Kia's new 'Grand Utility Vehicle' makes its virtual debut
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UPDATE: While specific Australian timing and equipment details are still to be confirmed, new details for the 2021 Kia Carnival have been handed down today. This story has been updated with information on storage (albeit not localised), safety, and comfort.


The first official images of the new 2021 Kia Carnival have been released today.

Australian timing is still to be announced, but with a Korean-market launch due in the third quarter of 2020, a local debut could occur towards the end of the year or early in 2021.

Kia has dubbed the new Carnival a 'Grand Utility Vehicle' (this writer may now refer to it as 'the guv'), likely as a nod to its more premium styling and commanding shape.

In its new fourth-generation form, the Kia Carnival evolves even further towards the wagon shape that its predecessor debuted, emphasised by an even longer bonnet and a short front overhang.

Yet another updated take on Kia's familiar 'tiger nose' grille stars up front, now a little less familiar to fans of the Skoda brand. Where bold chrome notches would normally cut into the top and bottom edges, the upper section now features a simple, subtle bonnet overlap.

Flanking the new diamond-mesh grille pattern are slender headlights, set above a stepped LED daytime lighting signature.

The new Carnival's profile is classically muscular wagon with the usual sliding rear doors, while a patterned satin silver fin cuts up into the C-pillar for a little extra flair.

The same slender lighting theme features at the rear, with an uninterrupted red lighting and reflector bar running the width of the back end.

As with the new Sorento, the next-gen Carnival rides on a new platform that will better accommodate a hybrid option – although such a package is still to be confirmed for the Carnival.

Reports in recent months have pointed to options that include the Hyundai group's 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor hybrid system (169kW/350Nm combined), along with its new 207kW/421Nm 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine.

If the Sorento is any indication, though, Australian models will stick with the 206kW/336Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine and the upgraded 149kW/440Nm 2.2-litre diesel.

A more spacious cabin features in the new Carnival, with a 10mm-wider body (1995mm), a 30mm-longer longer wheelbase (3090mm) and a 30mm-longer rear overhang (1130mm), and overall length growing 40mm to 5155mm.

Depending on the market, the new Carnival will seat up to 11 people, although Kia Australia will likely stick with the space-maximising eight-seat configuration it offers with the current model.

As with the new fourth-generation 2021 Kia Sorento, the new Carnival will feature a pair of big 12.3-inch screens in the dash.

One will form the main display, with the other acting as an instrument display behind the steering wheel. The displays, although separate units, are linked by a single piece of glass that spans the width of the unit.

A smaller and more conventional LCD display sits above a set of permanent physical and touch-sensitive air-conditioning controls in the centre console.

Storage in the new model has so far been confirmed in the VDA measurement standard only, whereas the current Australian model lists its storage capacity in the SAE standard. Numbers for the new Carnival in the SAE standard have not yet been released.

For the record, the VDA-standard numbers for the new Carnival are 2905 litres with only the front seats upright, shrinking to 627 litres behind the third row. In Australia, to the SAE standard, the current model lists 2220 and 960 litres respectively.

A key safety technology in the new Carnival is the 'level 2' Highway Driving Assist autonomous driving technology to control acceleration, braking and steering as both an assistant and in emergencies.

Kia says it has made significant improvements to the Carnival's ride and comfort, an area already impressive in the current model. For this new generation, the Carnival gets a new front-end suspension design, with a new multi-skeletal crossmember and new geometry providing better distribution of lateral loads in cornering.

New liquid-filled bushes bond the body to the rear section of the crossmember, reducing the transmission of vibrations from the suspension and engine into the body of the car.

At the rear, longer lower suspension arms and a revised spring layout have been introduced to overcome changes in road surface quality, while the angle of the rear shock absorbers has been adjusted for improved operation.

When will the 2021 Kia Carnival come to Australia?

Kia's local arm is still to confirm timing for an Australian debut.

The new Carnival will go on sale in Korea in the third quarter of 2020, which will likely lead to an early 2021 debut for Australia.

The Carnival remains a strong seller in Australia, comfortably owning the people-mover segment.

In 2019, VFACTS data showed a total of 6493 registrations for the Carnival, compared to 1684 for the Odyssey. Others, like the Volkswagen Multivan, Hyundai iMax, LDV G10 Wagon and the iconic Toyota Tarago (now succeeded by the Granvia) all sold fewer than 1000 vehicles each for all of 2019.


Below: the current Kia Carnival