The Kia Grand Carnival.
The Kia Grand Carnival.

Kia Grand Carnival road test review - flexibility and value

UNFORTUNATELY not all of us have the virtues of Penfolds Grange.

While we keep hearing 30 is the new 20 and so on, getting better with age can be ambitious.

Yet the Kia Grand Carnival has held its age with practical poise.

Although it is getting fairly long in the tooth by industry standards, the current model is approaching its 10th birthday after having a few nips and tucks along the way.

A new variant is due early in 2015, but it is still the biggest seller in the people-mover genre by far, with the alluring combination of eight seats, space and a frugal diesel engine option.

So does the Grand Carnival still have what it takes?

We went on a road trip with the kids, grandparents, an adult's bike along with everyone's luggage to see if the big Kia still has what it takes.

Comfort

Constantly I'm forced to invoke whinge-free zones around my seat. Kinda like the Maxwell Smart cone of silence, but mine is far less effective.

Long road trips are often a time when the "zone" must be introduced but when it came to setting sail in the Grand Carnival the cherubs were surprisingly silent.

Ample space meant there was no punching, biting or slapping, and complaints turned to the lack of lunchbox treats. I deflected those to mum.

Up front and the passengers can sit back in the leather-clad pews featuring captain's arms.

Generous leg, head and knee room makes long journeys a cinch, and even adults about 170cm can fit in the third row.

Every row in the Platinum variant also has air-conditioning vents.

Highlighting the Carnival's age is the stereo system and dual-zone air-con design, which looks dated and basic. Expect this to be improved dramatically with the new variant, but in its favour is the simplistic functionality that makes things easy to understand and find buttons quickly.

On the road

Piloting the Grand Carnival is not daunting like some other vans.

Just remember its bulk in the bends by washing off some speed before turn-in and it delivers a predictable and confident ride.

It's surprisingly deft in tight situations too.

There were a few occasions when we successfully reverse park into some snug spaces.

Light steering comes to the fore in school drop-offs and confined car parks.

We enjoyed the diesel's wide torque band, which delivered ample power when required.

During long highway travels it proved frugal by hovering about 2000rpm at 100kmh.

Better rubber would improve traction, which was found wanting on occasions in the wet, when the front wheels struggled for traction on slight inclines.

What do you get?

Given Platinum sits atop the range, it gets a six-stacker CD stereo, tri-zone climate controlled air-con, Bluetooth phone connectivity, leather trim, sunroof, cruise control and an electric adjustable driver's seat.

It has four-star safety with the likes of stability and traction control.

Rear sensors and the camera mounted in the rear view mirror are absolutely vital for safe parking.

Practicality

There is an excellent collapsible tray in the centre between the driver and passenger, featuring four cup holders and the perfect space for handbags, wallets, keys and phones. Below the shifter are two fold-out bins, while each door has space for a bottle. Another three cup holders are found in the third row, as well as a small storage bin.

There is a 12-volt plug in the boot and on the console (but no USB stereo port). This is a genuine eight-seater, with easy access to the child seat anchorage points to all three pews in the second row, and two in the third. That second row can also be completely removed to create a wonderfully useful van.

Running costs

We managed to achieve more than 700km from a tank, which was pretty close to the official fuel usage figure of 8.1 litres for every 100km.

The diesel is by far the best choice in this realm, with the six-cylinder petrol alternative sucking down an extra three litres for every 100km.

Insurance should be at the lower end of the scale.

Other options

There is also the Honda Odyssey VTi-L ($47,620), Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive ($43,990), Toyota Tarago GLX ($59,408), Chrysler Grand Voyager LX ($57,500) and the Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline TDI400 ($56,990).

Funky factor

All that functionality comes at a cost. The Carnival won't earn too many accolades at the beauty pageant.

It's a people-mover, and they're not traditionally the sexiest of beings. We look forward to seeing what is revealed at the New York motor show next week.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

What we liked: Excellent space for eight and still with room in the boot, outstanding loading flexibility.

What we'd like to see: Updated interior, some Peter Schreyer design brilliance on the exterior, five-star safety.

Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, capped price servicing for five years is $395 with services due annually or every 15,000km.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Kia Grand Carnival Platinum CRDi.

Details: Eight-seat front-wheel drive people-mover.

Engine: 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 143kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 429Nm @ 2000rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Consumption: 8.1 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 213g/km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $56,290.


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