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The new-generation Kia Carnival’s much-publicised four-star ANCAP safety result appears to be down to more than just the lack of a rear seatbelt reminder, as was first thought.

ANCAP data released today also showed a less-than-desirable performance in the frontal offset crash test — something that Kia Australia’s internal data suggested would not be the case.

The new Carnival launched in Australia last month, and in the interim has already usurped the Honda Odyssey at the top of the people-mover sales charts. The Kia has been Australia’s most popular people-mover in eight of the last nine years.

At the time of the launch, Kia Australia admitted it expected the Carnival to score four stars, but the engineering data it was given by head office indicated this was down purely to a missing seatbelt reminder, not the actual crash integrity of the car.

But in its report released today, ANCAP said this wasn’t the case, criticising the car’s “disappointing result” and highlighting what it found to be a “heightened risk of serious injury to the legs and feet of the driver”.

Kia Carnival ANCAP

“There was excessive movement of the park and foot brake pedals and significant footwell deformation. Dash components were a potential source of injury to the knees,” ANCAP added.

The final ANCAP report gave the Carnival 10.48 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, and a total score of 30.48 out of 37. It scored a perfect 16/16 in the side impact test, and the pole test.

Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said the unexpected result came as a great shock.

“We are obviously extremely surprised by the outcome ANCAP announced today. It was definitely unexpected as all indications from internal data and the car’s excellent performance in the North American Highway Safety Institute’s testing, led us to believe there would be a five-star outcome," he said.

Kia Carnival ANCAP 3

The fact that the left-hand-drive version performed well indicates there could be a conversion issue at play. However, this is CarAdvice speculation and not confirmed.

Mr Meredith said that data from the tests, which Kia has only just obtained, will be sent to the KMC R&D team for analysis and to formulate an engineering fix as soon as possible.

“The R&D team will now have an opportunity to fully explore and analyse this result, and once that process has been completed KMAu will be in a better position to comment further.”

Kia previously said it hoped to attain a fix to the seatbelt reminder issue around mid-year, but the scope for more substantial fixes to the overall body integrity are less clear. We know one is being sought.

The new Carnival is not lacking in safety equipment: this new one gets six airbags including full-length curtains and is constructed from more high-tensile steel than before. Top-spec versions also get 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.

Kia Carnival ANCAP 4

ANCAP chief executive Nicholas Clarke commented on the “media speculation” on the four-star result before the release of the official report — speculation, we’d add, that utilised Kia Australia’s comment.

“It is always sensible to wait until testing is complete and an official ANCAP safety rating issued,” Clarke said.

“The ANCAP test and assessment process involves many elements and requires significant specialist expertise to determine the final overall rating. Speculation as to a vehicle's rating ahead of publication simply leads to consumer confusion.

“Independent testing is the best way to determine the overall safety of a car. The inclusion or omission of one or more safety features does not necessarily translate into an automatic increase or decrease in star rating. There are a variety of factors which come into play.”

Read our latest Kia Carnival reviews here.