2020 Kia Carnival S
2020 Kia Carnival S

GONE are the days of families getting stuffed into a station wagon, your brothers or sisters sitting on top of you, dog licking your ear from the boot, luggage failing on your head. Holidays weren’t fun. But the 2020 Kia Carnival S changes all that.

Horrible holidays, with your dad telling you to be quiet, are a thing of the past, as families opt for people movers, and the opportunity to cruise in style and comfort. There’s room enough for the whole family too, eight people in the case of the Carnival S.

We’re testing out the base model, or S variant, powered by a 3.3-litre petrol engine, and if first impressions count for anything, this van is huge – inside and out. The Carnival has a massive footprint at 1.985m wide, so you definitely see it coming.

Perfectly placed seats allow you to transport the little squirts to and from school, soccer training or dancing, and when their not in use, the three rear seats (the back row) sinks into the floor. It’s an ingenious idea, and lifts the potential load space to 2220-litres.

Kia has kept the seating large but a tad firm in the base model, although that’s not a terrible thing. You can jump into the Carnival via two larger than normal front doors, while two super-sized sliding doors allow access to the back rows.

Unfortunately, the S doesn’t have automatic rear doors like the SLi or Platinum, so a little manual intervention is required. Lots of glass means almost unimpeded forward vision, and helps make this car feel exceptionally roomy and airy.

The front seats offer adjustable lumbar support only, and the expansive dashboard can be seen by driver and passenger, with big instrument dials, great ventilation, and more storage compartments than you can poke a stick at.

The multimedia touchscreen does require a steady finger once you’re on the move, but most of the regular switches are easy to reach, bar a few, like the the air conditioning fan speed and volume knob, but they all feel light to operate.

The interior is finished well too, albeit a little bland.

Under the hood is Kia’s 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine making 206kW/336Nm, coupled with an 8-speed auto, sending power to the front wheels. Front wheel drive makes sense, but with the Carnival’s V6 petrol motor, it doesn’t.

And here’s why. Depress the go pedal at a set of lights and all you are met with is torque steer and tyre screeching. That’s cool if you’re driving a heart thumping V8 (minus the torque steer), but you’re not. It’s a people mover. You just look obnoxious and weird.

Driving around town, the Carnival responds well to everything you throw at it, car parks, school drop offs, highways and suburban streets. It handles well and feels rather planted to the road, which is great considering it’s sheer size.

It also fails with poor driver steering feedback. Under speed, the Carnival feels increasingly light, way too light. It needs some Kia engineering handiwork to add some feedback from the steering rack, and make it a little heavier.

The motor is responsive under the pedal though, but is noisy. The sound almost reminds us of a power steering pump when it’s on the way out, and no matter how loud you turn the stereo up, you can’t drown it out.

Our story doesn’t get any better with this engine’s fuel consumption. Kia claims a combined consumption of 10.8-litres/100km, but we felt lucky when we got it below 14.0-litres/100km. The Carnival doesn’t mind a drink, let’s put it that way.

A lot of movement from the accelerator pedal is required to drive the Carnival S (sort of like the go pedal is asleep at the wheel), and while there’s plenty of oomph, you need to push the pedal a long way to find it.

The Carnival S comes standard with AEB, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. It’s equipped with a reversing camera and rear sensors, along with automatic lights, and 17-inch steel rims (with hubcaps, yes, really).

There’s a 7-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto, and a 3.5-inch OLED screen between the dash dials. The seating is cloth trimmed, and as we said, the S is the base variant in a four grade range (with the Si, SLi and Platinum above it).

Overall, the 2020 Kia Carnival S represents great practical motoring for the fam bam. Unfortunately there are a few flaws, but if you can look past them you will soon find yourself asking why you didn’t buy one sooner.

It’s available in three colours; Clear White, Silky Silver, and Panthera Metal (Dark Grey). Purchase a SLi or Platinum variant and you unlock three additional colours; Snow White Pearl, Deep Chroma Blue, and Aurora Black.

It comes with what might as well be called 7-years of Kia goodness. A 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty, 7-years capped price servicing and a year of roadside assist that can be extended by, you guessed it, 7-years (to up to 8-years in total).

Our 2020 Kia Carnival S was provided by Kia Australia. To find out more, contact your nearest Kia dealer.

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