KIA Insider

Can this 1990s icon become cool again?

A glance at sales charts, Instagram or manufacturer product plans will tell you people movers are about as uncool as cars can get.

But the unlikely resurgence of 1990s trends suggests the people mover, or "minivan" might have a chance.


The Kia Carnival is enormous, so first impressions are that you get a lot of car for your money.

Priced from less than $47,000 drive-away in Hertz or Budget spec, we tested the fully-loaded Kia Carnival Platinum with an optional diesel engine.

Normally priced from about $70,000 drive-away, Kia has discounted the top-end Carnival by about $3000 for May.

It's loaded with gear including chrome bodywork elements and polished 19-inch wheels which set it apart from lesser models. Other goodies include automatic LED headlights, a 360-degree camera and 7-inch digital dash readout you won't find on the entry grade. A 7-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty seals the deal.


There are more toys justifying the $20,000 premium over the cheapest Carnival. You also get heated and cooled front seats with electric memory adjustment, an eight-speaker JBL stereo and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.

Other luxuries include a power rear tailgate and power sliding doors which make life easier for small or feeble passengers. Three-zone air conditioning with dedicated rear controls is nice to have.

But space is the true luxury - there is room for adults in every seat, and a particularly impressive 960 litres of cargo space with the car configured in seven-seat mode.

Passenger comfort is also catered for with 10 cup holders bolstered by a bottle space in each door. But only three of six power outlets are USB points, which makes it a little tricky to keep gadgets charged up.


The Carnival originally earned a four-star crash rating which ANCAP upgraded to the full five stars following running changes in 2016. All current versions have full-length curtain airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control and lane departure warning systems.

Platinum models add rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection and lane change assistance to make life a little easier.


Lower and lighter than SUVs such as the Toyota Prado or Ford Everest, the Kia is much easier to drive (and more comfortable) than four-wheel-drive alternatives.

It's relatively quiet, with sound road manners and a comfortable ride designed to please folks in the back rather than parents with driving ambition.

Excellent visibility and gadgets such as the 360-degree camera make it manageable in town.

Carnival customers choose from two engines - a 3.3-litre V6 petrol unit or a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. The diesel costs $2500 more, but it brings a significant reduction in fuel use along with impressive 1250 kilometre range. We came away impressed by the effortless performance of the 147kW/440Nm diesel helped by a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.


Toyota Granvia, from about $68,500 drive-away

With the Tarago consigned to history, Toyota's enormous fridge-shaped Granvia fills the people-mover role. Budget $82,000 or so for the Granvia VX to match the top Kia's luxo appeal.

Honda Odyssey VTi-L, from about $51,000 drive-away

Smaller - and cheaper - than the Carnival, Honda's Odyssey isn't quite as suitable for several adults, but works quite well for families.

Mazda CX-9 Azami, from about $66,500 drive-away

While it's not as roomy as the Kia, Mazda's top seven-seater is beautifully finished, better to drive and reasonably fashionable.


Few cars are as fit-for-purpose as Kia's Carnival, which nails the people mover brief. Though it isn't sexy, it makes a lot of sense.

3.5 stars

Kia Carnival Platinum

Price: About $70,000 drive-away

Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/440Nm

Warranty/Service: 7 year/unlimited km, $2510 for 5 years

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise

Thirst: 7.5L/100km

Spare: Space saver

Cargo: 359 litres

Originally published as Can this 1990s icon become cool again?