Is the new Kia Carnival with its versatility and connected tech worthy of the higher price tag, or the Toyota Innova Crysta with its sturdy appeal and tough-to-challenge brand proposition still the sensible choice for an MPV buyer?
MPVs are quickly gaining traction in the Indian market and have emerged as the preferred choice for large families and corporate fleets. But there was always a gap in the premium segment, where the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is considered too expensive, and the top-spec Toyota Innova Crysta could suffice but not excite. This gap has been filled by the Kia Carnival, which comes loaded with a plethora of technology, an enormous cabin with comfortable and flexible seating, and a rich selection of connected car features not yet available in the segment.
This makes it an intriguing investment for private fleet owners, who had no choice but opt for Toyota Innova Crysta. It is pertinent to mention that this is not a comparison between the two vehicles as they fall under different price brackets altogether. We are just trying to understand if a buyer should stretch his/her wallet to get the more expansive package offered by the Kia, or is it wise to just trust the best-seller.
Toyota’s supremacy in the Indian MPV segment can be dated back to 2000, when the Qualis was launched and quickly stormed the market. Innova followed suit by 2005, and the Crysta took over the reins by 2016. It still is the go-to-people carrier for most customers in India, a segment which we feel will be further strengthened with the arrival of the Kia Carnival. The new blood moves the goalpost ahead with even better practicality and space as well as boasts of connected car features, which comes at a higher price tag.
Toyota’s Innova Crysta has been a comfortable mile-muncher for most, whether you pick the 8-seat version or the second row captain 7-seat version. It is spacious till the third row of seating with a higher roof and flatter floor. The second row seat mechanism is easy to operate for rear access and is generally speaking become a muscle memory for most. It’s a simple set-up with four doors and a tailgate for luggage. Kia Carnival broadens the scope by offering 7-seat, 8-seat and even a 9-seat option to suit individual customer needs.
The 8-seat version is simple with three rows arranged in the traditional 2+3+3 layout. If you want to transport more people, then Kia offers the 2+2+2+3 layout with three rows of captain seats. Yes, six captain seats in a car! And finally, for customers who wish to revel in luxury, pick the 7-seat limousine option with loaded convenience tech. The large electrically sliding doors on the Carnival are a massive benefit for easy ingress/egress, added to the electrically operated smart tailgate.
Coming to carrying luggage, Innova Crysta offers just 300 l of boot space, which is not that substantial to be honest. You will have to drop the third row seats to load a decent amount of luggage, but then you will also have drop two/three passengers from the itinerary. Kia Carnival rises up to this challenge by offering 540 l of storage space with the third row in place, which is enough for a considerable amount of luggage for all the seven or eight occupants. It should be noted that the third row seating is marginally better in the Innova Crysta with more headspace and a flatter floor on offer. Further, the fourth row in the Kia Carnival 9-seat variant is preferable for short journeys only.
Both the engine options offered in the Toyota Innova Crysta are excellent performers and are absolutely robust by design. The powerful 2.7 l petrol engine develops 166 PS and 245 Nm, while the best-seller 2.4 l diesel makes 150 PS and 343 Nm. These numbers translate into effortless performance on long highway journeys, or even everyday commutes. On the other hand, the 2.2 l diesel engine in the Carnival develops a higher 200 PS and 440 Nm despite its lesser cubic capacity. Kia engineers have taken the more refinement approach for the Carnival, where it is quick enough but not as nippy as the Toyota. However, the Carnival’s cabin insulation is light years ahead of the Innova. It is a quiet place to be with no engine drone or wind noise evident inside. Innova Crysta feels a bit less refined in the refinement area, which has been traded in for quicker performance.
The handling, too, is separated by the basic construction of both these MPVs. Crysta sits on a ladder frame chassis with a hydraulic power-assisted steering, which exudes a more rugged appeal while driving with heavier controls. The Carnival is based on a monocoque chassis with an electric power steering making it lighter and easier to manage despite being larger. You can feel that the Crysta has been designed to manage all kinds of rough and broken road surfaces with ease without unsettling its basic composure, even at decent speeds. Kia Carnival is more of a mile-muncher travelling long distances on open highways keeping its occupants comfortable and entertained. Carnival has a lower ground clearance of 180 mm as compared to 193 mm on the Crysta. Combine the lower ground clearance with a near three-metre wheelbase and the Carnival has to be nursed over large potholes and difficult parking locations.
It is an absolute no brainer that the car with the higher price tag has more features in it. But the amount of toys inside the Carnival trounces the Innova Crysta, in terms of variety. Innova Crysta has a futuristic looking dash layout with wood finish panels and immaculate fit and finish. Every button and edge has a solid feel to it, which will endure years of rough use. The Carnival takes it a step further by improving every aspect of creature comfort and not merely adding a few new features.
The air-conditioning has three zones – it has an inbuilt air purifier; there are additional screens for the second row with all conceivable connectivity options. Further, there is a 220 V laptop charger, second row captain seats slide front, back & even side-to-side, there is a dual sunroof on offer, and much more. Then follow the connected car features, where the UVO assist lets you control 37 unique vehicle parameters through a smartphone or a smartwatch. Even the base variant of the Carnival comes equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, powered sliding doors, 8-inch touchscreen audio with six speakers and a lot more than the comparative top-spec Innova Crysta.
The introduction of the Kia Carnival has certainly upped the MPV segment in the country. Without a doubt Innova Crysta will have its share of loyal customers, who prefer nearly indestructible built quality and reliability of the Toyota brand. But for those who wish to indulge in more comfort and technology, and have the capability to expand their budgets, Kia Carnival is the definite choice among the two vehicles. It reiterates Kia’s commitment for the Indian market with its aggressive pricing strategy and cutting-edge connected car features.
TEXT: Abhijeet Singh