For the last two generations, the Kia Carnival has been the strong mini-van contender in our market because of its balance of comfort, choice of two wheelbase options, healthy 2.9-liter turbodiesel, space and ultimately price. With the all-new 3rd generation Kia Grand Carnival, however, it has finally become the new standard. It is no longer the contender or just the fiscal alternative. Once again its overall packaging is its biggest advantage. The new application of the high-performance 2.2-liter turbodiesel mated to a 6-speed manumatic transmission has been long coming. I reckon Kia had to fully purge the abundant supply of the old chassis and drivetrain first while they developed the new winning total redesign, which is truly great, yet still could have been even more desirable if it were more complete in its domestic configuration.
The big problem is that despite all the niceties and upgrades made to the new Carnival, it is not the bargain that it used to be; in fact, it is significantly more expensive than the model it replaced. An increase in cost was certainly expected due to the quantifiable upgrades and redesign, but at P2.3 Million there are three essential components that are still missing. First, a rear camera to support the rear parking sensors. Second, either LED or HID headlights instead of the standard halogen bulbs. Lastly, given the target market, a better audio/infotainment system with a rear high-resolution video screen to entertain not just children anymore but adults during those long daily bouts with city traffic.
Until the new Toyota Alphard got independent rear suspension, even the last Kia Carnival was the only mini-van in the domestic market to reap the handling and comfort benefits of such a system. So for a different perspective, the new Carnival is the most spacious and most powerful full-size mini-van in the market. The ultra-luxurious Toyota Alphard still has the best seats, is full featured, and is the most dynamic in the sense of outright speed (which is not essential in this segment), but it is also just short of a million pesos more expensive and does consume significantly more fuel, as well as carry less people and cargo. The Toyota is also in a different class level but both products will be compared by more or less the same wealthy buyers nonetheless. It will come down to priorities and budget. If outright capacity and fuel range are paramount, then the Kia will win every debate.
Our Titanium Brown colored test unit had the standard 18 x 7.5” alloys shod with meaty 235/60R18 103H Nexen N-Priz RH7 tires. Once the standard tires are worn or sooner replaced with a more premium set of rubber, you would definitely enjoy a better ride with even better overall handling performance. The all-new Carnival chassis is very solid, with as much as 36% more static stiffness compared to its direct competition as the Sedona in North America where it thrives with every feature but powered by a 276-bhp 3.3-liter V6. The body uses 76% more Ultra High Strength Steel for even better rigidity, durability and collision protection. The Carnival rides on a 120-inch wheelbase compared to 109 inches on the AWD Sorento with the same price, same engines and the same transmission. To compensate for the increased mass, the power delivery, particularly torque of the overachieving 4-banger (325 lb-ft @ 1750-2750 rpm compared to 248 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm in the V6), has been re-tuned for a bit more power compared to past models spread over the most routinely usable powerband. The Carnival does not have the adjustable Flex-Steer system for the steering but you wouldn’t miss it. It is the best handling, best stopping, and most fuel efficient mini-van in the market.
Even if the middle-row and front passenger do not have the ottoman feature found in the Alphard, the seating is broad, flexible, and still very comfortable. The new commodious interior design is an enormous departure from the old models; it is not just modern but thoughtful. The Hyundai Starex still has more headroom and a bit more cargo space but it cannot match the smooth ride, fuel economy, design and luxury that the new Grand Carnival has in spades.
Specification – 2015 Kia Grand Carnival
Engine: Inline-4, 2199cc, dohc 16V, CRDi E-VGT Turbodiesel, Sportmatic 6-speed AT
Max power: 197 bhp @ 3800 rpm
Max torque: 325 lb ft @ 1750-2750 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 9.8 sec.
Top Speed: 198 km/h (124 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 9.4 L/100km Overall
Price on delivery: PhP 2,300,000.00
C! RATING 9.7/10
+Good looking, most powerful engine in its class, very spacious, heavily updated in all fronts
-Missing some key equipment found in other territories