Robert Pepper’s 2017 Kia Carnival review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: A big, comfortable, practical peoplemover that is easy to love.

2017 Kia Carnival Platinum diesel

Pricing: $61,985 plus onroad costs; Warranty: seven years, unlimited kilometres; Safety: 5 star ANCAP rating 2017; Engine: 2.2 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel; Power: 147kW at 3800rpm; Torque: 440Nm at 1750-2750rpm; Transmission: six speed automatic; Drive: front-wheel-drive; Dimensions: 5115mm(L); 1985mm (W); 1740 mm (H); Seats: eight; Turning circle: 11.2m; Tare weight: 2092kg; GVM: 2875kg; Payload: 783kg; Fuel Tank: 80 litres; Thirst: 7.7L/100km; Towing: 2000kg braked, 200kg TBM; GCM: 4875kg; Spare: temporary space saver


What is it?

KIA’s CARNIVAL is that rare thing in Australia, a people mover, a supremely practical vehicle that nobody wants to buy because of the image. Kia offer two peoplemovers, the Carnival and the smaller Rondo (stay tuned for a test soon).

The Carnival is an eight-seater and big with it. The length is 5115mm and width 1985mm; compared to the Landcruiser LC200 at 4990mm length and 1970mm width, or the Honda Odyssey at 4840mm length and 1800mm width. It’s also longer than the Mercedes-Benz V-Class and Toyota Tarago.

The Carnival range offers two engines, a 147kW diesel and a 206kW petrol, both with six-speed automatics, and there are four trim levels available for each engine to make a total of eight variants.

Our tester is the diesel top-spec Platinum which we had for a week, using it as a daily driver, sitting in every seat, taking it on long drives and even used it to deliver a – what’s the collective noun for teenage girls? A gaggle? A wifi? Whatever, a collection of them back to their houses after a sleepover.

What do we think of the look?

Well, it’s a peoplemover and Kia haven’t attempted to pretend otherwise. I reckon that’s right, own it. You’ve got a boxy, practical shape with a small bonnet, conventional front doors, sliding rear doors for easy access that are on the Platinum electrically operated, and a single, lift-up tailgate at the back. 

Peoplemovers are very easy to get in and out of, just the right height and plenty of access to the second and third rows. There’s no transmission tunnel either, this being a front-wheel-drive with no rear-drive or all-wheel-drive option.

Kia hasn’t attempted to go for anything funky on the style front, which I guess is a sensible business decision but does leave me wondering what a really distinctive Carnival would look like. Would be pretty cool with a set of wheels, selective colouring and a tint.

What’s it like inside?

Up front, the Kia is all business but manages to look reasonably cohesive and modern in the process.

There’s a massive centre console with a clever sliding compartment up top, a side pocket for the front passenger and each front door has dual-level pocket. The dual glovebox is a great feature.

The only real criticism is lack of a phone storage compartment, and there’s just one 12v socket up front on the passenger side, albeit with another in the centre console. There’s no sunnies holder, instead of which you get a curved mirror to look at your rear-seat occupants. Overall though, good marks for practicality.

Into the second row and there’s a 40:20:40 split. The middle seat isn’t as bad as you’d find in sedans, but wider adults will prefer the outer seats or even the third row. The middle seats easily flip forwards for access to the rear. Space can be adjusted between the second and third rows by adjusting the second row seatback angle and sliding each second row fore and aft.

The seat operation proved not to be completely intuitive for people who didn’t realise they were testing the car, but with a word or two of guidance they managed it. The effort required should be within the capability of even smaller children once they get the knack.

The middle second row can be entirely removed; you may wish to do this to enable easy-ish access to the third row without opening the doors, or a bit more cargo space. Either way, it’s a useful feature and the seat only takes a moment to remove.

The third row is a 40:60 split, easy to operate and folds down into a large storage compartment, and again the effort is not significant although height is an advantage to lean forwards. Once up, the third row is quite comfortable even for two adults, and three adults can sit there at a push. Height and legroom isn’t a concern, and the seatback angle can be adjusted. Even the third row gets a sunblind on the side windows.

There’s just one 12v in the boot, but there are another four cupholders either side of the third row, and more lighting. Teenagers however place device charging well above hydration in their hierarchy of needs.

Overall, the Kia’s interior befits a peoplemover; it’s practical, looks pretty hard wearing, is reasonably easy to operate and good use is made of space. There are no significant failings, just points for further improvement such as more USB/12v outlets, and a bit more attention paid to user-friendliness of the second row seats.

Click any image to start the Kia Carnival interior and exterior photo gallery.

What’s the infotainment system like

The Carnival’s infotainment system is clear and simple with useful information like trip computers and fuel consumption, but best of all it’s very easy to flick through menu options because the controls are thumbwheels and that’s far easier than, say, a button press. There are also physical shortcut buttons for the main functions, like navigation and phone.

Kia claim there is a “digital clock”, and there kind of is, but it’s only visible on the infotainment unit, not on all screens and in different locations depending on the screen. The worst omission is not showing it when navigation is in progress. Of all vehicles, a people mover should have a prominent clock visible all the time. 

The infotainment system, overall, is perhaps a cut above average; easy to use, all the basic features, responsive and nothing that really gets in the way. There are some odd features such as a temperature converter…but why not, someone might want to use it. The fact it can play DVDs is becoming less and less relevant as streaming kills discs.

Click any image to start the Carnival infotainment gallery.

Performance, ride and handling

Around town

The Carnival is not a small vehicle at 5.1m in length, longer than the LC200, Discovery, XC90 and all the medium 4WDs, and it weighs 2.1 tonnes. However, the 147kW / 440Nm engine with its six-speed automatic has plenty of power and doesn’t feel particularly gruff or unrefined except when pushed, but you’ll rarely need to do that.

The problem the car has is power delivery at lower speeds, because it’s a front-wheel-drive which apparently lacks any clever drivetrain engineering to help combat torque steer, or help deliver that grunt to the ground. It’s all too easy to spin a wheel in the wet if you pull away quickly, and even in the dry, particularly if the vehicle’s wheels aren’t quite equally weighted. This is where you’d wish for an SUV which typically has no traction or torque steer problems in similar conditions.

Once under way the Carnival steers and handles nicely enough with a comfortable ride that’s about the right balance between firmness and plushness, albeit with perhaps a touch too much suspension noise. The automatic gearbox always has the right gear at the right time and knows how to get the best from the engine. There’s a manual mode should you choose but it won’t be needed unless there’s special situations like long hill descents where you’d want to use lower gears.

Parking isn’t as much trouble as you might think. The turning circle is quite good for its size at 11.2m, there’s a very good reversing camera with several views, and on our tester a surround camera system, plus front and rear parking sensors. The reversing camera comes on when you select reverse as usual, but you need to manually select the front/surround camera if you’re driving in forwards to a parking space. However, once the reversing camera is activated it’ll also activate the front/surround camera until your speed exceeds about 10km/h. The parking sensors are audible and visual so you can see exactly what you’re about to hit.

If you’re not used to driving a peoplemover you do need to adjust to the shorter bonnet, but that’s easy, especially with the camera aids.

The Carnival is wide at 1985mm, but the rear doors slide, rather than pivot open, so access to the rear is easy even when parked between other cars. The rear doors and tailgate are electric and can be opened remotely, for example when you’re sprinting to the car in rain. Naturally, the Carnival Platinum has keyless entry.

Open roads

The Carnival is quiet and efficient, never lacking for power to overtake or cruise up hills. The adaptive cruise control is smooth and effective, with 1km/h increments. All the safety aids work effectively too.

The fuel tank is 80L, and that combined with a fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km means you have a very decent range indeed, perhaps 900km when cruising.

An eight-seat peoplemover needs to carry a fair bit of weight. The payload of the Carnival Platinum is 783kg, which means each occupant can weigh on average 97kg, a decent amount per occupant, even allowing for using a bit of that payload for luggage. And as there’s a grunty diesel the Kia doesn’t feel overloaded or slow when it has a full load on board, unlike smaller vehicles.


We didn’t tow with the Carnival, but let’s have a look at the numbers. The Carnival is rated to tow 2000kg braked with a decent towball mass of 200kg, and given its wheelbase, size and power it’d probably be a decent tow. However, there’s no trailer stability control, and it is front-wheel-drive. Heavy towing remains the province of the 4WD. The Gross Combination Mass is 4875kg, so you can tow the maximum trailer weight while the Carnival itself is fully loaded. In other words, the 2000kg is a real rating, not one of the made-up ones by marketing departments.

What about the safety features?

The Platinum has a 5-star rating from ANCAP in 2017, rating 34.62 out of 37.

The blind spot warning is both audio and visual, and works well, spotting cars some distance back but only alerting when necessary. The lane departure warning system, like most of them on the market, is prone to false positives but isn’t sufficiently annoying to be switched off.

There are ISOFIX child restraint points on the inner and outer second row seats, and also on the right outer third row seats. There are normal tethers on the outer two second row seats, and the middle and rightmost third row seats – so four in total, more than most other vehicles. Unusually, the second row seats have height-adjustable seatbelts, excellent for safety.

If you drive away with the sliding doors open you get a visual and increasingly loud warning.

All Carnivals get a space-saver spare as standard.

Certainly, at the Platinum level the 5-star score combined with the advanced safety aids mean the Carnival is above average for safety. Lesser Carnivals don’t score all the safety aids.

Click any image to start the gallery for the Carnival’s reversing and surround camera.

Pricing and Range

The Carnival range offers a 2.2L diesel, 147kW / 440Nm, and a 3.3L petrol, 206kW / 336Nm, both six-speed automatics. There are four trim levels available for each engine – S, Si, SLi and Platinum, so there’s eight models to choose from. All vehicles are 8 seaters. Starting with the S, key features (excluding bling trim) are:

S $41,490 p, $43,990 d

  • 4.3 inch infotainment unit
  • 17 inch steel wheels

The Si adds : $45,490 p, $47,990 d

  • Auto fold wingmirrors
  • User selectable options for car setup eg. door locking
  • Digital speedo
  • Auto up/down windows
  • DVD player (only when stopped)
  • Satnav 8 inch infotainment unit
  • Tri-zone climate control
  • 17 inch alloy wheels
  • LED headlights

The SLi adds: $49,990 p, $52,490 d

  • Leather appointed seats
  • Power driver’s seat
  • Power sliding doors
  • Power tailgate
  • Cooling glovebox
  • Option for black exterior colour
  • 18 inch alloy wheels
  • Front parking sensors
  • Keyless entry

The Platinum adds: $58,790 p, $61,290 d

  • 19 inch wheels
  • HID headlamps with high beam assist
  • Blind spot detection
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward collision warning
  • 360 surround camera
  • 8 way power seats for driver and passenger
  • Portable LED lamp
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Second and third row sunshade blinds

The only option is premium paint for $695, which is as per usual car manufacturer practice is a bit of a ripoff because the only non-premium colour is white – silver, grey, blue and black are all “premium”.

So now to review the range, starting with diesel vs petrol. The difference is $2500, and you’ll need to do a lot of driving – around 70,000km – to see that money back, and while we’ve not driven the petrol it doesn’t look under-powered compared to the diesel.

Then onto the trim. There’s a cool $17,300 between the S and the Platinum, which is nearly the price of a very basic small new car. Looking through what you get, it’s all convenience which means you can do without it except for the Platinum which adds safety features. Nobody really needs a DVD player in 2017, and for satnav I’d suggest your phone with a proper mounting system. I think the value buy is definitely the S model in petrol, but if you do stump up for the Platinum you’ll have a whole host of useful little features. Thing is, you’ll never miss what you never knew.

Mention must also be made of Kia’s warranty. Car manufacturers like to throw the term “industry leading” around and rarely is it justified, but when Kia offers a 7-year unlimited kilometer warranty the likes of Mitsubishi with 5 years and Toyota with 3 years 100,000km seem to suggest they have nowhere near as much confidence in their products as Kia.

Why would you buy one?

Because you want a large, comfortable, practical peoplemover that’s better at people-moving than any SUV; more practical and cheaper to run. You wouldn’t buy one if any form of offroad work is planned or you want to tow anything over 2000kg. The large size is not really an issue generally thanks to the visibility and reversing camera, and especially not in the Platinum with its sensors and surround camera system.

Further reading


Why I bought a Range Rover… from the beginning


2017 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Revealed

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