Car Reviews

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Isaac Bober’s 2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: Updated Kia Carnival has been refined adding a touch of class to its incredibly practical package.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Diesel Specifications

Price From $62,790+ORC Warranty seven-years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000km/12 months Service Price From $370-$710 Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel Power 147kW at 3800rpm Torque 440Nm from 1750-2750rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 5115mm long; 1985mm wide; 1755mm high; 3060mm wheelbase Seats eight Turning Circle 11.7m Boot Space 960-4022L Spare Temporary Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 7.6L/100km (claimed combined) – 7.9L/100km as tested

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THE CURRENT Kia Carnival (third-generation) was launched in Australia back in 2015, but an extensive update in May this year saw the addition of active safety features, styling tweaks, a new infotainment system and an eight-speed automatic which is available on both the petrol and diesel engines. Our test car, the Carnival Platinum is the top-spec model and we tested it with the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. In this form it’s the most expensive Carnival in the line-up at $62,790+ORC.

Editor's Rating

What's the space and practicality like?
Are the controls and infotainment any good?
What's the performance like?
What's it like on the road?
What about ownership?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The Carnival is never going to be a vehicle that tugs at the heart strings but it is a vehicle that if you’re in need of seven, or more, seats should be at the top of your list. Not a single other seven-seater (and remember the Carnival offers eight) is as roomy either for passengers or luggage. And, in our Platinum spec, it’s got an impressive safety suite, all the bells and whistles you’d want, like heated and ventilated seats and automatic sliding doors, and it’s good to drive. And, I don’t mean good for a seven (-plus) seater, I mean, good for a large SUV.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

There are four model variants in the Carnival range, the entry-level S (from $42,490+ORC), Si (from $47,990+ORC), SLi (from $52,490+ORC) and top-spec Platinum (from $60,290+ORC). And all four variants are available with either a 3.3-litre V6 petrol or a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Carnival is available in six colours: Clear White and premium colours (at an additional $695) Deep Chroma Blue, Panthera Metal, Silky Silver while Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl are exclusive to SLi and Platinum.

In terms of specs, all variants get vital active safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning (blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are only available on SLi and Platinum), as well as smart cruise control, rear parking sensors (front sensors are only available on SLi and Platinum) and reversing camera with dynamic guidelines – a 360-degree camera view is available on SLi and Platinum.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

All variants offer eight seats, with the top-spec variants offering powered front seats, although only the Platinum offers heated and ventilated front seats. In terms of the second- and third-row seats all variants offer the same functionality. The Platinum (and SLi) offers powered sliding doors and tailgate that can be operated via the keyfob or pressing the buttons on the door handles or via B-pillar mounted buttons on the inside.

The S now gets a 7.0-inch infotainment screen (up from a 5.0-inch radio unit) and 8.0-inch unit for Si, SLi and Platinum. The new unit comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For Si, SLi and Platinum the entertainment system includes an 8-speaker JBL Premium sound system. Everything other than the S offers tri-zone climate control with rear-mounted controls and front-seat override (handy if you’ve got kids).

What’s the space and practicality like?

This thing is huge but that doesn’t mean you feel like you’re driving a bus. Indeed, I found it easier to manoeuvre than the CX-9 I recently tested. Let’s look at the overall numbers, the Carnival measures 5115mm long, 1985mm wide, and 1755mm high and has a wheelbase of 3060mm. Luggage space, even with all seats up is a whopping 960 litres, which grows to 2220 litres when you drop the third row and then 4022 litres if the second-row seats are folded. ‘Cavernous’ is the best word to describe the Carnival.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Anyone comparing numbers between this model and the last one will notice the roofline on the new one is 20mm lower than the old car, but there’s more headroom in the new Carnival. And that’s because some jiggery pokery of the seats has meant the cushions are lower, hence more headroom. More than this, look at the Carnival in profile and you’ll see the roof no longer slopes towards the back and that means headroom is impressive indeed. I’m six-feet tall and I can sit comfortably in every single row of the Carnival with around six-inches, or so, of headroom.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

There are storage bins scattered around the place, and even in the third-row you get moulded plastic armrests and cup holders for the two outboard seats as well as roof-mounted, louvre-style vents for heating or cooling. And because of the deep windows there’s excellent vision from the very back row. But it’s the foot and leg room that’s most impressive, whether you’re in the second- or third-row seats there’s acres of space.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Getting into the back of the Carnival is simple. Thanks to a redesign of the second-row seats which are split 40:20:40 the two outboard seats are designed to ‘stand up’. This means, via a lever on the side of the seat the seat base tumbles forwards while the seat back slides forwards but stays vertical giving you a huge walkway to step through into the back of the Carnival. The seats can be put back into position via the lever or the person in the third-row puling a strap at the back of the seat. It’s all very clever.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

All the seats, even the middle pews, are well-shaped and comfortable with no-one missing out on room to move. Indeed, during my test of the Carnival, I loaded seven of my football teammates into the thing and drove 80km to a game. And back. There wasn’t a single moan with everyone having plenty of room. Sat in the second-row there’s ample storage and charging outlets at the back of the centre console, with the rear seat climate controls up on the roof on the driver’s side of the vehicle. And the side windows are particularly huge.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

The rear doors are powered and there are buttons on the B-pillar to open and close them from the inside; you can press the black buttons on the door handles to open them from the outside. The tailgate is also powered. The keyfob can also be used to open and close the two sliding side doors and open or close the tailgate.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Into the front and, again, the seats are well shaped and comfortable with good lateral and under-thigh support. Climbing into the front seat of the Carnival is easy, you simply open the door, step in and sit down. All the controls are laid out within easy reach across the dashboard and there’s good vision around the vehicle and within it too thanks to a small fish-eye-esque mirror that folds down out of the roof, giving you eyes in the back of your head, so to speak. There’s plenty of storage space in the front of the cabin, including the twin gloveboxes. The dashboard design is simple in its design but feels well screwed together with quality materials used. It looks like Audi-lite, if you know what I mean.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Are the controls and infotainment any good?

The sound system, an 8-speaker JBL Premium unit, is excellent. The sound quality is clean with plenty of grunt and adjustability to get the most out of your music. Quality is high whether you’re listening to the radio, DAB or streaming music via your phone.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

The 8.0-inch infotainment screen and its operation will be familiar to anyone who’s experienced a modern Kia. It’s simple to use and has enough functionality without going overboard. There’s native sat-nav which works well and there’s a raft of verbal advisories, like ‘narrow road ahead’ or ‘school zone’ and so on with an easy menu for activating the ones you most want. The variety exceeds what’s on offer in similar systems on competitor products.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

The screen is touch sensitive and it responds quickly and cleanly with a good quality screen the surface of which doesn’t seem to hold finger print smudges. There are also shortcut buttons at the base of the screen as well as steering wheel controls for use once you’ve deep dived. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity for those who want a familiar digital environment.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

From the driver’s seat, you can control everything that opens and shuts, literally, on the Carnival Platinum, with overhead buttons to open and close the side sliding doors and the powered tailgate, door-activated lighting and a general light switch which provides excellent interior illumination at night. Then, down on the centre console are buttons for the heated and ventilated front seats, and more.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

There are stacks of buttons stashed around the cabin of the Carnival but it never feels overwhelming or button heavy. Kia’s interior designers have carefully zoned the buttons and controls so that you go to only the ones you need rather than having to search through a bank of buttons for the thing you need. Clever.

What’s the performance like?

Our test car was the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel which makes 147kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1750-2750rpm. This is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission and while the engine is a carry-over and the output identical to the old car, the automatic is new and has transformed the drive experience. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 7.6L/100km and in our week of testing, which included a decent drive fully loaded, we averaged 7.9L/100km. The tank is 80 litres.

Whether carrying eight passengers and their luggage or not, the Carnival’s diesel engine is a strong performer that will keep up easily with traffic on the highway and flatten hills. Sure, the transmission helps a lot with its smooth, well timed shifts. The throttle and brake pedals are nice and progressive with the transmission responding to throttle inputs quickly and cleanly.

What’s it like on the road?

Our week with the Carnival really put it through its paces. It was used around town, on the school run, at the shops and ferrying a bunch of footballers to a weekend game. And it handled every task flawlessly. People movers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s usually because they’re rubbish to drive, but the Carnival with its grunty engine and locally honed suspension and steering is possibly the most enjoyable of the lot to drive, if that’s not damning it with faint praise.

Anything based on a van tends to see the driver sitting either on or just behind the front wheels and that’s certainly the case with the Carnival. This can often make the steering feel a little twitchy but that’s not the case with the big Kia. The steering is direct and well-weighted with just enough feedback that the drive is quite enjoyable.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Kia reckons that torsional rigidity is up by a staggering 74% compared with the old model and you certainly notice that when you’re fully loaded and you hit an expansion joint in the road. Or, rather, you don’t notice anything. And the thing is also incredibly quiet and that’s at highway speed and on dirt. The driver can easily converse with someone sat in the third-row seats without having to raise their voice or even turn their head.

Across the PM road loop the new Carnival’s tweaked shock absorbers and retuned spring rates makes for excellent body control through corners and compliance across poor surfaces that’s impressive indeed. Hit a bump mid-corner and while you can feel the bump through the wheel there’s no buck. Speaking of the steering, plant your foot from a standstill and there’s a touch of torque steer, a gentle reminder of the 440Nm of torque lurking just off idle.

Even when fully loaded with passengers and luggage the Carnival rides all but the biggest of bumps with a level of mattress-like-bump-smothering comfort you might not expect. And the same goes when travelling just one-up in the thing; this is a very comfortable, quite and well handling machine.

What’s it like to park?

Despite its size, the Carnival is a cinch to park. And that’s partially thanks to the well-tuned steering and the good vision, but also because of the multiple camera views that allows you to see the rear, the front and the side, as well as a 360-degree view. Indeed, I found it much easier to manoeuver the Carnival into tight parking spaces than I did the CX-9 I recently tested. Even better is the fact the rear doors are sliding doors so getting the kids in and out of the back of the car when parked in tight spaces is easy. And for those in the front, the doors aren’t too bulky so getting in and out, even in a tight car park, is easy.

Is there a spare?

It would have been easy for Kia not to have included a spare tyre, and given the size of the boot you have to wonder where they’d hide a spare, but one’s included. It’s only a temporary spare and is thus speed and distance limited but it’s there underneath the back of the vehicle.

Can you tow with it?

Kia suggests a 2000kg maximum braking towing capacity for the Carnival with a 200kg download.

What about ownership?

Kia offers a seven-year, unlimited kilometres warranty and a corresponding capped price service plan to go with it. The service schedule is a sensible 12 months or 15,000km with the pricing running from $374.00 to $710.00 depending on the service. Kia also offers punters who service within their dealer network a roadside assistance membership top-up of 12 months for every service, up to eight years.

What about safety?

The updated Carnival continues with a five-star ANCAP rating (tested in 2016) and offers a raft of active and passive safety systems. Our Platinum spec test car offers everything in Kia’s arsenal, including front and rear parking sensors reversing camera with multiple angles as well as 360-degree view, hill-start assist, traction and stability controls, 20 LED type headlights (self-levelling) with high-beam assist, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring, four ISOFIX mounts (two in the second-row seats and two in the third-row), speed sensing door locks, airbags that reach right into the third row and much more.

2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Review

Editor's Rating

What's the space and practicality like?
Are the controls and infotainment any good?
What's the performance like?
What's it like on the road?
What about ownership?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The Carnival is never going to be a vehicle that tugs at the heart strings but it is a vehicle that if you’re in need of seven, or more, seats should be at the top of your list. Not a single other seven-seater (and remember the Carnival offers eight) is as roomy either for passengers or luggage. And, in our Platinum spec, it’s got an impressive safety suite, all the bells and whistles you’d want, like heated and ventilated seats and automatic sliding doors, and it’s good to drive. And, I don’t mean good for a seven (-plus) seater, I mean, good for a large SUV.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.