fob. On the topic of keys, all models now have keyless entry and push-button start.


There’s abundant loose item storage in all rows, and the second row features individually sliding seats, the middle of which can be removed or reversed. Even so, those three spots, and two at the very back, have ISOFIX points and top-tethers, which further pushes this into ‘seriously family-focused’ territory.


There are directional ceiling-mounted vents for all grades, and curtain airbags that cover all three rows, too – as well as a new front-centre airbag that has been added for all models (in addition to dual front, driver’s knee, front side, and those curtains).


Boot space is 627 litres with all three rows of seats in use, and 2827 litres with the back row folded down into the sunken storage hold. That is phenomenally good and made even better when you realise that all grades still get a temporary spare wheel (fitted under the body of the car behind the driver’s seat).


There are other added safety goodies, including AEB with pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, lane-keeping tech, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and all models have front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera at a minimum.


Kia has been forced to add its controversial (or maybe just plain annoying) speed sign recognition tech (Ed: a requirement in European markets but not yet in Australia), which will beep and bong at you every time the speed limit sign changes, or at least when the system thinks it does.


You can turn it off, but it defaults on at every restart.


Kia backs its range with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, and if you service with the brand’s workshops you get up to eight years of roadside assistance included, too.


The maintenance intervals are 12 months/15,000km for the V6 and diesel models, but a more needy 12 months/10,000km for the hybrid. The costs, which aren’t confirmed yet, are expected to be “around $500 per year”, according to Kia Australia.


Driving Impressions


It’s even better to drive than it already was.


The Australian arm, overseen by Graeme Gambold, has done its work to the suspension and steering tune of the Carnival, and it’s a more sophisticated and comfortable drive as a result.


There are revisions to the front and rear suspension for a better level of ride comfort for all occupants, not to mention improved body control that is designed to give a “confident flat ride and supported on-road feel”. It has worked a treat, making it more enjoyable to drive and sit in as a passenger.


The steering map has been reworked for “accurate steering feedback with a natural effort feel, weight and response”, and that element has been nailed too. It’s less ‘wafty’ on-centre, and changes direction nicely at pace or when you’re trying to park.


The addition of that Blind Spot View Monitor also helps in traffic, and versions with the surround-view camera and the rear auto braking system – which should be all of them, but instead are only the variants from Sport+ and up – are likely to be the ones that will put parents’ minds at ease most.


As for the powertrains, well I don’t think I need to drive the hybrid to tell you that the diesel will still be the pick… a) because it’s more available; b) because it’s brilliant in this application; c) because it’s cheaper.


But seriously, the oil-burner is a treat in this eight-seat bus, offering an immense amount of pulling power when loaded, and a level and agreeable momentum to proceedings thanks in part to the eight-speed auto. Yes, it’s front-wheel drive only, but it’s far less likely to spin its front tyres than the peaky V6 petrol is.


However, if you’re the sort of person who won’t be doing many long-distance trips, the petrol might be advisable as an option if only because of the diesel’s particulate filter, which does require longer drives on a relatively regular basis.


And to counter that, if you only do urban driving in your V6 Carnival, I pity your pocket, because it’s going to get worn out at the servo. The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the petrol is 9.6 litres per 100km, but on test in Sydney I saw a return of 12.0L/100km – including a heap of open road driving.


The diesel? It claims 6.5L/100km, and over similar roads I saw 7.0L/100km.


No matter which model you pick, though, the Carnival remains a terrific option for those who realise that an SUV isn’t always the answer.

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