As far as my memory goes, MPVs have always been considered a "cheap" way of transporting people in India. However things have started to look rather bright in the past couple of years with manufacturers launching some really interesting products in this body type. Right from the India’s first modular MPV Renault Triber, to India’s first luxury MPV Mercedes-Benz V-Class, MPVs have started to outperform everyone’s expectations. And now, Kia Motors is here to challenge the status quo with their newest offering, a premium MPV called the Carnival. We recently got a chance to drive the upcoming Carnival in Hyderabad and here’s our Kia Carnival first drive review:
Watch the review here:
MPVs, by the sheer virtue of their purpose, are not well designed. The idea of an MPV is to generate as much space inside the cabin and for that, manufacturers have long taken the easy route of making them as boxy and straight as possible. Things, however, are changing with changing times and Kia Carnival proves to be direct result of the changing times. Even though its 5-metre plus length can prove to be a problem while parking, design wise, Kia has hit the ball out of the park. Both the front end and the side profile looks ravishingly new, while I am not impressed with the plain looking back profile.
At the front are the LED Headlamps and LED Ice Cube Fog Lamps, Signature Tiger Nose Grille and bonnet lines that make the Carnival look premium. The side profile has the famed sliding doors and 18 inch alloys while the back has wraparound LED tail lamps and a spoiler. The Limousine variant we drove has the sputtering alloy wheels, which, I personally didn’t like that much. Overall, the sheer length and design makes the Kia Carnival a head turner.
Move inside the cabin, and you will shocked by the luxury quotient Carnival has to offer. The Carnival is available in three variants and we drove top-of-the-line limousine variant with dual-tone cabin and two-tone Nappa leather seats. There are three seating configurations on offer – a 7-seater cabin with 2+2+3 configuration, a 8-seater cabin with 2+3+3 configuration and a first-time in India 9-seater configuration with 2+2+2+3 configuration. The limo spec gets 7 VIP-seater configuration with the middle row seats that not only recline, but can move in all the four axis, making them the only seats in India to slide sideways. The middle row seats also comes with leg extension to convert them into a flatbed for a comfortable drive.
One of the highlights and selling point of the Kia Carnival are the electronic doors. All you have to do is press the little button and they will open automatically. The doors can be also be operated using buttons on the key and also on the roof for the easy driver access. The door opening is wide and getting inside and out is not a problem in the Carnival. The rear most seats can be access through the second row only and it’s a very easy function. The seats themselves are very comfortable and being an MPV, the Carnival is very high on practicality. Speaking of which, the boot deserves a special mention. Kia is smartly carved out additional boot space with all the three rows up. And if you want to generate additional space, the third row seats can be flat folded completely.
Features wise, the Kia Carnival is loaded to the brim with all the luxury and comfort features one can think of. Just to give you an idea of how exhaustive the list is, there’s a dual panel electric sunroof, rear seat entertainment package with two 10.1-inch screens for individual entertainment, Smart Air Purifier with a rear seat display, 10-way adjustable driver’s seat with ventilation, wireless phone charger, electronic tail gate, a thoughtful 220 -volt laptop charger and sunshade curtains for rear passengers. The three zone AC has roof mounted digital controls for rear passengers as well.
The infotainment unit is a 8-inch touchscreen system with navigation and 8-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. There’s also the Kia’s UVO connected app with 37 connected features that Kia is offering free for three years and now gets a smart watch connectivity as well. While the overall cabin is an epitome of luxury, I missed the ambient lighting, which could have been an icing on the cake.
The Carnival gets only one engine option for our market and that's a 2.2-litre BS-VI ready diesel engine producing 200 bhp and 400 Nm torque. There's only a 8-speed auto gearbox on offer. Kia claims the mileage is 13.9 kmpl while we got 10 kmpl, which is good for a car of this size. Even though there’s only one engine and gearbox option on offer, you never miss more powertrain options. Reason being, 1) the engine is a delight to use and 2) MPVs are all about utility and not performance.
Having said that, the Carnival equipped with MRF Wanderer tyres felt extremely comfortable to sit inside. Be it highway or city roads with potholes, the refined NVH levels and comfortable seats in sync with suspension makes you want to spend more time inside the Carnival. This however, is not true while driving the car yourselves. The steering is a bit on the heavier side and there’s a lot of understeer. The ultra-long 5-metre length is to be blamed here. The 8-speed gearbox works wonders and the engine performs what it is made to do; nothing more, nothing less. There’s no diesel clutter and a Urea level indicator is provided in the instrument cluster.
Safety wise, the Kia Carnival gets 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, hill hold control, roll over mitigation, front parking and rear parking sensors along with virtual safety tech operated using the UVO app. There’s a SOS button on the rear view mirror which we pushed to understand how useful it is. To our surprise, we received an immediate response from the Kia’s call centre for help. In this day and age, such safety tech is more useful than other passive safety systems.
The Kia Carnival is indeed a very unique product. It gets a variety of seating options, electronic doors and world class features to entice a wide array of audience. However, everything will boil down to the pricing. Even though Kia Carnival sits a segment above, everyone will eventually compare it with the Toyota Innova Crysta, which has set a benchmark for itself in all those years. And for that, Kia has to keep the Carnival’s pricing very aggressive. Going by the Kia’s pricing strategy, if they are able to pull off another Seltos with the Carnival, we can potentially look at the birth of a new benchmark in the world of the MPVs.