The inside story
The new Carnival is 10 millimetres wider and 40 millimetres longer overall, giving it a 30-millimetre-longer wheelbase. That means even more leg, head and shoulder room than its cavernous predecessor.
As well as ample head and leg room, there’s so much space across the front that both occupants can rest their elbows on the armrest without touching. The seats are on the firmer side, without being uncomfortable, and offer decent bolstering for support. There’s a premium feel to the leather and the interior is broken up with splashes of dark grey and cream throughout.
It has a staggering nine cupholders, and as well as a huge central storage bin there’s a wireless charging nook, another slot for a mobile device in the console, and long front door pockets but minimal bottle storage in the doors.
The 12.3-inch central infotainment screen uses Kia’s latest multimedia system with appealing, modern graphics and a user-friendly menu layout. Kia is nailing infotainment these days, although adding a controller in the centre console would help because it’s quite a stretch to reach the touchscreen in such a large car. The display projects views of the reversing camera split with the 360-degree around-view monitor, which is useful when parking. The 12-speaker Bose audio system is top notch.
A couple of niggles, however. At one point on a hot Melbourne day, the central screen failed to activate after starting the car. It happened twice but then righted itself. Not great, but we suspect this is not an ongoing fault. Also, something behind the instrument binnacle reflects light onto the windscreen on sunny days, right in the line of sight.
The Carnival has some clever tech, including a passenger talk function that uses a microphone to capture the driver’s voice and project it through rear speakers, so you don’t have to yell to the third row. There’s a quiet mode that only plays audio through the front speakers – handy if you have sleeping passengers. You can also create a personal profile that saves personal settings for functions like Bluetooth, seating and mirror positions and navigation settings.
The rear sliding door opens simply by standing next to it with the proximity key or by tapping the one-touch button on the handle. To open from inside, just tap the button at the base of the B-pillar.
The flexible second row has three separate seats, and the centre seat is reversible, allowing adults to keep an eye on a baby in from? the rear pew. Note that Australian Design Rules state the seat can be used by an adult or a child, but you can’t fit a child restraint to it while facing rearward. The centre seat also folds flat and has a huge tray, two device slots and a pair of cupholders.
Adding to the flexibility is the flat floor – there is no bulging transmission tunnel so it’s easy to move around the cabin. Seats are flat but comfortable, and there’s ample leg, head and shoulder room, while toe room is limited.
Heated second-row seats are standard on the Platinum and rear occupants can tap a button on the side of the front passenger seat to move it forward for even more leg room. Knee-level and roof-mounted air-con vents, a coat hook, and 12-volt and USB ports on the front seatback all feature in row two.
Even at six foot tall, getting in and out of the third row is a breeze – much less awkward than climbing into the third row of a large SUV. There’s decent leg room for my height and more toe room than in the second row, but head room is slightly tighter. The back row has phone, bottle and cup storage, USB ports, roof vents and speakers. The curtain airbags cover all three rows, too. The Carnival is a genuine eight-seater, but the centre seat in the third row is tight – best kept for kids. Still, we would much rather drive long distances in this than in the third row of any seven-seat SUV.
Even with all three rows in place, the Carnival has an impressive 627-litre capacity in the deep boot, beating every large SUV on the market. This increases to 2785 litres when the 60/40 split-fold third row is stowed flat into the floor. The handle and strap mechanism to pull the seats back into place is clever and lightweight. The Carnival has a temporary spare tyre.