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Future models - Kia - Carnival

New York show: Kia Carnival platform set for SUVs

Share fair: Kia got first use of the new Hyundai Group 'UB' multi-purpose vehicle platform for its eight-seat Carnival.

Next Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe to share new Kia Carnival's latest platform

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Kia logo21 Apr 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

AN all-new vehicle platform under Kia's upcoming third-generation 2015 Carnival people-mover is also set to carry the next-generation Sorento SUV and sister company's Hyundai's Santa Fe in the next few years.

The fact that Kia has been given first crack at the large multi-purpose vehicle architecture – code-named UM – shows the distance the one-time poor cousin has come within the South Korean conglomerate and in global importance as one of the world's fastest growing brands.

In the case of the eight-seat, front-wheel-drive Carnival, the platform's wheelbase has been stretched to more than three metres – about 220mm longer than the distance between the wheels of the planned SUVs.

This gives the people-mover massive internal proportions, comfortably accommodating the three rows of seats that slide and stow in innovative ways to free up space and increase comfort, while at the same time giving the family bus an unlikely wheel-in-each corner sportiness with short front and rear overhangs.

But to ensure that the huge span remained sufficiently rigid to meet engineering goals, critical parts of the body is formed out of hot-stamped high-strength steel panels in shapes that have added 76 per cent to the torsional rigidity of the body compared with the eight-year-old previous generation.

Unveiled at this week's New York motor show, the new Carnival is due to go into production in the second half of this year and arrive in Australian showrooms either just before Christmas or, more likely, early in 2015.

The Korean-developed vehicle – called Sedona in most overseas markets – had a longer than usual gestation, taking at least four years to reach the public domain.

Kia showed the KV7 concept in 2011, but immediately went back to the drawing board to expand the vehicle for greater practicality.

Kia president and chief design officer for both Hyundai and Kia, Peter Schreyer, told Australian journalists at the New York show that the vehicle had been stretched one metre to accommodate all the space needed for a practical eight-seat configuration and large luggage space.

He said that just stretching the vehicle made it look too straight - “like a bus” - so it required a new approach to retain its stylish elements.

Mr Schreyer said the Carnival still retained a lot of the spirit of the KV7, adding: “Without the show car, we would not be where we are today.”

While the Carnival has finally reached production readiness, the angst over the vehicle is not completely over, with a senior Hyundai executive unhappy with the grille of one of the three models in the US, the base EX.

Unlike the blacked out mesh grille of the upmarket SXL grade, the EX has metallic bars that, in some people's eyes, give it a Chrysler Voyage likeness.

GoAuto understands the grille change will go ahead, most likely as a running change after production starts.

Australia will take only the eight-seat configuration, most likely in the current three grades – Si, SLi and Platinum – with a choice of new 3.3-litre petrol V6 or carry-over 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel.

While the middle row of seats can accommodate three people, it comprises two outer bucket seats and one smaller middle seat best suiting a child. The latter can fold away separately, flipping into a wide armrest with cupholders to give the vehicle a luxury feel.

The outer seats flip forward into a vertical position to provide easy access to the back row of seats. This access is further enhanced by a wide rear door opening, with electric-assisted sliding doors on both sides.

The rear seat is split 50-50, and one or both sections can be folded into the floor to open up a larger cargo area. Even with the seats in the upright position, luggage space is commodious.

Because the well to hold the folded seat goes deep into the floor, the spare wheel is tucked up under the floor below the middle row and access from the side of the vehicle.

According to Kia product planner Mike Wilde, a great deal of the development program for the new Carnival was focussed on giving the new model a much more prestigious look and feel, with soft-touch materials and fine-grain plastics adopted throughout.

He said the new model was also much quieter and more refined – a major goal of all new Kia vehicles these days.

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