We get a first taste of the All-New 2022 Kia Carnival. Is the Korean MPV's interior comfort as good as its exterior looks?
Let's face it – a growing family needs an MPV. Yes, while a big family can certainly travel in several cars to get to their destination, travelling with the family in one vehicle is part of what makes for an exciting road trip experience.
While many have small to medium-sized families, some of us are blessed with more members, and travelling with the whole gang can be uncomfortable if you don't have a large enough vehicle.
There are plenty of six and seven-seater MPVs on the market, but only a few can claim they can house more than seven passengers. Better yet, only a few can claim it can house more than seven passengers without looking like a troop carrier.
We present to you the All-New 2022 Kia Carnival, an MPV with 11 seats that wants you to forget that it's essentially a van.
Launched globally in June 2020, the arrival of the all-new Carnival at the tail end of 2021 was a big surprise, especially when Kia in Malaysia was going through a period of limbo, transitioning from its old distributor to its new one.
Now under BAuto, the same company that has served many happy Mazda buyers for many moons, Kia is all geared up for a re-establishment in the Malaysian market, starting with what is arguably their most important vehicle, the fourth-generation Carnival.
Debuted and previewed at Carlist.my's DRIVE Auto Fair last month, the 2022 Kia Carnival received a lot of attention, with some even booking the MPV before testing it out.
For those who have yet to get the chance to see the stylistic MPV and immerse themselves with the Carnival, no problem, let us tell you the good, the bad and the ugly, cause we just had a road trip from KL to Ipoh and back in one day.
Travelling 400km in the MPV over six hours has gotten us quickly acquainted with this Korean MPV. It really did highlight to us its strengths and weaknesses. We drove on city roads, back roads, and highways, gathering some valuable intel.
While one of the MPV's highlights is its undeniable stylistic design, which in my opinion makes it the best looking MPV on sale, its main draw for most buyers would be how it is on the inside.
There's no denying that the 2022 Carnival feels plush inside. From the dashboard layout to the materials used throughout the cabin, the Carnival feels premium. Yes, while we are not fans of the tan colour scheme of the interior, there's no denying that it feels high quality. Even the 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment system with high definition clarity is impressive and adds to the luxurious feel. In addition, the sound system is good, the front seats are nice and comfortable, and there's really nothing to complain about if you are sat in the front row.
Behind that front row however, is an entirely different story, something that will receive a mixed reception depending on other MPVs you have experienced. For example, if you have experienced a spacious seven-seater MPV, you might feel like it is a bit tight, but if you're used to compact seven-seaters, the space offered is similar but with more seats - let us explain.
Apart from the front row, the best seats in the MPV is of course in the second row. When the middle jump seat in the second row is tucked up sideways, the flanking seats are comfortable - despite having an odd feature.
On the right seat, you only get one armrest placed on the right side and on the left seat, you get an armrest placed on the left side. The left second-row seat is probably the most comfortable seat at the rear of the MPV as it has a makeshift armrest on the right provided by the tucked-away jump seat. It's not really an armrest, but it can be used as one.
During the journey up to Ipoh where we were full of energy, these seats were great, but when we were heading back to KL after a few hours of start-stop driving, we started to notice how there's not actually much legroom in the second row. We even checked if the seats were slid all the way back (because all of the seats in the Carnival can slide forwards and backwards to arrange better space), and they were.
We then tried the third row, where we instantly noticed that things had changed dramatically seat wise. The third-row seats are slimmer than the second row's, and the legroom was just acceptable. The problem here lies in the raised flooring after the second row. Because it is slightly raised, you pretty much sit in an awkward position where your knees are bent more than usual. While this might seem trivial to some, it is something to consider. The third row of seats are probably best fitted for kids, but adults should be fine for journeys no longer than a couple of hours.
When the fourth row is up (it can be hidden away in the floor when not used), it's pretty much a case of trying to adjust all rows to get that optimum comfort for all rear passengers. When this happens, it has to be said that all rear passengers would not be in the best of comfort. And then there is the luggage situation because if the fourth row is erected, there is absolutely no room for cargo.
The reality is that while the Kia Carnival can carry up to 11 passengers, we feel that it can only provide optimum comfort for adults in the front two rows. The rest of the seats at the back are best left for kids, which is excellent if you plan to use it for the kids anyway.
Apart from that, all other aspects of the Kia Carnival are quite fantastic. Its 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine with 199 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque is strong, and its 8-speed automatic transmission is quick and predictable. Kia also did a great job in the NVH department as the MPV feels refined and is pretty quiet on the inside. You really don't get the sense that it's a diesel engine powering the car, which adds to its upmarket feel.
It also drives well and has a good suspension setup that tries to balance comfort and driving dynamics. As a result, the Carnival doesn't feel too big to drive and is quite nimble around town. It does tend to feel slightly jumpy at high speeds, but you shouldn't be driving an MPV that fast in the first place.
The Kia Carnival might be down on advanced safety features, but it does come with Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA), which is handy for a larger than average MPV (remember, the Carnival is larger than the Toyota Alphard).
In short, the Kia Carnival is a master of none but a jack of all trades. It won't give you the supreme comfort of a luxurious six or seven-seater MPV, but it will allow you to carry more passengers. It does it with style and elegance, and the frugality and power of a turbo-diesel engine. When you couple that with looks that can kill, it's pretty hard to not like the Carnival, even given its shortcomings.
2022 Kia Carnival Specifications:
- Engine: 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Max Power: 199 hp at 3,800 rpm
- Max Torque: 440 Nm at 1,750 - 2,750 rpm
- Price: RM196,340 OTR without insurance, including SST exemption
- Safety: 7-airbags, ABS, ESC, TCS, MCB, ISOFIX, HAC, BCW, RCCA
- Origin: CBU from South Korea