How can we get excited about a Mum Bus? Try the Kia Carnival and find out. Chris Mullett reports.
You could be forgiven for thinking that transporting kids to soccer on Saturdays, or collecting the neighbourhood tribe as part of a transport roster system, would be both boring and annoying.
Especially, you do need your transport choice to be inherently safe if you have other people’s kid entrusted into your care. You also need to know you can locate and belt-in, with ease, each of the kids you carry. Experience shows these basic requirements can become not only difficult, they can lead to tears, both on the part of the children and sometimes for the mum or dad at the wheel.
Then along came Kia. It’s Carnival admittedly does look very much like a Mum Bus, and, while that might put off some potential buyers, remember that versatility is something you are going to need, and it’s a key element in the Carnival’s success. Also on the must have list when you go Mum Bus shopping is the need for space, ease of access and egress, and, hopefully, some form of driving pleasure in a world dominated by airbags, seat belts and shopping.
The Carnival from Kia comes with an impressive tag, as it’s Australia’s most popular people mover under $55,000.
Consider the alternative options of mega-large four-wheel-drives, wagons with limited or tricky access into a final row of seats, or panel vans with additional rows of seats – then look at the interior of the latest Carnival. You’ll be most agreeably surprised.
High quality pile carpeting and leather seats take you into a new comfort zone, and with individual bucket front seats that are more like captain’s chairs, there’s a surprisingly high degree of comfort.
And, as we found at Delivery magazine during a drive of the latest version, there’s greater appeal to this eight-seat passenger shifter than you might think – especially if you need to add versatility to your vehicle purchase.
There’s a distinctly different face to the Carnival for those that run a small business where you need to move packages and freight. And if you like to enjoy a higher comfort level than that provided by the average van, you might also like to consider the Carnival in the role of delivery or courier vehicle.
The seats are quick release throughout the centre rows, but, as these seats are each individual rather than a bench, it’s possible to fold each one forwards, or, at the click of a catch, remove each or all of the seats in the centre row completely.
The rearmost row is also particularly clever. With the seats in the upright position, there’s a deep cargo well behind them, which is accessed through the rear tailgate. This deep space extends across the complete width of the rear of the vehicle and has to be the best place yet invented in a car to hold the weekly shopping.
But, if you don’t need the rear seat row, the seats themselves fold into the well and the seat backs then become flat on the floor, giving a typical wagon or estate car flat load area.
The latest Carnival has just received an upgrade resulting in four long-wheelbase models, Bluetooth across the range, and the introduction to the line up of the “R-series” CRDi turbo diesel engine.
The model range has been reduced slightly, with the short-wheelbase Carnival S cut from the range and now replaced by a long-wheelbase Grand Carnival S model. The Grand Carnival Si, SLi and Platinum remain.
“Carnival is a signature model in our range,” said Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Tony Barlow. “It is a good value proposition, which is why one in three new people movers under $55,000 sold so far this year have been Kia Carnivals.
“The latest refresh has allowed us to add new technologies to the existing long list of features, and maintain Grand Carnival’s position as a great value people mover”.
The most noteworthy change to the entry-level Grand Carnival S is the replacement of the 2.7-litre petrol engine with the more powerful and more efficient 3.5-litre V6 DOHC powerplant with continuous variable valve timing.
Buyers of the Grand Carnival Si, SLi and Platinum models will have a choice of either the 3.5-litre petrol or Kia’s latest 4-cylinder, 2.2-litre CRDi R-series diesel engine. The R-series diesel offers improved power and greater efficiency than the 2.9-litre predecessor and is the driving force behind Kia’s Sorento and Sportage.
The 2.2-litre R-series diesel produces an impressive 143 kW of power and a massive 429 Nm of torque. Torque is up 86 Nm, or 25 percent, while fuel consumption improves by 3.7 percent compared to its predecessor.
The entire range has now received the transmission upgrade, with both the petrol and diesel engines matched to Kia’s six-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the five-speed, the six-speed automatic has 62 fewer parts, and is 41 mm shorter and 12 kg lighter – making it one of the most compact and efficient six-speed transmissions available.
New to the line up is the addition of Bluetooth functionality with remote audio controls located on the steering wheel. Buyers of the Si model, and above, will benefit from the standard fitment of roof rails, power third row windows, rear air conditioning controls, interior metal finish, and heated outside mirrors. The Si model has also received sporty looking 16-inch alloy wheels.
Safety continues to be a priority across the eight-seater range, with ABS and ESC with traction control standard throughout. Front, side and curtain airbags, and side door impact beams also offer peace of mind for passengers in all four models.
At the end of the day, when you’ve been out car hunting, the final choice is always influenced by the degree of pleasure attached to driving the final selection.
The average punter is going to be in for a shock with the Carnival, as it’s a really good drive. It’s front-wheel-drive layout contributes to the flat floor inside, but it also means you get better roadholding than you’d expect in this segment.
The new 2.2-litre diesel matched to the six-speed automatic transmission is also a ripper of an engine. It’s smooth and powerful, but it’s also very quiet, without any of the diesel clatter that comes with some models.
Fuel economy with the new 2.2-litre diesel comes in for the combined figure at 8.1 l/100 km, and can drop as low as 6.6 l/100 km on a highway run. The emissions level is 213 g/km, dropping to 174 g/km respectively.
If petrol engines are your preference, you’ll be looking at a combined figure of 10.9 l/100 km and a highway consumption of 8.1 l/100 km. Emissions levels are 259 g/km and 195 g/km accordingly.
If you choose the top-of-the-line Platinum or SLI, you get a rear-vision camera and display on the rear-vision mirror, and the Platinum adds rear park sensors into the mix, plus a sunroof. Cruise control is standard throughout the range, and the air conditioning system is ducted right through to the third row of seats.
There are five child restraint anchorage points, and, one feature we haven’t mentioned yet, powered, sliding side doors. Touch the door handle, and the sliding side doors motor in or out of position.
As a complete package, the Carnival will surprise you. Who would have thought that a Mum Bus could be fun as well as practical.