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Kia Carnival review: Kia’s plush people mover can be a party central

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 23, 2020 Published on January 21, 2020

Kia’s next vehicle can be either a plush people mover or party central on wheels. But can the Carnival take the Innova’s spot on the ramp?

Kia’s India entry has been eventful, and a significant success given how the Seltos’s sales has taken off. That it has clocked over six per cent market share (and growing) in what is the fastest growing passenger vehicle segment is testimony to the Seltos’s success. The Seltos has brought a breath of fresh air into the SUV segment. SUVs are currently riding a surging wave of demand across price and size categories. But, will this be replicated in the much tougher MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) category.

 

After careful consideration, Kia has decided that the second product for India will be the Carnival, its plush full-size MPV. The MPV segment has been notoriously one-sided with one vehicle - the Toyota Innova - lording over the competition. It has also been a category where, though the Maruti Omni succeeded with sliding doors, the others haven’t. The Kia Carnival will be officially launched at the upcoming Auto Expo 2020 and it will feature powered sliding doors and be positioned as a larger, plusher competitor to the Innova Crysta. What is it like to drive and what are its prospects? To find out I headed to Hyderabad last week to test it on the narrow streets and the highways surrounding the city.

Design

 

MPVs aren’t considered the most desirable of passenger vehicles by Indian buyers. Even though they are the most practical, given our preference for living and moving together as joint families, MPVs have an image of being dowdy and grandfatherly. It didn’t help that some of the options on the market like the India-spec Chevrolet Tavera were generations old. Not surprisingly, they are most-often chosen by older buyers in the 30-50 years age bracket or were run by taxi operators. The Innova has managed to beat that image and has had a fair mix of individual and institutional buyers. To Toyota’s credit, it has also kept the Innova relevant and updated with each generation being a leap in quality and value despite a steady increase in prices.

But, there has been renewed interest in the luxury MPV space with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz V-Class coming to our shores. Kia is hoping to bring in some fresh blood to the segment with the Carnival.

This is still largely a conventional MPV design and the extra length is very obvious when the Carnival is viewed from the side. It is a little over a foot and a half longer than the Innova, with much of that translating into more space in the boot even when the third row of seats is in use. The Kia MPV also has an air of premiumness about it even as one walks up to it. There is a liberal sprinkling of chrome elements for the window line, the door grab handles, and the frames for the bonnet grille and ice-cube shaped Quad LED fog lamp housings.

 

Even though it sports the conventional MPV roofline, the front of the Carnival has a sporty, aerodynamic flow. No wonder that its coefficient of drag is a low 0.342. The front is also the more youthful angle to view the vehicle from.

The trademark Tiger-Nose grille has been reinterpreted for the Carnival and the LED headlamps in the proportionately large cluster gives the Carnival an unmistakable presence on the road. The rear of the Carnival is less adventurous in terms of design, but the LED elements in the tailgate add a dash of premiumness. The smart power tailgate opens automatically when you walk up to it with the key in your pocket.

Cabin

 

The Carnival will be launched in three trim levels - Premium, Prestige and Limousine. The variant I was test driving (in the pictures here) was the top trim Limousine. With the differentiators being mostly in the number of safety related tech and some convenience features in the cabin, you would be looking at almost the same dashboard as in this one across variants.

The dual tone dark grey and beige colour theme will be common and that is a good idea to keep the elevated positioning for the Carnival. The upright dashboard orientation is very MPV-like, but the material quality, and fit and finish is excellent. The positioning of all the features on the dashboard is also focused on maximising utility, but thin chrome accents and inserts make it feel upmarket.

The Carnival will only be available for individual buyers and there is a lot of attention that has been lavished on the driver’s seat with 8-way adjustment being possible for the cooled seat.

 

The Limousine trim I was driving also featured nappa leather seat upholstery and a 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen that offered controls for navigation and the Harman Kardon music system. There is 3-zone climate control too with roof-mounted vents for the second and third row seats. The Carnival is also being offered with the most number of seating variations amongst all the MPVs in the premium class. It can be specified in 7 or 8 seater options with captain seats in the front and second row. The rear third row is called (by Kia) folding and sinking bench seat because it can be tumbled forward and pushed below the floor to get a massive 1,624-litres of luggage space. With the third row in use, you’ll still have 540-litres of space. The top trim Limousine also gets what is called VIP seats with leg support that flips out when you tug at a lever. If you are anywhere close to 6-feet in height, you can’t put up your legs like in a Merc S-Class though, because the seat’s slide back is limited.

The Kia MPV also has a few other features that deliver its premium image such as the dual panel electric sunroofs, dual 10.1-inch touchscreen rear seat entertainment system and UVO connected car features (all in top trim only). But even the base trim ‘Premium’ variant gets stuff like the one-touch power sliding doors for the rear, cruise control, rear view camera (but no 360-degree or blind spot view), auto headlamps etc.

 

The sliding doors open at the touch of a button on the dash or the individual door panel or by pressing the button on the grab handle if you have the key in your pocket. Getting in and out of the Carnival is a breeze with the amount of space these doors unlock. Even more entry space for third row passengers can be opened, by using the stand-up second row seat option. There is a lot of storage space in the Carnival including the dual glove box; also there are a number of charging ports all around including a wireless smartphone charger at the bottom of the centre stack.

Kia is also offering the versatility of a 9-seater option with two smaller captain seats on either side for the second and third row and a sinking fourth row bench. It was not available for viewing or driving at the event.

Watch the review

 

Performance

The Kia Carnival is being offered with only one powertrain option. A 2.2-litre (2,199cc), turbocharged, commonrail injection Diesel engine paired with a 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine featuring a variable geometry turbocharger, delivers brisk acceleration after just a bit of hesitancy. It is tuned to deliver 200PS of peak power and 440Nm of torque. Despite its size, the Carnival doesn’t feel like a gasping hulk, because of the powertrain’s responsiveness.

The cabin is really quite thanks to excellent NVH insulation, even though the engine has quite a noisy clatter on the outside. Throttle response is good and the sportsmatic transmission is a good match, making quick, nearly imperceptible gear changes based on your driving style. The test mule I was driving delivered a mileage of 9.4kmpl; rated mileage is 13.9kmpl.

Ride quality is a bit floaty and just that much overpliant. This doesn’t affect straight line stability but shows up as body roll while taking corners. Back benchers will be happy though with the way the cabin feels isolated from rough roads. The Carnival features disc brakes all around and as such brakes with an assured feel.

Bottom Line

Kia is looking at the Carnival as a ‘flagship brand builder product’. Even the base trim is fairly well equipped and what is missing in it are the safety assistance systems like ESC, Hill Assist, cornering brake control, and side and curtain airbags. The intention is pretty clear in terms of the target audience. This is meant for buyers looking for a bigger, plusher, more loaded alternative to the Innova Crysta. The Carnival can deliver on that promise.

Toyota is also bringing its Vellfire into India later this year. It will be priced in the luxury class and will probably be expected to be the Halo car for the Japanese brand. But will the segment just about the current Innova see a spurt in demand or will the Carnival be destined to live the life of a niche, small volumes player? Kia apparently is okay with that position for the Carnival.

But if you are looking for an upgraded experience from the Innova, this is the one to choose.

Published on January 21, 2020
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