WHEN practicality rules your life, but you’re not prepared to let it cramp your style, there is a solution. Kia gives us the 2021 Carnival S to be the saviour, and meet your everyday needs, while doing it with just a splash of pizzazz.
It’s that practicality that might just be the sexiest thing about the Kia Carnival S, and while it is the entry level model, tested here in its diesel form, it has enough features to be considered anything but basic.
Aimed predominately at families, Kia has tagged the Carnival as a grand utility vehicle, rather than a people mover, and with good reason.
Even in the S variant, the updates give the big SUV-styled van a modern and edgy feel, moving away from the traditional drab aesthetic of years past. Those changes include new look rear lights, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and a fresh front grille.
It all makes the 2021 Kia Carnival S certainly look distinctively different, and a lot more wagon-like, compared to competitors in this space (like the ageing Honda Odyssey and new look Volkswagen Multivan).
A spacious cabin provides adequate seating for up to eight, with the ability to remove the middle seat in the second row and create a walk through to the third row adding to its versatility.
Interior trim in the S is fabric/cloth, unlike the higher spec models, like the range topping Platinum, which feature leather. It’s all still very comfortable and styling though, and suits the family feel that Kia is clearly aiming for.
Equipment levels are good, and include power windows, a 4.2-inch colour TFT supervision instrument cluster and digital speedo. There are also five USB ports (three in the front and two in the second row), and two 12V charging points.
The only interior feature that lets the Kia Carnival S down is the steering wheel. It feels horrendously plastic and in a car that cost more than $50,000 is rather cheap in both look and feel.
Personally, we would like to think that if we were laying down 50 large, Kia could provide at least the same steering wheel that is offered across the rest of the range. Every other variant gets one that feels nice to the touch and a lot more premium.
In stark contrast, the smaller 8.0-inch infotainment system that features in the Kia Carnival S is a hidden gem, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which might seem little surprising.
What is amazing, is that this entry level variant is the only one that comes with said wireless capability. Weird really. The S level Carnival also comes with a 6-speaker stereo, which works well.
Noticeably, it does miss out on satellite navigation, which in 2021 isn’t really a deal breaker, given the capabilities of smart phones, and the fact you can tap Google Maps at the touch of a screen.
The boot area is another standout in the 2021 Kia Carnival S, with a sunken rear floor giving you the ability to make the most of storage space. There’s also nine cup holders, four bottle holders, and four small storage compartments spread throughout the car.
It’s powered by a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder 148kW diesel engine, offering 440Nm of torque. It’s not as quiet and a little less refined than the petrol variant, but it still has plenty of power to get the Carnival around. Its impressive 6.5-litres/100km fuel economy is a bonus.
The powerplant is matched nicely to an 8-speed automatic gearbox and offers a comfortable drive for a family people mover (or should that be grand utility vehicle). It rides on 17-inch alloy wheels.
The 2021 Kia Carnival S also comes with a host of safety technology, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and junction assist, blind spot collision avoidance and multi-collision braking.
You’ll also get hill start assist, safe exit warning, intelligent speed assist, rear cross traffic alert, intelligent smart cruise control, multiple airbags, a bevy of parking sensors, and a reversing camera.
The 2021 Kia Carnival S is available in Silky Silver (as tested) as well as Ceramic Silver, Astra Blue, Panthera Metal and Flare Red. It retails for $52,890 drive away and is backed by Kia’s 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Our test vehicle was provided by Kia Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Kia Carnival S, contact your local Kia dealer.