Price: $39,390 to $54,590
Model Tested: Kia Grand Carnival Platinum, 2.9-litre four-cylinder diesel. $54,590 as tested.
Words and pictures, Paul Maric.
Representing 30%+ of the people mover segment under $55,000, the Kia Grand Carnival has had mixed press over the past 10 years. The majority of negative press stemmed from continuous reliability issues with the outgoing petrol engine.
Luckily, the Korean company has overcome the negativity with new engines and sharp pricing, giving the Korean people mover tremendous edge in this tight segment.
From the outside, the Grand Carnival offers modest styling with chrome highlights around the front and rear.
Available in three trims, Si, SLi and Platinum, all models sans the Si come with 17 inch alloy wheels. SLi and Platinum models also benefit from electric sliding doors, with the Platinum also picking up an electric tailgate.
The basic interior offers a striking balance between form and functionality. Kid-safe plastics surround the cabin, making the interior easier to clean and maintain when drinks and other sticky condiments find their way flung around the cabin.
The driving position is very comfortable with commanding visibility out the front and rear. A comfortable steering wheel is matched with easy to reach controls for the audio and climate. An impressive sound system features USB input, along with an auxiliary jack and MP3 CD compatibility. The Platinum model also gets a six-disc CD player.
Dual zone climate control (front and rear) is standard across the range, with the Platinum model benefitting from tri-zone climate control (front, passenger and rear).
During our time with the Grand Carnival we were the recipient of some very warm days. I’m pleased to report the air conditioning system did an excellent job of keeping both the front and rear passengers cool during stints on the highway and through the city.
With eight seats available, I was somewhat sceptical of the people mover’s ability to move eight adults. The front row offers plenty of room with a centre armrest available for driver and front passenger. There’s also a generously sized compartment between the seats with two large cup holders.
Moving to the second row, which is entirely removable, there is a large amount of leg and head room available. The seats are individual, which gives passengers added comfort. It’s disappointing to see only a lap seatbelt for the centre seat in the second and third rows.
As mentioned earlier, the SLi and Platinum models benefit from automatic doors, which can be shut and opened with a pull of the door lever or push of a roof mounted button.
Surprisingly, the third row accommodates three passengers in comfort. Although it’s slightly cramped for adults, I certainly wouldn’t consider it uncomfortable for short-medium journeys.
Arguably one of the Grand Carnival’s best features is the amount of space available in the rear. With all three rows erect, there is a deep space to store luggage and shopping. If you drop the third row, 1083 litres of cargo capacity is available. Removing the second row from the car yields an absolutely staggering 1770 litres of cargo room.
Our test vehicle was fitted with a 2.9-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. Producing 136kW and 343Nm of torque, the fuel efficient engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and officially consumes 8.5L/100km. On test, we averaged around 9L/100km with a greater density of city driving thrown into the mix.
Behind the wheel, there’s no mistaking that you’re driving a people mover. The Grand Carnival doesn’t have the sharpish handling characteristics of a Honda Odyssey, but compensates for the lack of handling prowess by offering competitive pricing and loads of interior room.
The Grand Carnival is also one of few people movers of its size (sans the Hyundai iMax) to offer a diesel engine.
Acceleration from the turbo-diesel engine is acceptable, although the lag from takeoff can become rather frustrating at times, especially if attempting to dart across an intersection.
SLi and Platinum variants benefit from a reversing camera mounted in the rear vision mirror, with the Platinum also picking up reverse parking sensors. Safety equipment is very impressive with six airbags, stability control and traction control.
Pricing starts at $39,990 for the petrol Si and finishes at $54,590 for the diesel Platinum. The diesel engine commands a $2,600 price premium over the V6 petrol engine.
It’s not hard to see why the Kia Grand Carnival is so popular. It represents excellent value for money and couples features with size and practicality.