We take Kia Motors India’s second and latest product, Carnival minivan for a first-drive review
Kia Motors has made a huge impact on the Indian automotive industry. In a rather sluggish economy, the South Korean automaker managed to make a triumphant debut with its maiden product Kia Seltos, which still remains somewhere near the top of an average Indian buyer’s wishlist. With the Seltos, Kia Motors India not only introduced a well-rounded product in a country fond of SUVs (or SUV-lookalikes) but also created a desirable segment for other OEMs to worry about.
Six months down the lane and as promised, a new product is on the verge of hitting the market. While the most obvious option could have been a premium hatchback (sub-four-metre supermini), compact sedan or an MPV, Kia Motors India decided to bring down its globally acclaimed minivan, Carnival (a.k.a. Sedona or Grand Carnival).
Yes, the Kia Carnival is technically not an MPV but a minivan (or the stereotypical “moms’ mobile” as in the USA). Even so, the wider Indian mass would recognise it only as an MPV for the same reason as to why raised hatchbacks are compact SUVs and abnormally-short sedans or hatchbacks with extra luggage capacity are seen as compact sedans.
Keeping that aside, what we have to know is whether the Kia Carnival carries the same market potential as the proven Seltos, and most importantly, if the minivan would be able to raise both eyebrows or just one. Let us see how the India-spec 2020 Kia Carnival in ‘Limousine’ trim fares in a segment of its own:
Exteriors & Design
Before starting off with the overall styling, one must know that the Kia Carnival is not even remotely close to being ‘all-new’ like the Seltos. In fact, the third-generation (YP) Carnival/Grand Carnival/Sedona debuted back at 2014 New York International Auto Show and was launched the following year. A recent mid-life facelift brought the styling to how it looks right now.
Being a global product, the Kia Carnival is a good-looking minivan (or a ‘luxury MPV’ in the Indian context) with little to no faults in terms of general aesthetics. It is devoid of any fancy or gimmicky bits that are often the result of overly trying in the looks department. The styling does not demand all the attention on the road despite being nothing short of elegant.
Kia Motors’ signature Tiger Nose grille remains the dominant element in the front profile. Closely flanking it are dual-barrel full-LED headlamps that smoothly sweep back across the fenders while the ‘ice-cube’ LED fog lamps rest a bit forward. The skid plate tucked underneath might be worth more than just looks since the Carnival does not ride that high and Indian roads are rather unpredictable.
The side silhouette is typically minivan-ish with minimal tweaks to be different from the rest; in this case, the DLO (Daylight Opening) is kinked at the B-pillar. The groove for the sliding-door mechanism (more on it explained further down) blends perfectly with the other body lines. The chrome 18-inch alloy wheels are quite intriguing. The wheels look a bit flashy or ‘bling’ yet complement the overall premiumness. In Kia’s notes, the chrome shade is known as ‘Sputtering Finish’.
Rear styling is relatively understated even though the cuts on the bumper and the spoiler above contribute their best. The LED taillamps follow a ‘tong’ pattern and float over the edges of a neat chrome strip. We can find tasteful additions of chrome and silver all around the minivan.
The Kia Carnival looks elegant even from the top thanks to the dual-sunroof configuration in between the silver roof rails. Plus, aerodynamic styling and segment-leading mechanicals have rewarded the Carnival a low drag coefficient of 0.342.
Interiors & Features
The Kia Carnival, like every other premium/luxury people carrier, is mostly about the interiors. There is a long list of functions pertaining to comfort, convenience, technology, etc., and as a result, one can feel a commencement of opulence upon stepping inside. In Limousine trim, the middle-row is the acme of the overall sense of occasion.
The dual-tone dashboard layout houses a host of dials and controls against panels of soft-touch leatherette (upper black portion), hard plastic (lower beige portion) and dark wood (infotainment system and instrument cluster) which resembles a piano black finish unless viewed under a bright and direct source of light. There are two glove compartments at one’s disposal (bottom one is lockable). In spite of being the top trim, there are a few blank switches lurking around.
The dashboard may not stand apart in terms of grandeur but is well put together and focused towards the driver; not because the vehicle is meant to be driven but since the focus customer is expected to be in the middle row, most of the time.
Owing to the overwhelming dimensions of the Carnival, the dashboard is on the larger side and the fairly-sized 8.0-inch touchscreen feels minuscule. The AVNT (Audio, Video, Navigation & Telematics) infotainment system boasts of in-built navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and seamless connectivity with Kia’s India-specific mobile application, UVO. Available in App Store and Google Play, UVO and UVO Lite apps come with a free 3-year subscription and commands over 35 smart features including remote control, emergency services, voice assistant, vehicle diagnostics among others. The eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system works brilliantly in the vast space inside.
The three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel feels nice to hold and, to an extent, looks sporty for a minivan. The buttons and rollers let the driver work with an array of settings such as audio, cruise control and call as well as additional functions within the 3.5-inch MID in the instrument console. However, the all-black theme gives the wheel a ‘base-trim feel’ (piano black finish at the bottom does not help). Sometimes, chrome or silver bits seem like a necessity.
The instrument cluster looks pretty much like every other modern-day premium vehicle. It opens doors to a wide range of information including the level of urea remaining (added separately from the fuel inlet compartment) in the AdBlue Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, aimed to clean up diesel emissions. Using the steering wheel controls, sub-functions revolving around doors, sounds, exterior lights, convenience features, vehicle service and more can be accessed.
The overhead controls do more than just open the two sunroofs. The driver or co-passenger can open either sliding door, open the tailgate to a convenient position, make the sliding doors’ and tailgate’s opening process manual or fiddle with the interior lighting. This panel also houses a wide-angle mirror that gives a clear view of the entire cabin and occupants.
The central console ticks a lot of boxes. There are two cupholders placed in parallel to the transmission lever. Both have small storage bins at the back and front; the latter being a wireless charging dock. Under the wide armrest, there is even more storage and connectivity options. The electronic parking brake saves further space.
The Kia Carnival’s three-zone climate control system cools down the cabin fast and can be conveniently adjusted from the lower part of the dashboard, with the additional aid of a well-designed UI on the central screen. Second-row passengers get their own climate control setup alongside the vents above.
Smart Pure air purifier is a welcome addition which can show real-time air quality inside the cabin. It doubles up as a car perfume too. Kia Motors provides three fragrance choices: Ocean, Lavender and Forest.
Seating & Comfort
The Kia Carnival has one of the best seats in the business. In Limousine trim, the minivan comes in a 7-seater avatar with two-tone Nappa leather seats. Only the driver seat is cooled, ventilated and 10-way power-adjustable. Still, the remaining ones are nothing short of comfortable and supportive (maybe not so much in the third row).
The VIP middle-row seating with leg support is what which makes the Carnival extra special. Adjustments are plentiful and you can find the right spot of comfort with ease. If there is nobody sitting in the third row, you can recline your seat all the way back, extend leg support and nearly achieve the same level of peace and comfort as your bed. The seats can even be moved sideways for added practicality. Legroom and headroom situations are impressive beyond comparison.
As part of rear-seat entertainment package, middle-row passengers get individual 10-inch touchscreens with almost every connectivity choice available today. Screen glare will be an issue at the brightest times of the day.
In a conventional three-row vehicle, third-row passengers do not get enough priority as the ones sitting in front. This stands different for the Kia Carnival as last row occupants get almost the same level of comfort as at the rear of a reasonably-sized hatchback.
Three adults might experience a squeeze at the very back but it is certainly a far cry from being intolerable. The reclinable seats are not that high (for better rear visibility) to provide sufficient shoulder support. To an extent, raising the relatively-wide headrests solves the problem.
Space & Practicality
The power-sliding door mechanism is easily the Kia Carnival’s best party trick. The doors can open on their own (with a single warning beep) at the touch of a button or by pulling the regular door lever, either from the outside or inside.
The doors automatically open at a decent pace, but over time and in a hurry, one might wish it opened within a shorter span of time. As a matter of fact, a good majority of Indian buyers are used to banging the manual sliding doors of the Maruti Suzuki Omni or similar products with all their might and minimal patience.
Luckily, there is a dedicated button to switch between manual or automatic modes for the sliding doors as well as the tailgate. The doors are way heavier than manual examples we have seen over the years.
For a vehicle with a wheelbase of 3060mm and spanning 5115x1985x1755mm (LWH) in overall dimensions, cabin space would be the last thing to worry about. The Kia Carnival offers oceans of room, especially in the middle. The third row can seat the tallest person in your group with moderate levels of comfort even though headroom might be a bit tight.
Ingress and egress to the third row are impressively easy. The second seats, in their extreme forward and folded position, leaves 437mm of horizontal clearance for passengers of most sizes to easily access the third row.
DLO situation complements the cabin’s airiness really well and the two sunroofs are an added bonus. In addition to being able to accompany seven passengers, interior components do not seem jam-packed. This may not be the case for the 9-seater (6+3) Prestige trim with ‘four’ rows of seating.
While the second-row VIP seats can be adjusted to the comfort you desire, the third-row brings up the practicality factor to a new benchmark. With a series of sensibly-engineered mechanism, the entire 60:40 split-folding third-row can be sunken into the floor.
With all seats up, the Kia Carnival’s Limousine avatar returns a deep and wide storage capacity of 540 litres. With the third row concealed into the floor, this figure rises to 1,624 litres or crosses 2,700 litres with the middle row folded forward. In its maximum luggage-capacity format, the Kia Carnival essentially becomes a cargo van. Hooks on the floor (which keeps the third row in place) come in handy to fasten items together but are prone to scratches over time. The spare wheel (space-saver capable of doing 80km/h) is placed below the rear cargo compartment and cannot be accessed from the outside.
All throughout the cabin, we find cup/bottle holders, storage nets, bins, USB/charging outlets (even a 220V outlet for your laptop) and random hooks. The UV-cut windows get sunshades.
The electric tailgate or ‘Smart Power Tailgate’ can open without pressing the button hidden above the number plate housing. All we have to do is keep the Kia Carnival’s smart key in our pocket and wait for about three seconds behind the minivan.
Powertrain & Performance
The India-spec Kia Carnival comes solely with a BS6-compliant 2.2-litre CRDi R-Line four-cylinder diesel engine, jointly developed by Hyundai and Kia Motors. The power plant develops around 197bhp @ 3800rpm and 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm while mated to an 8-speed Sportsmatic torque-converter automatic transmission with manual mode (no paddles).
The engineers at Hyundai and Kia have managed to check down booming noises and vibrations to appreciable limits, thanks to lighter graphite-iron/aluminium construction, Bosch piezo-electronic injectors, electronic variable geometry turbo (e-VGT) and more. Based on gear, RPM and throttle position, we are able to find a workaround to the inevitable boost lag usually associated with a turbocharged diesel engine. Codenamed D4HB, the 85.4x96mm engine was introduced back in 2009 and currently serves duty in many Kia and Hyundai products such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Sorento, etc.
The front-wheel-drive Kia Carnival is no sporty vehicle and it need not be one. At a kerb weight of almost 2,200kg (depends on the variant or seating configuration), the minivan is easily at the higher limits of the gauge. However, the vehicle packs sufficient performance for its key focus — carrying people with absolute comfort and convenience.
Ride, Handling & Driving Experience
The Kia Carnival’s suspension department focuses more on comfort rather than dynamics. Yet the MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link unit at the rear provide decent dynamics in comparison to a conventional ladder-frame vehicle in the category. The suspension does a good job at finding an ideal balance between comfort and compliance. Furthermore, the Carnival seems to absorb broken terrain even better with additional loads.
The large and heavy design return considerable amounts of body roll for a monocoque chassis even during the slightest turn of the wheel. The weighted nature of hydraulic power steering does not go well with this trait either; particularly during quick manoeuvres. Again, this is the case for almost all minivans and the Kia Carnival is arguably better than most.
At full-throttle, the ECU thinks for a second, downshifts, and brings the RPM up within a satisfactory interval of time. However, you will not be pushed back in the process as the minivan gradually picks up pace. The mandatory and annoying speed-warning beep sets off at 120km/h (after a preliminary warning at 80km/h). But the Carnival finds it easy to turn the speedometer substantially more. Even with ESC turned OFF, the mass of the vehicle rarely gives a chance for a full-throttle wheelspin launch.
In all probability, the manual mode for the transmission would see minimal usage in the entire life of the vehicle. We were not let down by the absence of paddle shifters, simply because the Kia Carnival is not a vehicle of choice to compliment our prowess as a driver. It is a luxury minivan and the priority goes to second-row passengers.
We have already discussed the broad range of adjustments available for each captain seat. Once the desired seating position is attained, you will find yourself in a cocoon of comfort and the roll characteristics mentioned above hypothetically transforms into a mother’s hand rocking the cradle.
NVH controls are noteworthy. Minimal road noise and diesel clatter seep into the cabin. Over pebbled roads, the 235/80 R18 MRF Wanderer Sport tyres might tell a different story. At an unladen ground clearance of 180mm, is the Carnival the best choice for Indian road conditions? No, but certainly not the worst.
The Kia Carnival carries several elements on the inside (well-placed and well-screwed together) that feel rattle-free in the long run. Considering its size, the Carnival has an appreciable turning radius of roughly 5.6m.
The minivan gets disc brakes all around. One thing worth knowing is that heavy-footed braking at significant speeds might be a scary experience during the initial days of ownership. The Kia Carnival will definitely stop at or within the braking distance in your mind.
However, the vehicle is so heavy that you will instantly feel all of its mass plunging forward to the front axle. The braking system does the job well, but the vehicle will let you know it is trying desperately to make a halt.
Fuel Efficiency & Fuel Tank Capacity
The Kia Carnival has a rated average fuel economy of 13.9km/l, which is just okay. In our testing procedures on narrow streets and four-lane roads, the onboard fuel-efficiency indicator showed upper single-digit figures. The fuel tank capacity stands at 60 litres. There is a separate tank for storing urea which will be topped up by the dealership at every service interval or whenever it runs low.
Safety & Assistance
The minivan gets all the essential and mandated equipment such as multiple airbags (dual front, side and curtain), ABS+EBD+BA, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), HAC (Hill-Start Assist Control), ROM (Roll-over Mitigation), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, anti-pinch for all its electrically actuated components and many more. Evidently, there are minimal shortcomings in safety criteria.
The rear parking camera has got guidelines but the image quality could have been better. Doors and tailgate get anti-pinch feature — an absolute necessity. The second-generation (VQ) Kia Carnival is one of the first minivans in the world to receive it.
Variants & Colours
As shared at the very beginning, we drove the 7-seater Limousine trim. For the Indian market, the 2020 Kia Carnival gets three variants across five seating configurations: Premium 7, Premium 8, Prestige 7, Prestige 9 and Limousine 7VIP (test car). Interior upholstery is also subject to change depending on trim. Colour choices, on the other hand, are limited to just three: Glacier White Pearl, Steel Silver and Aurora Black Pearl.
The 2020 Kia Carnival is a quintessential carnival of space, comfort and luxury. For the same reason, the company defines the minivan’s target customer base as the ‘Elite Class’.
According to Kia Motors, the Indian automotive market has two categories of 7/7+ seaters: Affordable (Mahindra Marazzo, Toyota Innova Crysta, etc.) and Aspirational (Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Toyota Vellfire, etc.). The Kia Carnival is intended to be in the second group without carrying a ridiculous price tag.
Prices will be announced in a few weeks’ time. Unsurprisingly, figures will stay north of the latest Toyota Innova Crysta BS6 version’s pricing, which touches almost Rs 30 lakh on-road in highest trim. We expect the Carnival to hit the Indian market at an ex-showroom starting price in the range of Rs 25-30 lakh.
To sum up, the Kia Carnival is a fresh choice for families who wish to own something bigger and loaded than the Innova Crysta. It is also a desirable proposition for corporate/tourism/hotel organisations who wish to keep their expenditure down from importing another Toyota Vellfire, Alphard or HiAce.