Our family hauler gets a workout. It’s just clocked 15,000km in the nine months since we purchased it.
The shortlist was originally the Kia Sorento GT-Line, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder Ti. I had a hunch, though, so I suggested to my wife that we take a Carnival for a decent drive. The dealer was great and loaned us a car for the weekend. We drove it to all the regular places it would need to be parked, and all the narrow streets we could think of. And it laid any doubts about it being ‘too big’ to rest.
At very similar money to the 5+2 SUVs we’d been seriously considering, the Carnival just packs so much more value. We run it with the middle-centre seat removed in seven-seat configuration. It works a treat. We currently have the youngest two in the back row using the ISOFIX points for the baby seat. The boosters for the older kids work well with the belts and seat heights. The eldest of our three likes the captain’s chair set-up in the middle row, and she has access to her own air-con controls.
A key point with the flexible interior – in wet weather, you simply enter the vehicle with the kids, get them strapped in, and then jump back out and into the driver's seat. There’s so much space it’s not funny. I’ve recently been starting the car to crank up the air-con, then getting in the back to strap everyone in. It makes a huge difference from standing outside in the heat or the rain.
Being the Platinum model, it’s got plenty of luxury and techno features. The push-button electric doors and tailgate. The air-conditioned and heated seats. Blind spot and rear traffic monitoring, lane departure warning systems, radar-adaptive cruise control and auto headlights. Undoubtedly the greatest bit of gear, though, is the four-way camera system. It makes parking a breeze and offers great peace of mind when you’re worried about kids and other vulnerable road users being around.
Kia could do a better job of calibrating some of the tech, as it’s very trigger-happy with the lane departure warning system. The radar cruise/AEB also struggles to interpret forward traffic situations. These aren’t serious concerns, though, more annoyances when they kick in prematurely.
The drivetrain is solid if not spectacular. We’re regularly getting 7.5–8.0L/100km, which for a loaded-up vehicle weighing well over two tonnes is pretty damn good. The diesel gets a bit noisy under load, but it is more than capable of pushing the thing along in all conditions.
Could it be improved? I’d like to drive one with the new eight-speed auto as fitted to the latest Sorento. Beyond that, an AWD version would be amazing, but the compromises on cabin space necessitated by adding drive to the rear wheels would make such a design a pipe dream.
We love the car.