Stigma. A word that car manufacturers often dread. A word that most first generation Kia Carnival owners are familiar with.
For those in the dark, a gasket failure wreaked havoc on the Kia Carnival, thus tainting the Carnival nameplate and destroying its resale value. Despite that, not everyone was a victim. Owners with cars that remained trouble free often praised the Carnival’s cavernous cabin, comfort especially on long road trips.
Kia subsequently launched the second-generation Carnival in 2005, though that model never arrived here.
The third-generation model then made a debut in 2014 but arrived locally in March 2017.
We got behind the wheel of the entry-level Kia Grand Carnival 2.2 CRDI KX, priced at RM165,888.
Engine: 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel with Variable Geometry Turbo
Power: 193 PS @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 440 Nm between 1,750 – 2,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Safety: Six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TC), ISOFIX (4x, Second & third row seats)
Origin: Fully imported from South Korea
Price: RM165,888 for 2.2 CRDi KX, RM185,888 for 2.2 CRDi EX (with insurance)
Naza Kia intends to capture the large MPV market with its new Grand Carnival, aimed squarely at the Toyota Vellfire. The company says that the Grand Carnival is 185 mm longer, 130 mm wider yet 155 mm lower than the Japanese. At the same time, the Grand Carnival boasts a 60 mm longer wheelbase than the Vellfire.
The other competitor that Naza Kia did not mention is the Hyundai Starex. Granted, the Starex seats up to 11 people, versus the Grand Carnival’s 8, but the latter boasts more torque and an extra cog in its automatic transmission.
Peter Schreyer and his team did an excellent job with the new Kia Grand Carnival, that is for sure. The strong lines on the exterior does not make the new MPV look garish. In fact, quite the opposite, as the Grand Carnival conveys a very premium appeal.
The usage of chrome on the front and rear is not as generous as the Toyota Vellfire, which is good news for some. The side profile is completely devoid of chrome, with its strong shoulder line gaining attention. Speaking of side profile, both the 2.2 KX and 2.2 EX gains 18-inch alloy wheels, though the latter receives machine finished units.
Kia’s family design continues to the rear, with its tail light design reminiscence of the recently-launched Kia Sorento. LED tail lamps are standard across the range as well.
Those opting for the range-topping 2.2 EX will get the earlier-mentioned 18-inch machine finished alloy wheels. On top of that, a black glossy front grille and roof rails are also exclusive to the 2.2 EX. These are the only visual differences between the two models.
In line with recent Kia models, build quality is top notch. Coupled with the excellent fit and finish, the interior is a really nice place to be in.
Seat comfort is commendable, though the ones we sampled was with the fabric upholstery. For the driver and front passenger, the seats provide ample support and comfort.
As for the rear, legroom and headroom is generous. Even with the driver seat adjusted to fit a 170 cm person, those behind won’t be feeling cramped. Those confined to the third row won’t feel claustrophobic, thanks to the interior’s light colour and large side windows. Legroom for the third row is also enough for most.
With the third row seats up, boot space is an enormous 960 litres, which can be expanded to 2,220 litres with the third row folded. With all rear seats folded, the Kia Grand Carnival boasts up to 4,022 litres of space.
These numbers are achieved thanks to its clever second row seats that is able to stand up and third row seats that fold neatly into the floor. Hauling furniture from the nearby Ikea has never been so easy.
Apart from that, Kia has also provided several USB ports for charging purposes, though the only one port is provided for the rear passengers.
A large MPV is nothing if cooling is insufficient. To address that, Kia has installed blower vents in the Grand Carnival’s ceiling. These work well to cool the rear passengers, which can be controlled from its digital panel on the top right corner of the ceiling.
Power sliding doors come as standard fitment on both variants of the Kia Grand Carnival. To prevent injury, anti pinch is present, though we don’t recommend owners trying this out.
For us, the only gripe we had with the interior of the Grand Carnival is the diminutive touchscreen head unit. The screen’s diameter is a woeful 4.3-inch, considerably smaller than most smartphones on the market today. Feature wise, it does have USB and AUX connectivity, and that is about it. There is no Bluetooth, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, which we feel is rather unacceptable for a vehicle priced well above the RM150,000 mark in 2017.
With a peak torque of 440 Nm, overtaking is never an issue with the Kia Grand Carnival. Gently poking the throttle sends the 2-tonne MPV scurrying into the horizon. Even with four adults on board plus various bags, acceleration is strong from its CRDi block. Breaking traction is comically easy, especially from toll booths and traffic lights.
Another gripe we have with the Kia Grand Carnival is the hydraulic steering. For navigating around tight spots, the light steering is very much welcomed. However, for long distance cruising, the steering is lacking in assurance. Steering feedback is practically non-existent on the Kia.
In short, the Kia Grand Carnival excels at being a family mover. The ride feels planted on smooth surfaces, though the large 18-inch alloy wheels can make ride rather jittery through rutted roads.
Kia’s utilization of rear multilink suspension versus the Starex’s live axle also meant that ride comfort is superior over the latter.
Sound insulation is also worth mentioning. Although the Grand Carnival utilizes a turbodiesel, passengers will never know, as the engineers at Kia has managed to isolate all the nasty vibrations associated with diesel engines. It revs smoothly up to its 4,500 rpm redline. The only hint that a diesel is under the hood is when you stand outside the vehicle, where the diesel clatter is evident.
Road and wind noise are also well suppressed from the cabin. Coupled with the large nature of the Grand Carnival, we did not notice that our speed already surpassed the national speed limit. Driven sedately, this new South Korean MPV makes for an excellent road trip vehicle for a large family.
We started off with the trip computer registering 11 L/100 km. Our drive with the Kia Grand Carnival brought us around town, highways and various trunk roads. By the time we returned the MPV, the trip computer was registering 10 L/100 km. We reckon with a gentle foot, the Kia should be able to nudge closer to its claimed 6.4 L/100 km consumption.
Our time with the Kia Grand Carnival was rather short, with each driver covering less than 100 km. With that said, our initial impressions of the new MPV is mostly positive. The cavernous cabin plus its excellent comfort makes for an excellent family mover. Six airbags are present to protect occupants in case an accident occurs.
Naza Kia is very confident with its new Grand Carnival, saying that the new model plus upcoming ones, will push sales up by another 25%. Optimistic, no doubt, but if subsequent models are as good as the Grand Carnival, we believe it can be achieved.