A global MPV, Carnival is the second product from Kia Motors to be launched in India. We recently got a chance to test drive the car and here is our detailed 2020 Kia Carnival Review.
Kia Motors has made a huge impact on the Indian automotive industry in recent times. In a rather sluggish economy, the South Korean brand managed to make a triumphant debut with its maiden product, Kia Seltos, which still remains somewhere near the top of an average Indian buyer’s wishlist. With the Seltos, Kia Motors not only introduced a well-rounded product in a country fond of SUVs (sometimes SUV-lookalikes as well), but also created a new segment for other OEMs to worry about.
Six months down the lane and as promised by the officials at Kia Motors India, a new product is at the verge of hitting the market. While the most obvious options for the brand could have been a premium hatchback, compact-sedan or even an MPV, the Kia Motors decided to bring down its globally acclaimed minivan to our market — the Kia Carnival (aka the Sedona or Grand Carnival).
Yes, the Kia Carnival is technically not an MPV, but a minivan (or the stereotypical “moms’ mobile” as in the USA). Even so, the wider Indian mass would only recognise it as an MPV for the same reason as to why raised hatchbacks are compact-SUVs and abnormally-short sedans or hatchbacks with extra luggage capacity are considered as compact-sedans.
Keeping that aside, what we have to know is whether the Kia Carnival carries the same market potential as the proven Seltos, and most importantly, if the minivan would be able to raise both eyebrows or just one. Let us see how the Indian-spec 2020 Kia Carnival in its ‘Limousine’ trim fares in a segment of its own.
Exteriors & Design
Before we start off with the overall styling, you must know that the Kia Carnival is not even remotely close to being all-new like the Seltos. In fact, the third-generation (YP) Carnival/Grand Carnival/Sedona first made its entry back at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, to be launched the following year. A recent mid-life facelift brought its styling to how it looks right now.
Being a global product, the Kia Carnival is quite a good-looking minivan (or a ‘luxury MPV’ in the Indian context) with little to no faults in terms of general aesthetics and devoid of any fancy or gimmicky bits that are often the result of overly trying in the looks department. The styling does not demand all the attention on the road despite being nothing short of elegant.
Kia Motors’ signature Tiger Nose grille remains the dominant element in the front profile. Closely flanking it are the dual-barrel full-LED headlamps that smoothly sweep back across the fenders while the ‘ice-cube’ LED fog lamps rest a bit forward. The skid plate tucked underneath might be worth more than just looks since the Carnival does not ride that high and Indian roads are rather unpredictable.
The side silhouette is typically a minivan with a few tweaks to be different from the rest; in this case, the DLO (Daylight Opening) kinked at the B-pillar. The groove for the sliding-door mechanism (more on it explained further down) blends perfectly with the other body lines. The chrome 18-inch alloy wheels are quite intriguing. The wheels look a bit flashy or ‘bling’ while in many ways complementing the overall premiumness. In Kia’s notes, the chrome shade is known as ‘Sputtering Finish’.
The rear styling is relatively understated even though the cuts on the bumper and the spoiler at the top contribute their best. The LED taillamps follow a ‘tong’ pattern and float over the edges of a neat chrome strip. In fact, you will find tasteful additions of chrome and silver all around the minivan.
The Kia Carnival looks elegant even from the top thanks to the dual-sunroof configuration in between the silver roof rails. Plus, the aerodynamic styling and mechanical elements underneath for a minivan in this category have rewarded the Carnival a low drag coefficient of 0.342.
Interiors & Features
The Kia Carnival, like every other premium/luxury people carrier, is mostly about the interiors. There is a long list of functions pertaining to comfort, convenience and technology, and one can feel a commencement of opulence inside. In the Limousine trim, the middle-row is the acme of the overall sense of occasion.
The dual-tone dashboard layout houses a host of dials and controls against panels of soft-touch leatherette (upper black portion), hard plastic (lower beige portion) and dark wood (infotainment system and instrument cluster) — which resembles a piano black finish unless viewed by a bright and direct source of light. There are two glove compartments (the bottom one is lockable) at one’s disposal. In spite of being the top trim, there are a few blank switches lurking around.
The dashboard may not stand apart in terms of grandeur, though it is certainly well put together and focused towards the driver; not because the vehicle is meant to be driven, but since the focus customer is expected to be in the middle row, most of the time.
Owing to the overwhelming dimensions of the Carnival, the dashboard is on the larger side and the fairly-sized 8.0-inch touchscreen looks rather minuscule. The AVNT (Audio, Video, Navigation & Telematics) infotainment system boasts of in-built navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and seamless connectivity with Kia’s India-specific mobile application, UVO. Available in App Store and Google Play, UVO and UVO Lite apps come with a free 3-year subscription and commands over 35 smart features including remote control, emergency services, voice assistant, vehicle diagnostics, etc. Smartphone connectivity is another highlight while the eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system delivers your music collection in its best.
The three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel feels nice to hold and, to an extent, looks sporty for a minivan. The buttons and rollers let the driver work with an array of settings in the audio, cruise control and call departments, as well as the additional functions within the 3.5-inch MID in the instrument console. However, the all-black theme gives the wheel a ‘base-trim feel’ and the piano black finish at the bottom does not help a lot either. Sometimes, chrome/silver bits seem like a necessity.
The instrument cluster looks pretty much like every other modern-day premium vehicle. It opens doors to a wide range of information including the level of urea remaining (added separately from the fuel inlet compartment) in the AdBlue Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system that aims to clean up diesel emissions. Using the controls on the steering wheel, sub-functions revolving around the doors, sounds, exterior lights, convenience features, vehicle service, etc., can be accessed.
The overhead controls do more than just open the two sunroofs. The driver or co-passenger can open either sliding door, open the tailgate to a convenient position, make the sliding doors’ and tailgate’s opening process manual and fiddle with the interior lighting. There is also a wide-angle mirror integrated to the panel that gives a clear view of the entire cabin and occupants behind.
The central console ticks most of the boxes in terms of comfort and convenience. There are two cupholders placed in parallel to the transmission lever and both of them have small storage bins at the back and front; the latter being a wireless charging dock. Under the wide armrest, there is even more storage and connectivity options. The electronic parking brake saves space that would have been otherwise taken up by a traditional handbrake lever.
The three-zone climate control system cools down the cabin fast and can be conveniently adjusted from the lower part of the dashboard, with the additional aid of a well-designed UI on the central screen. Second-row passengers get their own climate control setup alongside its vents on the roof, behind the driver.
The Smart Pure air purifier was not on the list of expectations for many. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition and can show real-time air-quality inside the cabin. The system doubles up as a car perfume and Kia Motors provides three fragrance choices: Ocean, Lavender and Forest.
Seating & Comfort
The Kia Carnival has one of the best seats in the business. In the Limousine trim, the minivan comes in a 7-seater avatar with two-tone Nappa leather seats. Only the driver seat is cooled, ventilated and 10-way power-adjustable, but the remaining ones are nothing short of comfortable and supportive (maybe not so much in the third row).
The VIP middle-row seating with leg support is what which makes the Carnival special. The adjustments on offer are plentiful and you can find the right spot of comfort with ease. If there’s nobody sitting in the third row, you can recline your seat back, extend the leg support and nearly achieve the same level of peace and comfort as your bed. The seats can even be moved sideways for added practicality. Legroom and headroom situations are impressive beyond comparison.
With the rear-seat entertainment package, middle-row passengers get individual 10-inch touchscreens with almost every connectivity choices available in the modern world. Screen glare will be an issue at the brightest times of the day.
In a conventional three-row passenger vehicle, third-row passengers do not get enough priority as the ones sitting in front. The case is different for the Kia Carnival and third-row occupants get almost the same comfort as the rear seat of a normal vehicle such as a hatchback or compact-SUV.
Three adults might experience a squeeze at the very back, but it’s certainly a far cry from being intolerable. The reclinable seats are not that high to provide sufficient shoulder support (in order to provide better rear visibility). To an extent, raising the relatively-wide headrests solves the problem.
Space & Practicality
The power-sliding door mechanism is easily the Kia Carnival’s best party trick. The doors can open on its own (with a single warning beep) at the touch of a button or by pulling the regular door lever, either from the outside or inside.
The doors automatically open at a decent pace, but over time and in a hurry, one might wish it opened within a shorter span of time. As a matter of fact, a good majority of Indian buyers are used to banging the manual sliding doors of the Maruti Suzuki Omni and other vans with all their might and minimal patience.
Luckily, there is a dedicated button to switch between manual or automatic modes for the sliding doors as well as the tailgate. The doors are way heavier than the manual ones we’ve seen over the years.
For a vehicle with a wheelbase of 3060mm and spanning 5115x1985x1755mm (LWH) in overall dimensions, excellent cabin space is something which does not need a second thought. The Kia Carnival has oceans of room in all three rows and especially in the middle row. The third row can seat the tallest person in your group with moderate levels of comfort even though headroom might be a bit tight.
Ingress and egress to the third row are impressively easy. The second seats, in their extreme forward and folded position, leaves 437mm of horizontal clearance for passengers of most sizes to easily access the third row.
The DLO situation complements the cabin’s airiness really well and the two sunroofs are an added bonus. Even with the capacity to accompany seven passengers, the interior components do not seem jam-packed. This may not be the case for the 9-seater (6+3) Prestige variant with ‘four’ rows of seating.
While the second-row VIP seats can be adjusted to the comfort you desire, the third-row brings the practicality factor to a new benchmark. With a series of sensibly-engineered mechanisms, the entire 60:40 split-folding third-row can be sunken into the floor.
With all seats up, the Kia Carnival’s Limousine avatar returns a deep and wide storage capacity of 540 litres. With the third row concealed into the floor, the figure rises to 1,624 litres and crosses a whopping 2700 litres with the middle row folded forward. In its maximum luggage-capacity format, the Kia Carnival essentially becomes a cargo van. The hooks on the floor (which keeps the third row in place) come in handy to fasten items together, but are prone to a lot of scratches with time.
The spare wheel (space-saver capable of doing 80km/h) is placed below the rear cargo compartment and cannot be accessed from the outside.
All throughout the cabin, you will be able to find cup/bottle holders, storage nets and bins, USB/charging outlets (even a 220V outlet for your laptop) and random hooks. All the windows on either side get sunshades. The front windshield and windows are UV cut too.
The electric tailgate or ‘Smart Power Tailgate’ can open on its own even without pressing the button hidden above the number plate housing. All you have to do is have the Kia Carnival’s smart key in your pocket and wait for about three seconds in front of the tailgate.
Powertrain & Performance
The Indian-spec Kia Carnival comes solely with a BS6-compliant 2.2-litre CRDi R-Line four-cylinder diesel engine, jointly developed by Hyundai and Kia Motors. The power plant develops around 197bhp @ 3800rpm and 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm, and is mated to an 8-speed Sportsmatic torque-converter automatic transmission with manual mode (no paddles).
The engineers at Hyundai and Kia have managed to check down its booming noises and vibrations to impressive limits, with the help of the lighter graphite-iron/aluminium construction, Bosch piezo-electronic injectors, electronic variable geometry turbo (e-VGT) and other important components. Based on the gear, RPM and throttle position, you would be able to find a workaround to the inevitable boost lag usually associated with a turbocharged diesel engine.
Codenamed D4HB, the 85.4x96mm engine made its debut back in 2009 and currently serves duty in many Kia and Hyundai products such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Sorento, etc.
The front-wheel-drive Kia Carnival is no sporty vehicle and it need not be one. At a kerb weight of almost 2,200kg (depends on the variant or seating configuration), the minivan is easily at the higher limits of the gauge. However, it packs sufficient performance for its intended purpose — carrying people with absolute comfort and convenience.
Ride, Handling & Driving Experience
The Kia Carnival’s suspension department focuses more on comfort rather than dynamics. Still, the MacPherson struts at the front and the multi-link unit at the rear provides decent dynamics in comparison to a conventional ladder-frame vehicle in the category. The suspension does a decent job at finding an ideal balance between comfort and compliance. Plus, the Carnival seems to absorb broken terrain even better with additional load.
The heavy body and large proportions return considerable amounts of body roll for a monocoque chassis, even during the slightest turn of the wheel. Even a normal lane change tilts the Carnival to the other side. The heavier nature of the hydraulic power steering does not go well with this trait either; especially during relatively quick manoeuvres. Again, this is the case for almost all minivans and the Kia Carnival is arguably better than most.
Upon full-throttle, the ECU thinks for a second; downshifts and; brings the RPM up within a satisfactory interval of time. However, you won’t be pushed back to your seat in the process and the minivan gradually picks up its pace. The mandatory and annoying speed-warning beep sets off at 120km/h (after a preliminary warning at 80km/h), but the Carnival finds it easy to turn the speedometer substantially more. Even with ESC turned OFF, the mass of the vehicle rarely gives a chance for a full-throttle wheelspin (from stationary).
In all probability, the manual mode for the transmission might see minimal usage in the entire life of the car. We were not let down at all by the absence of paddle shifters, simply because the Kia Carnival is not a vehicle of choice to compliment our prowess as a driver. It is a luxury minivan and the priority goes to the second-row passengers.
The Limousine variant of the Kia Carnival sets the benchmark high for passenger comfort. We have already discussed the broad range of adjustments available for each VIP seat. Once you attain the desired seating position, you’ll find yourself in a cocoon of comfort and the roll characteristics we mentioned just above hypothetically transforms to a mother’s hand that rocks the cradle.
NVH controls are impressive, to say the least. Minimal amounts of wind/road noise and diesel clatter seeps into the cabin. Over pebbled roads, the 235/80 R18 MRF Wanderer Sport tyres might tell a different story. At an unladen ground clearance of 180mm, is the Carnival the best choice for Indian road conditions? No, but it is certainly not the worst.
The Kia Carnival carries a lot of equipment and mechanical bits on the inside, but nothing seems to create the slightest acoustic discomfort. Everything seems well-placed and well-screwed together. Despite its proportions, the Kia Carnival has an appreciable turning circle radius of around 5.6m.
The minivan gets large disc brakes on all wheels. One thing worth knowing is that heavy-footed braking at significant speeds might be a scary experience during the initial days of ownership. The Kia Carnival will definitely stop at or within the braking distance in your expectation. Still, the vehicle is so heavy that you will instantly feel all of its mass plunging forward to the front axle.
The braking system does its job well, but the vehicle will let you know it’s trying desperately to make a halt.
Fuel Efficiency & Fuel Tank Capacity
The Kia Carnival has a rated average fuel efficiency of 13.9km/l, which is just okay. In our testing procedures on narrow streets and four-lane roads, the onboard fuel-efficiency indicator showed upper single-digit figures. The fuel tank capacity stands at 60 litres. There is a separate tank for storing urea, that will be topped up by the dealership at every service interval or whenever it runs low.
To elaborate on the safety features of the Kia Carnival beyond its braking performance, the minivan gets all the essential and mandated equipment such as multiple airbags (dual-front, side and curtain), ABS+EBD+BA, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), HAC (Hill-Start Assist Control), ROM (Roll-over Mitigation), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) front & rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, anti-pinch for all its electrically actuated components, and a lot more.
The rear parking camera has got guidelines, but the image quality could have been better. The anti-pinch feature of the powered sliding doors and tailgate (in addition to that for the sunroofs and windows) is an absolute necessity and the second-generation (VQ) Kia Carnival is one of the first production minivans to introduce it to the global automotive market.
Variants & Colours
As shared at the very beginning, we drove the 7-seater Limousine variant of the Kia Carnival. For the Indian market, the 2020 Kia Carnival gets three variants or five seating configurations: Premium 7, Premium 8, Prestige 7, Prestige 9 and Limousine 7VIP (test car). The interior upholstery is also subject to change depending on the variant. Colour choices, on the other hand, are limited to just three: Glacier White Pearl, Steel Silver and Aurora Black Pearl.
The 2020 Kia Carnival is a quintessential carnival of space, comfort and luxury, and for the same reason, the company defines the minivan’s target customer base as the ‘Elite Class’.
According to Kia Motors, the Indian automotive market has two categories of 7/7+ seaters: Affordable (Mahindra Marazzo, Toyota Innova Crysta, etc.) and Aspirational (Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Toyota Vellfire, etc.). The Kia Carnival is intended to be in the latter group, but without a ridiculous price tag.
Prices of the Kia Carnival will be announced officially in a few weeks’ time and you can be sure it will be north of the pricing of the latest BS6 version of the Toyota Innova Crysta, which touches almost Rs 30 lakh on-road in its highest trim. We expect the Carnival to hit the Indian market at an ex-showroom starting price in the range of Rs 30-35 lakh.
To sum up, the Kia Carnival is not a rival to some of the major names in the 7-seater segment. In fact, it’s a fresh choice for families who wish to own something bigger and loaded than the Innova Crysta and for corporate/tourism/hotel organisations who wish to keep their expenditures down from importing another Toyota Vellfire, Alphard or HiAce.
Disclaimer – For this review, Kia Motors India invited and hosted us at Hyderabad. They paid for our travel, stay and food.