Our new long-termer in the garage is a 2021 Kia Carnival Platinum. We will be living with it for 3 months with kids and reporting back on how it performs over a longer run.

A past colleague once lamented the McLaren long-termer he was testing. Most would think that being given a supercar for a few months is the height of living but for living in everyday, and not cutting apart a mountain road, it can be quite the chore. And so here we have the opposite end of the spectrum with the big, new Kia Carnival.

While the opposite of a small, light, compact two-seater, the Carnival isn’t without its charm and enjoyable driving though, even if it is in a much different way for families.

This new model looks completely reinvigorated compared to the old one and is a night and day difference. It adopts SUV-styling on a van body and works, with stylish LED headlights and rear taillights for a contemporary look. Yes, it is still an MPV though.

Inside it has things like nature sounds and ambient lighting, plus charging ports for all rows of seating that the passengers need (these days) on long trips. Speaking of which the timing for this car is perfect given a fresh baby and one four-year-old at home to test with. A Carnival with eight seats over 5.1m might seem overkill but a reverse facing baby seat and a pram with bassinet placed in the boot shrinks the useable capacity of most SUVs fast.

This Carnival’s 627-litre boot with eight-seats up will be useful, and huge at 2785L with only five in play. That 627L figure is thanks to a very deep floor that is the ideal cut for storing a pram.

Our top-spec Platinum model here with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine is priced at $70,490 driveaway, which is on par with most kitted up large SUVs. The engine produces 148kW of power and 440Nm of torque via an eight-speed auto to the front wheels. It’s nimble for what it is and the traction control should be commended too, giving good traction at slow speeds in wet conditions and partly due to the engine sitting bang over the front axle.

Fuel economy is far light as well, with the claimed6.5L/100km on the combined cycle close to our 7.1L/100km use. With a 72-litre fuel tank the estimate with a fuel tank was almost 900km, plenty for a long road trip.

With an all-new platform underneath there is much newer technology in the Carnival. The digital dash has not arrived yet (later this year) so make do with a traditional binnacle cluster but large 12.3-inch infotainment system. Automatic wipers are also on the waiting list.

But the equipment list is long and includes 19-inch black alloys, full leather upholstered interior across all three rows and with heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, electric sliding doors and tailgate, keyless entry with automatic opening rear doors and boot, remote engine start, two sunroofs, three-zone climate control, window shades for all rear passengers, 12-speaker Bose sound system and LED headlights with automatic highbeam.

On the safety front is AEB with pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, active cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert, multi-collision warning and blind spot monitoring. It scored a five-star ANCAP rating.

The space on offer in something that doesn;t feel much longer than a large SUV is impressive. The technology is also very up to date and most off all the configurable seats, which includes being able to remove the middle of the second row to lahy in long items is quite handy for those that need a practical car. 

Let us know any questions you have and we’ll continue to update this article as we go.


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About Author

Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax, Carsales.com.au, AMC, Just Cars, and more.


  1. How’s it for drink holders? Can it fit a bottle in the door for driver or centre ? Old one used to have drink bottles flop around in centre bin but door was great. I noticed all the newer ones have full centre consoles. I kind of miss the old ones where I could throw a work bag or anything and still have access to it. But that’s progress.

  2. I don’t believe the Carnival has real leather seats in the top spec. It is more vinyl than anything from first hand experience.

  3. Really, I wish Kia would send out a lower spec model for reviewing. Something like the SLi model would be better for people to review because it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. Most families really just aren’t interested in forking out another $8000 – $9000 for heated steering wheels and 19″ black alloys etc.

    I am most interested in these lower spec models because they are a more realistic representation of what people will buy and so it’s those models that need to be reviewed in these longer term studies.

    Also, what is the timing for the digital instrument cluster and auto sensing wipers? If you ordered a car today and they released them in a month, would the car you ordered, which takes 4 to 6 months to arrive from Kia, include that?

  4. I hear there’s an Eleven seater in production. Any news on this model would be greatly appreciated

  5. I have the 2021 Kia Carnival diesel, would like to tow a small trailer, but unable to find the GCM from official website. Can you help?

    I found details about 2017 model but can rely on it.

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