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Kia Carnival’s right-hand advantage

Good oil: Hydraulic steering and extensive suspension tuning is unique to the Australian-spec Kia Carnival.

New Carnival people-mover benefits from not being left-hand-drive, says Kia experts

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Kia logo27 Feb 2015

By TIM ROBSON

THE localisation of Kia vehicles is getting a little easier – but it won’t stop them from pushing harder to get more, according to Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) management.

KMa has taken each of the cars in its current line-up and subjected them to a program of localisation for both steering feel and suspension performance.

The program entails testing at Kia’s ride and handling facility in South Korea and back-to-back testing and component assessment in Australia.

The original suspension package for the recently-launched Carnival people-mover was, in the words of one Kia insider, “pretty average” at the outset of the vehicle’s development program, but a joint effort between Australian and Korean engineers has netted genuine improvements across the board.

The steering system, in particular, is unique to right-hand-drive markets, being a hydraulically assisted type, rather than an electrically-assisted system.

The move towards electric systems results in fewer drive belts and decreased loads on the engine, netting improvements in fuel economy. The trade-off is often in steering feel at the wheel rim.

KMAu technical consultant Graeme Gambold praised the feel of hydraulic steering and added that it was a good fit for the Carnival.

“There’s nothing wrong with hydraulic steering, and it obviously gives you a better feel,” he said. “So it was a choice for Kia to go that way.

“Hydraulic steering is still perceived by a lot of engineers as a premium system. It’s just the push for better fuel consumption that’s seen everyone go electric. We still see that hydraulic steering is not lacking in anything. It’s actually a benefit to this model.”

KMAu product manager Jeff Shafer revealed that manufacturing requirements had directed the Carnival down the path of hydraulic steering, but the advantages for the consumer were worth the point of difference.

“There’s electric steering for the vehicle in left-hand-drive configuration,” he said. “But not in right-hand-drive. From a local perspective, hydraulic (steering) was the option that we were given. Having said that, and having spent a lot of time tuning that steering rack to our conditions, we really could see some benefits, particularly in feel.”

Mr Shafer said that having several cars under their belts makes the job of negotiating with their Korean engineering counterparts easier.

“We always push for as much as we can get,” he said. “On one hand, we always wanted to challenge what was available and try and make the best car we can.

Certainly in the last few trips Graeme and I have made to the R&D centre (in Korea), our meetings with the engineers are getting really productive, because they now understand the results and the benefits.

“In fact a lot of the upcoming chassis work that we’re seeing is very much in line with what we’ve been talking to them about in past models. Together, we’re both improving what we can offer in the ride and handling space.”

The Carnival carries over the previous-generation’s MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. However, the addition of a hydraulic rebound spring on the front axle, stiffer anti-roll bars and crossmember bushings on the rear and better dampers has improved the handling of the car noticeably.

“The company has a big commitment to it, not just us, but the European and the UK guys, as well,” said Mr Gambold. “It’s seen as passive safety. We spend a lot of time talking abut warning lights and ANCAP and that sort of thing, but we see improved ride and handling as improved passive safety, which means less intervention by active systems. We value it from the whole aspect of safety and the drive.”

Mr Gambold also said that Australia was having more input into the specifications of tyres that are fitted to local vehicles.

“We give the Koreans quite strong advice on where tyres need to be tuned,” he said. “We don’t yet work directly with the tyre manufacturers to tune them, but our requirements are put into the final-spec tyre.”

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