I know what you are thinking – what made him buy a people mover? Yes, I may have had a vasectomy, but they are still attached! No my life isn't over, just three boys that can't be next to each other for any lengthy period of time. This was a decision made with the head and not with the heart.
We had our Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was a heart-decision purchase and a great car to drive, aside from the fuel economy, but started having some expensive pieces break just out of warranty. So we went shopping for seven seats, as three across the back in the GC with two of them still in car seats was squishy, and not much fun on longer drives with the fighting and associated behaviour.
The wife really liked driving the Jeep, so we looked at all the larger seven-seat SUVs, but we were finding with all of them that with the two kids' seats fitted, you couldn't fold the 40 per cent seat to access the third row without removing it. We even went to the lengths of buying two new seats that were the skinniest we could find and tested them in the CX-9 and Prado, but still no go, as these were the favourites. What is the point of having seven seats if you can't use them easily?
Enter the Kia Carnival, the 'soccer mum's' car! We went into Kia to look at the Sorento, but secretly I wanted to show her the Carnival too. Now, while I didn't mind it looks-wise, as it has a certain SUV shape about this model, the wife didn't want the soccer mum's car image and was not very keen.
The test drive was what sealed the deal. It was the quietest drive we have ever done with all three boys separated. It was almost one of those proud and emotional parent moments you see on Facebook. We drove both the petrol and diesel, and while the petrol has a lot of power and is very smooth, the diesel was the pick as the power was great, with smooth delivery through the six-speed auto and it's great on fuel.
Next decision was model and colour. The purse strings said Si model, but I just couldn't get past the 'beige' cloth interior – this is a family car after all. The SLi and Platinum also had the front and rear parking sensors, which I thought was great, particularly for a car of this size. The wife really liked the convenience of the power sliding doors and boot for the school pick-up in the 'Stop, Drop & Go' area, so she didn't have to get out of the car. I couldn't get past the chrome wheels on the Platinum – they just looked out of place on a car like this – and they had a Silver SLi in stock that looked really nice, particularly once we tinted the front windows dark.
Twenty months on and fuel economy is averaging around 8L/100km with mainly 60km/h, but it does have a short run at 100km/h, which is good for the diesel's DPF. Apart from the usual servicing, nothing has gone wrong – all is working and doing what it is designed to do.
Infotainment is basic. It does have inbuilt sat-nav, which is handy, but no Apple CarPlay or Android, though we have never had this before so we don't know what we are missing out on. The Bluetooth music streaming works great every time and the phone connects every start and stays connected, unlike my HiLux.
The leather seats are not showing any signs of wear, and the abuse the boys throw at them hasn't shown up, at this stage anyway. We removed the centre seat in the second row so it is a 'walk-through' seven-seater, which is so convenient and also means the two kids' seats in the second row are kept apart and makes it easy to put them in. The 10-year-old is by himself at the back, king of the kids!
We have used it as an eight-seater a few times for parents' nights out and family trips, and it was still a comfortable drive for everyone. I was really impressed by the diesel, as it still performed like it was just me in the car.
The only thing I have added to this car has been a daytime running light module to the lights, so the LED parkers now operate like DRLs. When we purchased the car they said they were DRLs, which I liked for visibility on the road for other drivers. But after reading the manual once home, I found they were parkers and not DRLs. I purchased a module from South Korea that sits in the headlight assembly and fitted it myself, and now they function the same as DRLs. I haven't seen any other Carnivals driving around with this mod.
Overall, we are really happy with the Carnival. I would like to see more of the new safety features across the model range in the future like AEB, not just the Platinum model, and the added convenience of radar cruise control would be good. Also, the DRLs should be standard from factory. I am sure it wouldn't be hard for them to organise it. I think updated models will also probably have Apple CarPlay etc to keep up with the current expectations we place on the car manufacturers.
Once you get past the soccer mum's car tag, it is great as a family car. We have the peace of mind of the seven-year warranty should we need it and low running costs. Yes, we can't go anywhere we could have in an SUV or 4x4 wagon, but we don't need to. That is what my 4x4 HiLux dual-cab is for.