South Africa is endowed with some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the world and it does not necessitate having a full-blown 4x4 to get close to the best of it.
Screaming ‘pick me, pick me’ the Kia Carnival stands front and centre as an ideal choice for effortlessly soaking up kilometres of road in search of all that beauty, while keeping the occupants of the vehicle nestled in almost ostentatious luxury.
The 2,2-litre CRDi diesel engine with 148 kW and 440 Nm simply adores the open road where it purrs along at a reasonably economical rate – claimed average being 6,8 l/100 km – with my test average of 7,1 l/100 km coming extremely close to the claims and still putting it well within accepted norms for a vehicle this size.
In real terms, the new Carnival is longer (by 40 mm), wider (10 mm) and higher (35 mm) than the outgoing Grand Sedona but overall mass has increased by just 14 kg.
For every up there is a down – in the case of the Carnival this comes when the city traffic closes in and it is just that much harder to ‘wiggle’ into gaps and, indeed, to squeeze in and out of Sandton City parking bays.
While it does just fit within the demarcated lines, the wide opening ‘easy-in, easy-out’ front doors that are so practical when stopping to view some panoramic vista, do not do so well in tight spaces. The two rear sliding doors on the other hand work a treat.
Certainly, learning how to reverse with both mirrors and camera images is a must.
Just to sort out any confusion – the Carnival was called Sedona in many markets around the world, but Kia has now determined Carnival as the global nameplate.
Beginning in 2010, the second-generation model received updated equipment, including Kia's corporate Tiger Nose grille, as introduced by its then new design chief, Peter Schreyer. Kia introduced its third-generation minivan in 2014, solely in a long wheelbase format. The fourth (and current) generation was introduced in 2020, when Kia also began using the Carnival nameplate worldwide.
So, the exterior design of the Carnival follows Kia’s recent signature SUV style, with the modernised ‘tiger nose’ grille dominating the front.
A bold cutline runs the length of the vehicle, joining the front and rear lamps, and large two-tone mirrors and black/chrome rocker panel mouldings contribute to the all-new Carnival.
It offers space for 7 or 8 passenger flexibility (depending on the trim level) and, with all seats erected the boot offers 1 139 litres of luggage space. Remove the second row and stow the third flush with the floor and that figure increases to 4 110 litres! Really, really big!
Seven-seat versions of the all-new Carnival offer two individual second-row chairs matching the front seats for comfort and configurability, whilst the 8-seat options adopt the 2+3+3 configuration.
The Carnival has a comprehensive list of standard safety equipment including, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features including: Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA), Blindspot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) with Lane Following Assist (LFA), Blindspot View Monitor (BVM), Smart Cruise Control (SCC) and Around View Monitor (AVM).
This vehicle tops the R1-million mark, so it is not unreasonable to expect the new Carnival to pack pretty much everything modern tech has available. Comparing it to opposition such as Hyundai Staria and Mercedes-Benz Vito, it stands its ground without fear.
With an acceleration to 100 km/h time of 10,9 seconds and a top speed of 187 km/h, the Carnival has no intention or will to race. Space and luxury is the name of the game here, and the Carnival more than holds its own in that regard.
However, it is kitted with gearshift paddles and a Sport mode for those occasions when a little extra is needed - and I must admit I found Normal mode coped with pretty much everything in standard daily use.
Obviously, a vehicle this size has some limitations in the handling department and just by its sheer volume of metal, it could find winds challenging. The Carnival responded well, though – very stable on the road even with a blustery side wind and just as planted on the sweeping curves of the country’s hinterland.
To this end, while the steering is light and easy to manage in those parking lots, it still provides the right levels of accuracy and response on the open road.
A vehicle I could easily grow well accustomed to.