I love when a good fringe benefit comes my way. It'll happen to you too if you're sensible, or maybe daring enough, to consider a people mover as your next new car.
To those already up in arms about the thought of driving one – let alone owning one – I understand, if your point of reference is a mid-2000s Toyota Tarago. I also agree somewhat that this old, now discontinued badge does conjure up thoughts of dagginess and uncool in myself too.
However, the latest 2021 Kia Carnival is not only better as a people mover, but it also looks the part. Its interesting design helps dilute stereotypes, and what I believe is the biggest reason many have for not buying one.
So with that shackle unchained, consider you're the savvy, wise punter who bought their family of four one. Well done. What else have you bought?
It turns out the Carnival works as an effective van too. A side benefit of owning something like a Kia Carnival is the fact it can, even though it has no right to, turn itself into either enclosed transport for a classic or even weekend junk hauler.
First is the case of moving a 1961 Vespa 150GL – precious cargo belonging to Trent Nikolic. He'd spent the day riding it up to Medlow Bath, but decided to ferry it back in the Carnival. With some high-grip mats and tiedowns, the Carnival gobbled it up completely. As you can see from the photos, there's plenty of room to get in and around the scooter.
In the second case, and in my care, it was used to recycle old tyres I had lying around. Such is the case when you go through multiple project cars, you often build up a surplus of some valuable parts and some more random wares.
In my case, it was a slightly used full set of 2004-dated Bridgestone RE01R performance tyres, and another full set of 14-inch steel wheels and tyres.
I dropped them off at a tyre shop – Tony's Tyre and Autocare (formally a Tyrepower franchise) – for the paltry disposal fee of $5. They even took the steel spare wheels for no extra cost.
As the photos show, the Carnival again absolutely gobbled them up too. There was room for plenty more, despite the second row being set to its furthest-back position, or the one enabling the best leg room. In fact, I'd say you'd be able to get a set of four smallish wheels and tyres in the back with all eight seats in play.
If you own a small trailer or ferry a go-kart around as part of your weekend hobby, then a Carnival would make for an epic support vehicle. I can't think of an SUV that has such vast space, let alone one that's as versatile or as easy to use.
Given the amount of USB ports on offer, I'm sure that even at weekend sport it'll draw a large crowd there too.
Adjusting the amount of seating is a one- or two-gesture affair, with well-damped hinges making it all too easy. The seats all fold independently, too, meaning you can arrange the space to carry both passengers and long items.
You don't necessarily think about a Kia Carnival doubling as a van, but with the thought now at the forefront of my mind, I'm beginning to see more opportunities where I could use it.
Through this prism, it's likely the nicest parts hauler getting around. It has the most comfortable heated and cooled leather seats, a great stereo, and plenty of room for passengers. It's remarkably easy to drive despite being huge, too, thanks to its generous glasshouse and visibility-appropriate driving position.
As a sidebar, we had been experiencing some issues with the Kia Carnival's infotainment system, specifically smartphone connectivity. Kia arranged for its software to be updated, and so far so good with an Apple device. Our next custodian is an Android user, so expect a follow-up in the next update.