2015 Kia Carnival Review: Platinum diesel

It's the dearest model in the 2015 Kia Carnival range, but the Platinum variant is a lot of car for the cash.

Paying sixty grand for a Kia is a big ask in anyone’s language – but the 2015 Kia Carnival Platinum offers a lot of car for the money.

The new Kia Carnival is dearer than ever before, with the flagship Platinum models priced from $57,490 plus on-road costs for the 3.3-litre V6 petrol, or $59,990 plus costs for the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.

That may seem dear, but the Platinum model’s pricing pits it against big family-friendly vans like the Chrysler Grand Voyager (from $57,500 to $77,500), and the Volkswagen Multivan, which ranges from $49,990 to $77,990.

To justify the price, the range-topping Carnival Platinum eight-seat people mover is packed to the brim with kit, much of which has never before been seen in the South Korean brand’s local wares.

The highlights include a range of safety systems, such as blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert (which warns you if there’s a car approaching when you’re reversing from a perpendicular parking space), a lane departure warning system and a forward collision warning system. It also has HID headlights with automated high beam assistance (another Kia first in Australia).

None of these are groundbreaking in terms of safety tech on the whole, but it’s good to see them offered for the first time in the Kia range, particularly given this car was smacked with a four-star ANCAP safety rating over a new rule regarding seatbelt reminders – not the actual crash performance of the vehicle. (UPDATE: Kia Carnival four-star ANCAP result not just a seatbelt reminder issue.)

In terms of its internal safety gear, all Carnivals are fitted with six airbags, including dual front, front-side and full-length (three-row) curtain airbags.

All Carnivals also get a reverse-view camera complemented by rear parking sensors, while the Platinum has front parking sensors to make shopping centre manoeuvres easier.

In-cabin niceties include power adjustable front seats (driver’s seat with memory settings), a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated middle-row outboard seats, and lashings of easy-clean leather trim.

The cabin ambience of the Platinum (and SLi) is lifted even further by the two-tone grey leather trim, and woodgrain-look highlights across the dashboard and doors add a little more luxury (though the textured plastic in the base models is arguably more modern and attractive).

However, there are great features such as sunblinds for the second and third rows which make for peace of mind if you’re using it as a child transporter, and older occupants will likewise be chuffed with the three-row air-vents and climate controls. Three-point seatbelts are standard this time around, too.

Powering our test Carnival was the turbo diesel engine producing 147kW of power and 440Nm of torque.

This engine is an uprated version of the powerplant that is used in the current Sorento SUV, though in that model it has 145kW/421Nm. And unlike the off-roader, in the Carnival’s case power goes the front wheels only through a six-speed automatic transmission.

The engine offers excellent power delivery and response for the most part, though its front-drive layout means it can spin the tyres in wet weather. The engine is also a bit louder than we’d like, clattering away under the bonnet particularly when cold (unlike the petrol, which is far quieter).

Still, it is a very strong engine, and revs smoothly though the range. There’s only a slight hint of turbo lag below 1750rpm where peak torque strikes through to 2750rpm, and it runs out of puff above 4000rpm – not that most buyers will spend much time exploring that area of the tacho dial.

The six-speed auto is decisive and clever, shifting back a gear if it knows it won't make it up a steep hill with a load on board (remember, this is a 2150-kilogram car). We spent most of our time in the car running around the suburbs, where the gearbox impresses with smooth swaps between gears.

Kia claims fuel use of 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres combined over urban and highway duties, and it has a huge 80 litre tank to accommodate long distance trips. We managed 10.0L/100km after a few hundred kilometres - not terrific, but still exceptional given the size of the Carnival.

On that topic, the new Carnival is bigger than many popular large SUVs, measuring 5.11 metres long, 1.98m wide and 1.75m tall.

Thankfully it doesn’t feel big on the road. It steers more like a car than a big bus, and while Alborz had some questions over the way the top-spec models handled at the launch of the Carnival, the Platinum proved a strong performer in this test.

The steering is direct and quick to respond, offering trusty overtaking moves or slow-speed adjustments, no doubt aided by its 19-inch wheels coated in Kumho tyres. Ride comfort is also excellent – not as plush as the cheaper Carnival S we drove in our twin test, but still compliant and well mannered over big and small bumps despite the bigger wheels and thinner tyres.

The downside of its size is, er, its size. Parking the Carnival in tight spots is tough work, though the array of sensors and the reasonably high-resolution reverse-view camera do help in this regard, as do the sliding doors when it comes ingress and egress.

The plus of its size is that it’s huge inside. There’s plenty of space for adults in all three rows (as we found during our recent people mover twin test against the Honda Odyssey) and the ease of access to the third row is unbeatable courtesy of a pair of clever outboard second-row seats that lift forward and compress the base in to the upright.

Perhaps even more impressive is the amount of cargo space on offer in the boot, even with all the seats in use. There’s 960 litres of cargo space thanks to a tub-like boot hole (that’s the benefit of front-wheel drive!), which expands to a colossal 2220L with five seats in use.

Folding the rearmost seats down and away isn’t easy, though – they are quite bulky and could be hard to use for slightly-built mums and dads. There’s no electric seat operation, either, which could benefit the user experience – but there is an electrically-operated boot which can work at the press of a button on the door itself, or using the key.

If you happen to approach the boot with your hands full, simply stand behind it and the sensor system will automatically open the tailgate after a few seconds. This worked a charm on a trip to the local hardware store.

If you want to use the Carnival as a hugely practical four-seat car, you can – the middle rear chair can be removed, and the third row folds flat.

From the driver’s seat there’s good outward vision, though you’ll find yourself glancing at the 8.0-inch media touchscreen when positioning the car as the over-shoulder vision is hampered by a thick rear pillar.

That media system is decent, with fairly good clarity on the navigation screen. However, some of the menus look pixelated and the ‘skin’ of the menu screens looks a bit out of date. Still, it’s simple to connect (and quick to automatically re-connect) your Bluetooth device, and has phone and audio streaming.

Loose item storage is brilliant through the cabin, with 10 cup holders and four bottle holders, as well as a huge centre bin that can fit toys, iPads, or even spare clothes (for kiddy accidents).

On the ownership front, the Carnival furthers its case with Kia’s exceptional, fully transferrable seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which is backed by a seven-year roadside assistance program, and seven years of capped price servicing.

On the whole, this is a people mover par excellence. It’s packed with kit, hugely practical and comfortable, and nice to drive, too. There's very little to dissuade buyers from choosing the new Kia Carnival over its aforementioned closely-priced competitors.