Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

A big life with Kia’s new Carnival

Kia recently brought back the Carnival name, replacing the outgoing Grand Sedona. The all-new Carnival has arrived at the perfect time, together with what seems to be a resurgence in the large luxury people mover segment with the recent launch of some new players such as the Hyundai Staria (replacing the popular H1) and updates to the evergreen Toyota Quantum, Volkswagen Caravelle and the Mercedes-Bez V-class.

According to the Korean automaker the Carnival is set to stake its claim in the unoccupied space between SUVs and utilitarian people-movers, set to further embed Kia as a high-end brand and legitimate contender with the big dogs. While we have not driven it, we believe it will have an important role to play in the brand’s line-up.

Built on a better base

Similar to its stable-mate, the Sorento, the Carnival is underpinned by the innovative new N3 or “large SUV” platform which means a bigger, yet lighter and stronger base. It is 40mm longer, 10mm wider and 35mm higher than the outgoing Grand Sedona yet the mass only increased by 14kg. Additional benefits from the N3 platform include:

  • Expanded use of hot-stamped parts and ultra-high-strength steel for increased average tensile strength and torsional stiffness that results in better driving dynamics. 
  • Greater application of sound-absorbing and insulating materials to minimise road, wind and engine noise. 
  • Aerodynamic improvements to the wheels, front bumper and mirrors to achieve better fuel economy

Looking the part

The Kia Carnival is the spiritual successor of the late Kia Grand Sedona and from the images released it will certainly turn heads. Kia has hit their stride when it comes to bold, yet sleek design in recent years and the Carnival is no exception. It looks edgy and aggressive – I’d even go as far as saying sporty, albeit still bulky. Thanks to Kia’s distinctive ‘tiger nose’ grille, as well as some beefy wheel arches and some crisp lines added, the Carnival certainly looks more SUV than bus. The SUV aesthetic is enhanced by the addition of a rear skid plate garnish and reflectors, as well as the standard fitment of tasteful 18- or 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

Space is the name of the game

While the Carnival certainly stands out stand out from it’s bus-like counterparts with its more SUV-like character, it does not compromise on space. Depending on the selected trim, the Carnival is either available in a 7- or 8-seater configuration and boasts a massive amount of storage space at 1139-litres (with all seats erect). The second-row seating can even remove the second row, and the third row folds down flush with the floor, allowing you to convert this mini-bus into a high-end panel van, offering a massive 4 110 litres of cargo space.

And while all design elements are functional and aimed at ensuring comfort for all passengers, it remains a refined and sophisticated cabin. The central fascia looks premium with high-gloss black surfaces, while a signature chrome garnish runs the length of the dash to create a sense of width, space and openness in the forward cabin. Add to this a roster of innovative features such as the hands-free electric sliding doors with Smart Key and a smart power lift-gate to make loading and unloading a breeze, it is clear that this vehicle is a serious player in the segment.

Power prowess

The Kia Carnival is powered by Kia’s brand-new 2.2-litre “Smartstream” CRDi turbodiesel engine, now developing a slightly more powerful 148kW at 3 800rpm and a stout 440Nm of torque at 1 750rpm than the outgoing 2.2 CRDi. Mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, it should offer smooth and seamless shifting in all conditions. With a GVM of 2 780kg, towing capacity is at a comfortable 1 588kg braked and 454 unbraked.

Grade walk

The Carnival boasts four trim levels starting with the EX, which offers a generous specification tally to guarantee stellar value for money. Some of the standout features included on this derivative are a bright high-def 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front and rear adjustable air-conditioning, leather trim, Drive Mode Select, seven airbags and four USB ports. It rides on 18-inch aluminium alloys.

Next up is the EX+ which offers, amongst others, an electric tailgate, seven USB ports, paddle shifters and powered sliding doors; with the SX Limited guise offering heated and ventilated electronically adjustable front seats with lumbar support, smart cruise control, wireless smartphone charging, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blindspot Collision Avoidance, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist as well as Lane Keeping and Following Assist. This derivative rides on 19-inch alloys.

The limited-edition top Carnival SXL (available from March 2022) will add BOSE surround sound with 12 speakers, Blindspot View Monitor and a 12.3-inch TFT Supervision instrument cluster.

 Model line-up & pricing:

  • 2.2 CRDi EX 8AT 7-Seater: R799 995
  • 2.2 CRDi EX+ 8AT 8-Seater: R879 995
  • 2.2 CRDi SX Limited 8AT 7-Seater: R999 995
  • 2.2 CRDi SXL 8AT 7-Seater: R1 024 995

*All models feature Kia’s Unlimited Kilometre, 5-year warranty, including roadside assistance, as well as a 6-year / 90 000km maintenance plan.

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