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The Kia Carnival is a luxury cruiser with space for families and their luggage, and a surprising turn of speed. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The Kia Carnival is a luxury cruiser with space for families and their luggage, and a surprising turn of speed. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

At the few places where I pitched up with the Kia Carnival, some clued-up youngsters likened it to the Lincoln Navigator, the flagship SUV of Ford’s opulent subsidiary in the US market. Not nearly as large, or revered, the Kia Carnival is also a luxurious member of the MPV rather than the SUV class.

After the initial lack of market interest in the 11-seat predecessor, the firm decided to market the extra-long new Carnival in seven or eight seat versions only. It’s tested here in its former guise.

It spans 5,155m from shiny nose to tail and has an ace up its sleeve for large families. Instead of competing with trains for packaging people, Kia has repurposed the rear space where an extra row would have been sandwiched into an extra large 1,139l boot area, and which is a welcome feature. With the rest of the seats uprooted from their rails you can get a massive 4,110l.   

The twin electric sliding doors on each side, which can be operated remotely via the key fob, reveal a 2+2+3 seat arrangement which allows for an easy walk-through into any section of the passenger cabin and there’s good space everywhere and chairs with seat belts and hand rests. First row passengers get direct access to a pair of USB charging ports which are integrated into the sides of the front pair of seats and the front gets three.  

The driving position is rather high and requires the fettling of the electric seat and manual reach and rake of the multifunction steering wheel. Visibility is superb and the A-pillars don’t get in the way of side vision, while the dashboard design and its layout with logically placed buttons is posh in look and tactility.

It’s a bigger, smarter looking and more sophisticated car than the Grand Sedona it replaces, and updates, such as semi-autonomous driving, edge it further upmarket.

This range-topping SXL model on test gets larger 19-inch alloys that fill-up the wheel arches better than the 18s found in the EX models, while twin sunroofs, of which the rear also uncaps for cabin ventilation, full leather covering and heated front seats form part of an extensive standard equipment list, as is a crisp-sounding and thumping sound system.

The cockpit is is neat and has an array of digital equipment. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cockpit is is neat and has an array of digital equipment. Picture: SUPPLIED

The SA Carnival range has only one engine and transmission combination: a 2.2l four cylinder diesel motor with 148kW and 440Nm mated to a transmission with eight forward gears and driving the front wheels only.

We found the Carnival responsive and genuinely speedy. Straight-line performance is another good area of the Carnival. The steering is responsive enough and should you need to fast pedal it somewhere you’ll find it also has steering wheel paddles and good urge from the motor with confident and enough poise even on corners for a front-wheel drive MPV of its bulk.

But it’s best served at languid speeds where the operation of its mechanicals from its damping and transmission changes is cushy enough to not upset dozing passengers while this also nets you a frugal 8.2l/100km average fuel consumption. You can also use self throttle, braking and steer cruise control for more relaxation on the move.

But the large dimensions also mean you constantly have to use your rear mirrors when turning into 90-degree angles and be extra wary when parking. It has a brilliant camera system and proximity beeps.

It’s a pleasant luxury MPV. If you want a seven-or eight-seat SUV with regular doors, all-paw traction and far less cargo space for similar money, the Hyundai Palisade is only R95 cheaper. Its Kia Sorento cousin is also a contender for R26,000 less, but with smaller load capacity.

Otherwise it’s closer in ethos to the luxury minibus arena of the Hyundai Staria, which can carry more people but with less luggage, and the Opel Zafira which is cheaper with a more competitive boot but it’s not as lush. The Mercedes-Benz V-Class and Volkswagen Caravelle equal the Carnival on the seat count, but the pair is beaten by the Kia in terms of price. It’s a winner.

The cavernous boot makes the Kia Carnival among the more sensible MPVs in the niche. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cavernous boot makes the Kia Carnival among the more sensible MPVs in the niche. Picture: SUPPLIED

Tech Specs


Type: Four-cylinder turbo diesel

Capacity: 2.2l

Power: 148kW

Torque: 440Nm


Type: Eight-speed auto


Type: Front-wheel drive


Top speed: 185km/h

0-100km/h: 12.4 sec (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 6.8l/100km (claimed), 8.2l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 189g/km


Electric windows, LED daytime driving running lights, auto on/off lights, multifunction steering wheel controls, electric mirrors, keyless entry, automatic sliding doors, Bluetooth, artificial leather upholstery, dual sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, climate control, surround park distance control, cruise control, active blind spot assist, driving modes, tyre pressure monitor, ABS, lane keep assist, stability control, and six airbags


Warranty: Seven years/200,000km

Service plan: Seven years/105,000km

Price: R1,024,995

Lease: R21,872 a month 

*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Kia Carnival SXL 2.2CRDi SXL

WE LIKE: Space, looks, features, drive quality

WE DISLIKE: Not child’s play to park

VERDICT: A practical luxury minibus


Motor News star rating

Design *****

Performance  ****

Economy *****

Ride *****

Handling ****

Safety *****

Value For Money *****

Overall *****

The Competition

Opel Zafira Life 2.0TD Elegance, 110kW/370Nm — R869,900

Hyundai Palisade 2.2D 4WD Elite 7 seater, 142kW/440Nm — R1,024,900

Toyota Quantum 2.8 VX Premium, 115kW/420Nm — R1,068,200

Hyundai Staria 2.2D Luxury, 130kW/430Nm — R1,104,900

Mercedes-Benz V220d, 120kW/380Nm — R1,241,376

Volkswagen Caravelle 2.0BiTDI Highline 4Motion, 146kW/450Nm — R1,255,900 


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