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New York show: Kia re-invents Carnival

Style central: Kia's new Carnival has been given a premium look and feel, inside and out.

Finally, Kia reveals its third-gen Carnival – a people-mover with SUV appeal


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15 Apr 2014


KIA'S five-year design renaissance was finally completed today with the unveiling of the all-new Carnival people-mover on the eve of the New York motor show.

Gone is the dowdy, old-school styling of the eight-year-old Grand Carnival, replaced by a sleek but muscular design in sync with all other Kia models that have already been overhauled by Kia design chief Peter Schreyer since he delivered his first new-look Kia – the 2009 Sorento – for the South Korean company after arriving from Audi in 2006.

The new eight-seat Carnival has been a long time coming, with Mr Schreyer and his team agonising over the design for several years in pursuit of both functionality and stylish appeal.

Called Sedona in the United States, the new Korean-built Carnival is scheduled to arrive in Australian showrooms either late this year or early 2015, most likely armed with a choice of 3.3-litre petrol V6 and 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, bolted on to six-speed automatic transmission in both cases.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) says the new model has what it takes to restore the Carnival to sales leadership in the people-mover segment which it dominated for 10 years until headed last month by the new Honda Odyssey.

Although the new third-generation Carnival will be available in both eight- and seven-seat layouts in the United States, Australia will take only the family friendly eight-seater, in three specification levels – Si, SLi and Platinum – and all in a single long-wheelbase body that is roughly the same external size as the current vehicle.

The body is said to be 36 per cent stronger in torsional rigidity, thanks to greater use of high-strength steel, steel pipes in the A pillars and application of adhesives and wider welds in body seams.

The stronger body and noise suppression methods such as double-seal door rubbers are said to contribute to a quiet ride that Kia promises will be among the best in the segment.

Based on a new chassis with a 40mm longer wheelbase, the Carnival is aimed squarely at families who might otherwise buy an SUV.

The new Carnival has been described by Kia executives as “very SUVish”. They say a major goal of the design process was to produce a family vehicle that removed the stigma of conventional “soccer mum” people-movers and replaced it a “multi-purpose activity vehicle” that owners would be proud to drive.

Great pains have been taken to infuse the Carnival with a premium look and feel, with many details being borrowed from Kia's K9 large car sold in South Korea (and North America, where it is called K900).

However, the front-drive Carnival is not based on the rear-drive K9 architecture, even though they will share the Lambda V6 direct-injected engine.

In Carnival guise, the V6 produces 205kW at 6000rpm – 3kW more than the 3.5-litre V6 it replaces – and the same 336Nm of torque at 5200rpm.

The current 142kW/429Nm diesel is expected to carry over into the new range.

Currently, sales are evenly split between the petrol V6 and four-cylinder diesel, and Kia Motors Australia expects that to continue.

Kia says the new Carnival is roomier than before thanks to the longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs, with more legroom for occupants in all three rows of seats.

The third row is split 60/40 for flexible luggage stowage, with both sections folding into the floor when not needed.

The centre seat row has slide, fold and tilt functions, and is accessed by a sliding side door.

In the US, Kia expects the Carnival to score a five-star safety rating, as does KMAu in Australia's New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) safety tests.

Unlike the current four-star rated vehicle, the new Carnival will have head-protecting curtain airbags in all three rows of seats, along with a long list of electronic safety programs such as roll-over mitigation.

Most of the features of the US-spec vehicle shown at the New York show will carry over in some form to the Australian range, but probably not the two-tone interior, nor the “first-class” second-row seat option.

The latter, in the seven-seat model, features two luxury bucket seats that not only slide fore and aft but also sideways, and even have aircraft-style leg-rests that extend when the seats are tilted.

The Carnival will even boast a patented anti-bacterial seat fabric to cope with those frequent accidents in family vehicles.

The first-generation Carnival toppled the previous champion, Toyota's Tarago, in 2004 when the Kia found a company record 5259 homes in Australia.

The current second-generation Carnival – launched in 2006 – consistently topped the people-mover sales ladder, peaking in its first full year of sales with 5066 vehicles in 2007.

Most years, the affordable family bus achieved sales of about 3500 units, accounting for about one third of the people-mover market that has shrunk in recent years as the popularity of SUVs has risen.

Kia Australia general manager public relations Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto that the Carnival's strength was its appeal to families and businesses with a regular need for up to eight seats.

He said many SUVs could offer seven seats, but most of those had limited luggage room compared with the Carnival.

Mr Hepworth said the split-fold third row of seats added an extra layer of flexibility, allowing seven passengers as well as a large cargo area.

Kia's search for a new-style people-mover to replace Carnival dates back to 2011 when the company showed the KV-7 concept at the Detroit motor show.

However, Mr Schreyer felt the design missed the mark, and sent it back for further work.

According to Kia insiders, the new Carnival is the result of several attempts and finally nails the look, feel and versatility that Mr Schreyer sought.

Price and full specifications will be announced for the Australian range closer to launch in about nine months.

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