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Kia’s Cirque du Soleil – 2021 Kia Carnival review

From a European based perspective a carnival is a festival that includes a procession, music and dancing, in North America it’s more of a traveling funfair or circus but for Kia, it’s an 8-seater multivan that’s just full of surprises. Anyway, there’s a new Carnival in town and Kia New Zealand let us test it out.

I have very little doubt that any family household that exceeds four members must feel like a bit of a circus at times (all of the time). There are only three under our roof and trying to coordinate everyone to move in the same direction in unison without drama is like walking the high wire or performing a quadruple somersault on the trapeze. However, having the new Kia Carnival on the driveway put paid to most of the dramas.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

First and foremost it’s an MPV (people mover), multivan that doesn’t look like one – despite it being 40mm longer and having a wheelbase that’s 30mm longer than the previous model, it’s more of a lovechild between an SUV and a wagon. What’s more, my review model came in ‘Ceramic Silver’ which is more of a Ceramic grey and is best described as Nardo-Grey and contrasted with plenty of gloss and matte blacks, including the 19-inch wheels and trim.

The grille is now fully ‘tiger-nosed’, bordered with chrome and edged with Kia’s new LED lightning-bolt DRL and headlight set up. It’s all underlined by a lower chrome effect spoiler that looks great but maybe a target for higher-stanced kerbs or speed bumps.

Kia Carnival side doors

The Carnival’s profile features sliding doors on both sides that can be opened and closed using the keyfob (which starts the engine too) or simply by standing next to them – the latter does take a bit of working out though. Towards the rear, the new Carnival has some added bling in the shape of a chrome fin with diamond pattern. It certainly catches the eye and breaks up what would otherwise be bland back quarter.

Kia Carnival fin

The rear itself comes with a roofline spoiler, a full width light bar, chrome rear protection and a proximity opening tailgate that gives you access to an absolutely cavernous amount of space – and that’s even with all the seats up! 

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

The interior itself is a combination of upmarket luxury, epic space and ultra-modern tech. There’s leather throughout and the dashboard trim includes a tactile diamond band that is very pleasing to the eye too. The centre console is uncluttered with the 8-speed ‘drive by wire’ auto gearbox being controlled by the turn of a dial. There are plenty of cup holders and a real abundance of USB ports scattered throughout the cabin, and of course wireless phone charging (Qi).

Kia drive by wire

The instrument cluster comes in a soft edged binnacle that merges sweetly into the 12.3” Colour LCD Touchscreen beside it. The infotainment offerings seem endless with everything from the quirky ‘sounds of nature’ to calm and invigorate, to passenger talk (which make you sound like an airline pilot) or quiet mode, where only the driver is subjected to his 80s tunes rather than everyone enjoying them through the 12-speaker Bose system.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

Safety seems to be paramount (I guess it would be with a fully loaded Carnival) and the vehicle’s 5 star ANCAP Safety Rating (2021 standard) means that you get 7 Airbags, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist – Car, Pedestrian, Cyclist, Junction, Multi-Collision Brake, Lane Keep Assist & Lane Follow Assist, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist

Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Rear Occupant Alert with Sensor, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Around View Monitor with Dynamic Guidelines to name but a few.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

Thankfully, this was one of those opportunities that I had a lot of out of town errands to run during the week’s test and that meant a lot of kms. The long run from Auckland to Mt Maunganui had me with heated seats and heated wheel on, in Eco mode and engaging the very capable adaptive cruise control system. The result being a very relaxed driver and the (148kW/440Nm) 2.2L DOHC CRDi Turbo Diesel engine delivering a fuel-economy of 6.3L/100km.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

The drive itself doesn’t feel MPV like, it offers very little body roll without back breaking rigidity. Both comfort and information is there in droves and the steering feels perfectly weighted. Admittedly I didn’t try to thrash the Carnival during the test and mainly because it doesn’t feel like that type of vehicle.

With just the three of us, space was obviously not an issue for the 8-seater Kia, in fact we each had a row to ourselves. Those in the rear can adjust their own cabin temperature and as I mentioned before, can plug in all their devices and then some.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

Oddly, my son really liked the deep luggage space behind the third row, calling it his Ninja space and jumping out on unsuspecting passengers (only when stationary of course) – he makes me so proud.

2021 Kia Carnival review NZ

In the past I have considered that owning an MPV is giving up. In the movies they are portrayed as parents that have accrued too many children and spend an eternity with a furrowed brow yelling at ‘the team’ on board. Kia New Zealand’s Carnival has broken that mold. It’s an all purpose vehicle that the entire family can enjoy and for me quite frankly, is worth having more kids for – I wonder if the wife agrees?

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