Kia Carnival 2-7 EX

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Keywords: Kia Carnival 2-7 EX
Description: Kia's working hard to make Australia's best-selling peoplemover even better -- alas there's still driveline glitches that need work Unashamedly a ‘Family Taxi’, the Kia Carnival has

Kia's working hard to make Australia's best-selling peoplemover even better -- alas there's still driveline glitches that need work

Unashamedly a ‘Family Taxi’, the Kia Carnival has had a sorry past: in the previous model, close to 40 per cent of the Rover-sourced engines suffered major failures. Normally that would be the death-knell for a model — yet nearly a third of all people-movers sold in Australia are Carnivals.

The reason is that feature for dollar, the Kia beats its rivals hands down — it’s got more space and more stuff for less money than anything else on the market.

Getting into the latest model is no different — thoughtful design abounds, and trim-quality levels have improved out of sight, bringing the Kia right up to the standards set by Toyota and others.

We’re not talking about trend-setting features, just good, practical ideas. For example, given that the Carnival is intended to be a family-mover, opening the ceiling pouch normally used for sunglasses, reveals a wide-angle convex mirror, for watching the little monsters in the second and third rows.

Kia has blessed the new Carnival with more storage space than the average three-bedroomed suburban house — in just the front row, there are eight cubbies, bins and compartments, four cupholders and two bottle-holders. The second row gets aircraft-style folding tables, more drinks holders and even its own air-conditioner controls.

In fact, there are no less than 15 drinks-holders in the cabin, so everyone can have two drinks on the go at any one time… Presumably, except the driver.

Both big rear side doors slide, allowing access to the third row of seats, either by contortion, or by tumbling the middle row. In addition, the very back windows can be cranked open an inch or two by a pair of buttons on the driver’s door.

The rear tailgate’s a big bit of metal and glass, but obligingly swings up with minimal effort — although shorter users may find it is then too high to tug back down.

The second and third rows of seats can be folded in a variety of combinations — they can be folded flat or very simply lifted right out, to create a vast, flat-floored storeroom for transporting cargo. Even with all seats in place, Kia claims a cubic metre of luggage space (and over three with them down). In addition, there are roof rails upon which a pod could be installed.

Probably the most welcome improvement in the new Carnival is in the handling. The previous model was a wallowing whale by comparison and while the new model isn’t actually a paragon of pin-sharp precision and rapier-like steering, at least it doesn’t pitch and roll like a tramp-steamer caught in the mad March gales.

Fitted with Kumho 225/75R16 tyres, the new model was light on the steering, reasonably predictable in handling and mercifully short on tyre noise. It will be interesting to see how well these tyres last and — if we ever see rain again — how they perform in the wet.

Hardly surprisingly, the basic Carnival model doesn’t come standard with any form of traction control or ESP electronic driver aid — although it is available as an option and is standard on the top-specification Grand Carnival Premium.

That said, even without any traction-control, the Carnival acquitted itself well on dry and dusty dirt roads and even (eventually) clambered up our nearby widowmaker (dirt road) hill — impressive for an unladen front-wheel-drive two-ton egg.

ABS brakes with EBD are standard and do a good job of slowing the 2048kg vehicle. On the safety front, driver and front passenger SRS air-bags are standard, while curtain airbags on both sides and ‘pelvis and thorax’ bags are available as extra-cost options. The Grand Carnival Premium model gets a full set of crash-bags as standard.

Specification levels on the most basic Carnival are good — as well as steering-wheel mounted cruise-control and audio system controls, there are three power sockets and extending sun visors, for example.

What isn’t so great is the new powertrain — while the mid-range and top-drawer Grand Carnivals get the 3.8-litre V6s, the basic model has a 2656cc V6 that delivers 136kW and 246Nm. Neither power nor torque figure is an embarrassment and indeed, the motor feels lusty when allowed to rev — but, when mated to the optional four-speed auto, the engine is severely compromised as the ‘box hunts between ratios, is reluctant to downshift, shifts up much too early and generally confounds both driver and motor.

Certainly the driver can use the tiptronic-style manual overide, but this begs the question as to why one would pay $2000 for an auto and then be obliged to use it like a manual anyway. While we didn’t drive the five-speed manual, we’d suggest it may be a better choice.

Though tempted to fill all eight seats with adults to see what the Carnival made of a full house, we decided not to, as more load was unlikely to make the powertrain perform any better.

Existing Carnival-goers will appreciate the raised levels of equipment and quality, the better ride and evidence of much thought in the execution of the design. Assuming Kia keeps those engine woes as a thing of the past, we see no reason why the Carnival will not continue to be Australia’s favourite peoplemover.



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