How does Kia Motors India make an impact after the Seltos? Their first offering for has been a massive success. Hardly has a carmaker become so dominant, so quickly. But the Korean carmaker’s strategy is quite clear when they say they’ll launch a new car every six months here over the next few years. They seem to want to get right to the top and cover every kind of customer along the way.
On cue, we now find ourselves behind the wheel of the Kia Carnival. It’s an MPV, a package, unlike anything you’ve seen before at this price point. It’ll launch at the Auto Expo 2020 with Kia hinting at a price above the Innova, around Rs 30 to 35 lakhs, ex-showroom.
Should I be interested?
Yes, you should. The Carnival is over five metres long, just under two metres wide and almost as tall. And all of this space, aft of the front wheels are at the disposal of the occupants in one continuous section with a completely flat floor. The Carnival’s simple, upright shape further helps it manage this space optimally. We drove the Carnival in its top Limousine trim with seven seats. Our version came with the VIP second-row captain seats. These chairs are widely adjustable with a neat set of footrests. Combined with the generous angle of recline, second-row passengers can travel almost fully flat. The seats themselves are also very comfortable, with soft cushioning, good back and thigh support. Aside from a generous range of adjustment front to back, these chairs also slide sideways.
This is a thoughtful and easy adjustment, given how simple it makes access to the third row. There it’s a regular bench seat. Even with the second row furthest back, there is a good amount of legroom. We only would have liked a more comfortable seatback angle and better under-thigh support. But again, there’s more ingenuity here. This 60:40 bench can be stowed away completely via an easy two-step process that can be completed one-handed. In another smart move, Kia has placed the spare wheel under the second row. This lets you have 540 litres of boot space with all rows up, via a deep boot floor. With the third row folded away, this increases to a humongous 1,626 litres, all of it easily accessible.
Ingress and egress in the second and third row is straightforward, thanks to the powered, sliding rear-doors that come as standard with the Carnival. These doors allow for a wide opening, and you can get out while in tight parking spots easily.
The three-zone climate control also allows passengers in the last two rows access to separate AC controls. There are vents for all passengers and numerous USB and 12V sockets littered throughout the cabin. The second row even gets a 220V plug-point to power electronics like laptops.
The front seats are impressive again. They are large and supportive and should be comfortable for all body types. For the few times that owners of the Carnival take to the driver’s seat, Kia has given special treatment to this chair. It gets eight-way adjustment with lumbar support and a ventilation function.
There are large and useful storage spaces littered throughout the cabin, including a large compartment above the glove box. This means space for knick-Knacks are very easy to find in the Carnival
The well-finished switchgear that we saw in the Seltos makes its way here too. You get the same heft and damped operation in the controls and the knurled finish feels just as good
Other amenities tie this impressive setting together further. The large upright windows and dual sunroof make for an airy feel. There’s an eight-speaker, crisp Harman/Kardon sound system which pairs with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment screen in the front, and two individual 10.1-inch touchscreen screens for the second row. These connect via Bluetooth and also play content via USB/HDMI. The Smart Air purifier from the Seltos makes its way here too, but it has been optimised for this larger vehicle and can even disperse fragrances. Overall cabin quality with the soft-touch plastic fit/finish and materials quality is up to levels we now expect of Korean brands. The dash layout is a further exercise in good design, it is laid out with large, easy to read buttons and an overhead panel that lets the driver control the powered doors. The UVO suite of connected-car features is also seen here, as is wireless charging.
Aside from this button, the powered doors can also be controlled through the key-fob and via a panel around the inner rear-view mirror
The Carnival has been around internationally since 2015, and signs of this are visible in the touchscreen being a generation behind what you get on the Seltos and a MID screen that could have been less basic. We also thought the front passenger could have been better catered to, with no seat ventilation or powered controls.
Should I care about how it drives?
Yes. Because the Carnival’s demeanour on the move is a nice complement to how it feels inside. The large MPV wafts along almost like a full-size luxury sedan or SUV might and handles our rough roads very well. Straight-line stability at high-speed is also very reassuring Most bumps are dealt with by the wide, high profile 18-inch wheels and independent suspension all around, only the largest potholes might creep in but it’s never uncomfortable. There are some loose body movements over bad roads and while cornering at speed, but this is well within what you would expect of a vehicle of the Carnival’s size and girth.
Dive hard into a corner with the Carnival, and the MPV’s over 2 tonnes curb weight makes itself known. This is well-controlled and within limits of what is expected of a car of this size.
The 200 PS and 440 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged BSVI compliant diesel motor again feels like it would be perfectly at home in something with a luxury badge on it. It’s refined for the most part, linear in power delivery and has a nice swell of mid-range torque. We like how the Carnival gets up to highway cruising speeds quite deceptively quickly. The in-house developed eight-speed torque convertor also has a hand at this. You barely notice it work, which is a good thing. It seems to keep the MPV in the right gear at most times and isn’t overeager to switch to a higher gear as quickly as possible. Reaction times grow when you start hustling the Kia along, but within limits of what is good for a high-tech auto-box such as this.
The Carnival’s Limousine trim gets safety tech that is good but not redefining for its price. It gets six-airbags, ESC with Hill Start Assist, Roll Over Mitigation and Cornering Brake Control and TPMS.
You sit high in the driver’s seat, with a good view of the road ahead thanks to the large windscreen and windows. We only wish for better steering feel. The large wide tyres add heft to the wheel at low speed. This fades away the faster you go but you’re left with some slack on-centre and a lightness that persists throughout after that. This is helpful in the city but adds some guesswork to faster driving. We also missed the 360-degree cameras from the Seltos, this would have made managing the Carnival’s size just that bit easier in tight situations.
The Carnival’s styling is a departure from what we’ve seen with the Seltos. There are similar elements like another interpretation of the Tiger Nose grille and the ice-cube LED foglamps, but the sharp aggressive lines and striking design elements have been replaced by something much more subdued. This is no bad thing, the overall result is a car that finds the right balance between form and function, well in line with what it’s meant to offer as a package. The full LED lighting on the top trims is well detailed (but could have done with more effectiveness) and the front has just the right amount of chrome and aggressive cuts to grab attention.
Should I pick this over an SUV?
This is the Carnival’s biggest challenge. But one that it is equipped to handle. It’s expected to be priced in line with some big seven-seater SUVs that meet a similar brief as itself. Unlike with the Seltos, where Kia took a trusted formula for success in India and then built on it with thoughtful execution, the Carnival is a new segment entirely. It has no direct rivals as of now, the V-Class and soon-to-be-launched Vellfire are dimensionally similar but twice as expensive. But the pieces for success have been set. There is reasonable road presence, a premium-feel and thoughtfulness throughout, coupled with genuine comfort. Add to this the list of features and competent mechanicals, and there’s no reason why someone looking for a large comfortable three-row car might not find everything they want in the Carnival. Another home-run for Kia? We think so.
One For Everyone
The Kia Carnival will be available in three trim levels, Premium (7-seater and 8-seater), Prestige (7-seater and 9-seater) and Limousine (7-seater VIP).
The regular seven-seater features simple captain seats in the second row and the slick stowable third-row bench, the second is a VIP version that gets the highly adjustable second-row captain chairs as seen on our tester. The eight-seater option gives passengers a bench in the second row, the centre part of which can be folded down to make a wide armrest. Finally, the nine-seat versions get two rows of smaller captain seats and a straightforward last row bench seat.
The VIP seats give you a generous angle of recline, but lifting the footrest fully means your feet will likely touch the front seat
All trims come well equipped with even the base trim getting the eight-speed auto, rear camera, auto headlamps and powered mirrors. This means that the Carnival will appeal to a wide audience with a varying focus on luxury and utility.
Images by Anis Sheikh
Kia Carnival 2020 Full Spec