Gigantic interior with flexible seating, cutting-edge connected vehicle features, and surprising performance is just the tip of the Korean iceberg
Kia Carnival may very well have redefined the people carrier MPV segment for the Indian customer. Yes, it is large enough to rival the extravagant Mercedes-Benz V-Class, and no, Toyota Innova cannot offer the same package in its top trim what the Carnival does in its base variant. There is no level playing field where any other product on sale in India can compete with the Carnival; it is that good a bargain. Kia India was adamant this MPV will be a hit as their second offering in the market, and they did not disappoint and packed it with all the technological bells and whistles they could equip it with. Just to tell you how serious they were, the fancy sliding doors are all electrically operated at the push of a button so much so that you can do it with the vehicle’s key!
Right at the start, everybody can notice the Carnival is noticeably large in size. It is just 25 mm shorter than the V-Class; however, Carnival is 57 mm wider than the Merc. Then is the seating arrangement on offer for individual requirements which further increases its practicality quotient. The range of possibilities Carnival can be ordered with 7-seats in 2+2+3, 8-seats in 2+3+3, and 9-seats in 2+2+2+3 formats. The 7-seat Limousine variant will absolutely spoil its occupants indulging them in comfort and space. Second-row captain seats not only recline and have leg rests, but can be shifted on all four-axis to offer maximum comfort. The manual mechanism is light enough to be easy for everyone to operate.
The 9-seat variant offers six captain seats which are an excellent option for large families. Boot capacity is another big positive in the Carnival as you get 540 litres even with the third row of seating in place. Primary reason for this generous boot space is that the spare space saver is located under the vehicle behind the driver seat. Tailgate is electric and has a smart sensor that opens the tailgate automatically when it detects the key in your pocket, useful if your hands are occupied with luggage. The last row in the 7 and 8 seat variants are pretty spacious for decent-sized occupants, with a large boot for luggage. Ingress and egress though is still not so easy for the elder demographic. And it should be noted that the last row in the 9-seat variant is only enough for short journeys for obvious reasons.
Entertainment and Convenience Tech
This was the biggest surprise our team adored as soon as everybody started playing with the gadgets inside. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system features the usual Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity for smartphones, along with voice recognition for plenty of features. We love how Kia engineers have split the entertainment system in the cabin. The front gets the smaller 8-inch screen with all the control systems for the driver, and the second rows get two 10.1 inch entertainment touchscreens for the passengers. While the front has more functional features like UVO connectivity and car functions, the rear screens too have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, aux-in, and mirroring features. The 8-speaker Harman Kardon speaker system with a subwoofer is a treat with great depth and clarity.
The cabin of the Carnival is beautifully appointed with high-quality materials and excellent fit and finish. It is commodious for all three rows and the dual sunroof further adds to its airy atmosphere. Those sliding doors are extremely useful in car parks as no space is needed for them to swing-out. Just don’t open the left side when refueling! Both the doors open electrically and have pinch safety. The driver may choose to disable the electric opening and shift to manual. It must be noted how Kia has added a lot of convenience features at the correct places. There are a plethora of power sockets across the cabin, even the boot has one. The two-pin power socket in the second row which is an India specific addition. Climate control system has three temperature zones, and it comes with an air purifier. Then there is a list of thoughtful conveniences like auto up/down on all power windows with anti-pinch, neat little lights in door handles, ventilated driver’s seat, auto-hold electronic parking brake, wireless phone charger, second and third-row sunshades, and it goes on. In fact, we feel a team road trip will be needed to explore every nook and cranny of the Carnival, once the new normal becomes ‘normal’. Overall though you’ll be astonished how much comfort and tech this vehicle offers to make journeys, short or long, way more entertaining.
Kia Carnival comes with a 2.2l turbocharged diesel engine which is BS 6 compliant and makes more power than all comparable MPVs and SUVs in the segment. The engine develops 200 PS of maximum power at 3,800 rpm and 440 Nm peak torque between 1,500-2,750 rpm. Even with a near 2,200 kg heft, the Carnival is a downright nippy when it comes to quick acceleration. The 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission is quick enough to break triple-digit speeds without even noticing. It makes for an excellent long-distance cruiser, partly down to the strong mid-range grunt, and partly due to the excellent sound insulation done for the cabin. The variable geometry turbocharger definitely helps low-speed response and increases top-end performance. Transmission also gets a manual shifting mode, but we doubt anybody requires that in an MPV besides negotiating a difficult incline.
You have to appreciate how the ride quality has been aptly tuned by Kia engineers for Indian road conditions. Tuned on the softer end of the scale, it is comfortable on a variety of surfaces even with the large 18-inch alloy wheels. Straight-line stability is remarkable with excellent sway management and steering stability. Braking is good too with disc brakes all round to stop this significantly large vehicle. Do not for a moment mistake it as an athletic vehicle as the heft will remind you otherwise. It is decent enough through fast bends and the stability program keeps everything in check. There is rollover mitigation and cornering ABS as an additional safety net. Again, nobody is going corner carving in a family tourer. The steering has a good weight to it and almost acts as a safety measure reminding the driver about its large dimensions. On a personal note, it’s not at all bad at corners but the Carnival wants you to enjoy comfort. You just end up marveling it can do this at all!
There are a few issues that qualify mostly as nit-picks. The Kia Carnival is a large vehicle with corresponding parking woes. This will be noticeable by private owners, please plan accordingly. Another consideration is that 180 mm un-laden ground clearance might sound okay, but the wheelbase is more than 3 metre and drivers need to be careful of speed humps and deep potholes. On the fuel consumption front, we reckon you’ll get somewhere around 9-10 kmpl under mixed driving conditions. This might not be an issue for most as the fuel efficiency is at par with most in the segment, but we feel the 60 litre diesel tank might mean boring fuel stops more often. Also, the light in the door handles are excellent thought, but who forgot to put puddle lamps. We must also address that Kia has officially unveiled the new 2021 Carnival globally, but it will take a while before it gets tuned for the Indian market. Lastly, some more colour options will be welcome.
Kia Carnival almost rearranges your mind about MPV. There is so much comfort and technology to offer that other vehicles feel a generation behind. It is a people carrier but it looks outright handsome, the sliding doors are extremely user friendly, the engine is a hoot in a straight line and the UVO connectivity system is very handy. One test drive is enough to change your perspective of what a limousine can offer against a large SUV. Yes, it has an expensive price tag, but when you consider the feature-rich cabin, infotainment electronics, and connected e-SIM support, it is an absolute bargain.