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Kia Carnival review – An interior for every occasion

The Kia Carnival is a versatile MPV that can suit the needs of many different owners, boasting good performance in addition to a high-quality interior.

I recently got the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of the top-spec SXL trim, taking it in and around the streets of Gauteng.

Customizable experience

My first impression of the Kia was that it was a very good-looking car, both inside and out, and this was cemented when I managed to get a few compliments from passers-by while visiting the local mall.

The SUV-like grille framed by stylish daytime-running lights is rather eye-catching, as is the large singular rear LED lightbar, however, the visual experience gets even better when you open the doors.

Click a button and see the automatic sliding doors peel back to reveal a cavernous interior with seven seats, and this is where the MPV shines.

The black and white aesthetic is gorgeous and is rounded out by little details such as a crystal-like central gear node and calming ambient lighting effects.

The front seats are ventilated, and the heating function made the drive to work in the early hours of winter mornings much more bearable. Likewise, the three-zone climate control features conjured up an impressive breeze as I was taking the Carnival through a series of backroads on a hotter afternoon.

Hopping into the middle row while a colleague took over the driving revealed that comfort is not just relegated to the front seats, as I was afforded generous legroom and was also able to adjust the rear climate control features from a small panel in the roof.

The six-speaker sound system is no slouch, either, delivering an excellent rendition of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb as I sailed down the highway at sunset.

I did find there was a delayed response when operating the central touchscreen, and I would often press a button twice thinking it hadn’t registered the first time, only for it to respond a second later and have my double press resume the music I tried to pause.

Important to note is the fact that the vehicle on test is one of the first Carnival units that entered the country and it was fitted with an analogue gauge cluster. However, this was a result of the car being shipped during the global chip shortage, and all new Carnivals will feature an all-digital display, said a Kia spokesperson.

Where the Carnival truly stands out, however, is with its customizable rear seats.

The boot is massive but there was no spare wheel; instead, the three rear seats fold flat into the boot space making for an incredibly spacious interior.

Furthermore, it’s possible to rotate the middle row seats or remove them entirely.

The process for doing so can be difficult as the seats are heavy and reattaching them is tricky, but the results are worth it.

The rear-facing middle row combined with the flat-folded rear seats could make for an incredible camping vehicle or even an on-the-move productivity station.

Assisted driving

Earlier this year, the Kia Carnival was named the “family car of the year” by AutoGuide, and it’s not hard to see why.

The MPV is fitted with a large number of driver’s aids and safety features which made any journey a breeze.

I was particularly impressed with the smoothness of the adaptive cruise control, and adding to this are lane assist and cross-traffic alert, as well as blind-spot detection.

When all these features are combined, driving the Kia on the highway becomes one of the least demanding road-going experiences around.

Taking it around town, however, you do have to be aware of just how long the car really is.

At 5,155mm you will need to take a wider angle to turn into a parking bay, and you will also need to move the MPV as far as possible into the bay to avoid sticking out at the back – not that it ever fully fits into a parking spot.

Thankfully, the Kia is equipped with front and rear cameras as well as parking sensors, making it easier to squeeze into an open space if you see one.

The ride itself is very comfortable, too, helped in no small part by the large seats, but the suspension and wheelbase also do a good job of distributing the weight of the MPV making it surprisingly light-footed.

MPV performance

The Carnival runs on a 2.2-litre, turbo-diesel engine that produces 148kW and 440Nm, which is more than enough for the type of vehicle.

The torque is particularly noticeable as this otherwise hefty-looking MPV has impressive acceleration performance that never failed to take advantage of a green-light start.

Suffice to say that there was not a single situation in which I found the Carnival to be lacking in terms of power.

Regarding fuel usage, I experimented with the various drive modes – including Normal, Eco, and Sport – and found the Kia was averaging 7.2l/100km.

Sport Mode, for its part, makes a noticeable difference to the response times and my consumption would likely have been a bit better had I not spent the majority of the time in this drive setting.

Further complementing the package is the fact that the MPV is equipped with paddle shifters, though the eight-speed automatic transmission is intelligent to the point that I never had the need to manually change gears.


With its customizable interior, the Kia Carnival is a versatile MPV that can suit the needs of many different drivers.

With up to eight seats, a large boot, and automatic doors, it can function well as a family car. Similarly, the luxury interior and abundant space make it a good choice for shuttling various groups of individuals.

Finally, the ability to fold the rear seats and remove or rotate the middle row gives the Kia the flexibility to work wonders as a car for adventure-seekers and lovers of the long road.

At a starting price of R799,995, the Carnival is also not too far off similar MPVs, while offering a more high-end interior than many of its competitors – making it a good choice for anyone looking for something a little different than an SUV.

Kia Carnival SXL

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