We spent a couple of days last week in Hyderabad amidst royalty and heritage, words that you don't often relate to an MPV. But in the city home to the Nizams, Kia Motors India, introduced us to its newest offering - the Carnival. It's second offering in the country is its new flagship too. The Carnival was under consideration for India before the brand commenced operations here in 2019, and now it is all set to make its way to the market next month. With the MPV segment being one of the more consistent sellers in the auto space, can the Carnival make a difference? We find out.
Also Read: India-Spec Carnival Details Revealed
The Seltos was Kia India's first product that was trying to make an impression with a very bold design. The Carnival, on the other hand, is not doing that, so it's more about understated elegance. You do get the tiger nose grille that is common to the Kia family, but it gets a dull finish all around, while the smaller chrome elements on the grille tend to that tend to give an upmarket look to the MPV. The grille is upright with a slightly swooping bonnet and the massive headlamp units come with LED daytime running lights and projector lens units. There are also the larger C-shaped bezels that surround the ice cube-shaped LED fog lamps that have been nicely done. A nice touch is the blacked-out C-pillar that adds a more SUV-esque appearance on the MPV. A small rugged element with a faux skid plate at the front and rear bumper that gives it a brawny appearance to what is largely a very urban but a very big MPV.
Also Read: Kia Carnival Teaser Out
(The Kia Carnival is 380 mm longer than the Toyota Innova Crysta and 180 mm wider too)
The Kia Carnival is substantially larger than most MPVs in the segment. It is 380 mm longer than the Innova Crysta and 180 mm wider too. The wheelbase is substantially longer by 310 mm... However, a shorter height than the Crysta helps offset the visual bulk. The Carnival gets a boxy profile overall and the flat panels at the side have little room to play around with it, in terms of styling. The massive 18-inch alloy wheels are offered as standard and our test car got the premium chrome units with the sputtering finish reserved for the range-topping variant.
The cabin matters more
But it's the cabin that has all the juicier bits on the multi-seater. The Kia Carnival is luxurious and that is visible right from the moment you step into the cabin. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable, and you sit at a height with a commanding view of the road... The width also becomes evident when inside the car with ample of space between the driver and the passenger. The dashboard layout is smart and allows easy access to all controls. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system takes prominence in the centre and provides access to everything from navigation, radio, climate control, vehicle telematics and more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well, and the system is ready for wireless connectivity when it becomes available in India in the future. Sadly, wireless connectivity won't be available at the time of launch. The car also comes with steering mounted controls, cruise control, wireless charging and one-touch entry for the rear doors.
The overall plastic quality is decent, and the cabin feels well put together right down to the well-cushioned seats. The steering wheel comes with mounted controls and a small multi-information display on the instrument console provides access to a host of information about the vehicle. The car is equipped with a Harman Kardon sound system on the top variants. Much like the Seltos, the Carnival also comes with the UVO Connected Tech including the remote engine start feature that can be used via a smartphone or even a smart watch.
There are lots of small and big stowage spaces in the cabin but the boot capacity is massive at 540 litres with the third row up and can be increased to a whopping 2,759 litres with the second and the third row folded... This thing can literally move houses!
The real party piece on the Carnival is in the second row. The top-spec Limousine variant gets the seven-seater layout with captain seats. This range-topping variant gets a 2+2+3 seating configuration with captain seats in the second row. The top-spec version only comes in Nappa leather and that's a very nice touch to the cabin. It's also a very comfortable space to be in with ample of legroom and head room is generous as well. If you want additional space, there is the panoramic sunroof added to your convenience. It adds a larger and airy vibe, add to that the beige and black interiors work well. And if you want a little more comfort, there's the extended foot support.
The second row also comes with 10-inch entertainment screens as standard on the top trim, while the smart air purifier emits clean air and fragrance in the cabin. The fragrance options are changeable as well. There's a laptop charging point too that a lot of executive buyers will particularly appreciate.
The third row offers good legroom and is a lot better than the other MPVs. The seats can accommodate three with ease and come with individual head rests. It lacks under-thigh support though. The larger glasshouse area allows a lot of light in the third row and the sunshade is a nice touch. Kia also offers all the nitty gritty including the sunshade, AC vents, cupholders on either side and a USB charging point.
How does it drive?
The Kia Carnival is large in proportions and it's hard to ignore the width of the car. But once you're on the driver's seat, all of that just vanishes. The MPV offers about 197 bhp and 440 Nm of peak torque on offer. The speeds build up quick and you get immediate thrust after 1700-1800 rpm and it pulls up to 2700 rpm and it's a quick car. And that's something that has really surprised us given the dimensions and total weight at about 2.2 tonnes. The 2.2-litre diesel engine is compliant with BS6 norms and makes ample power for the open road. The motor is paired only with an 8-speed automatic transmission that is well-calibrated and comes with a manual mode too. Ride-quality is simply excellent, and the model just glides over bad roads... The suspension performs its best when at cruising speeds between 80 and 100 kmph but gets a little unnerving at low speeds.
Having said that the Carnival has a few issues. To begin with, body roll is very evident and that is obvious given the sheer size of the model but it's a trade-off you are comfortable to make because the suspension is tuned towards comfort and it does that well, ride down to the third row. At the same time, I have an issue with the steering wheel and that is because it doesn't weigh up at high speeds. It's a very light steering wheel, very easy to use, and you don't really come to know the size of the Carnival on open roads. But at high speeds, you want it to weigh in a little more. The car can do triple-digit speeds with ease, so at that time you really want it to give you more feedback.
The Carnival offers excellent straight-line stability and feels in its comfort zone at triple-digit speeds. There are no signs of vibrations and that just adds to the overall driving experience. This one is a mile muncher and a massive fuel tank capacity of 60 litres promises a range of over 600 kilometres. However, braking does remain spongy on the MPV and we would appreciate more feedback from the brake pedal. The car comes with several safety features as standard including six airbags, front and rear parking sensors, electronic stability control and hill start assist.
The Carnival comes to India as a Completely Knocked Down kit. The launch is scheduled for the 2020 Auto Expo and we'll know the prices then. We expect Kia to set a premium price tag between ₹ 25 and 30 lakh rupees that puts it above the Toyota Innova Crysta, while also competing with several SUVS including the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and the Isuzu MU-X. The Toyota Innova Crysta is the segment benchmark with a very strong chunk of sales fueled by fleet buyers. The Kia Carnival though will be targeted at private buyers and aims to offer a more premium experience - whether on the driver's seat or when being driven. Can it threat the Innova's dominance in the segment? We will find out soon.