Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Kia Carnival and Carnival Premium
Everyone loves a carnival
August 2006

THE conversation went something like this....

Dave: Hey Glenn, what are those Kia Carnivals like?

Glenn: Well they used to have a few quality dramas with the engines years ago ....

Dave (before I'd finished): Yeah but they've got a new engine in them now. What are they like inside?

Glenn: They aren't quite as plush as Honda Odyssey ...

Dave: Yeah but Odyssey doesn't have sliding side doors. Gotta have sliding doors. What's the handling like?

Glenn: Well perhaps not quite a solid as a Tarago ...

Dave: Yeah but the Toyota Tarago's price...

Glenn (before he'd finished): Well it sounds like you've done your homework anyway, we better go and have a look.

Dave: Yeah I knew you'd know what was best...

And have a look we did. And I don't know whether it was just Dave's sheer enthusiasm for a peoplemover that did 99% of what the others do for far fewer dollars, but I was sold.

So a few weeks later I booked an official road test fleet car and gave it the usual week of torture.

Let's start by saying what I didn't like and get them out of the road.

The Carnival has a very firm ride, which is fine if you also get tight handling as well, but this isn't the case. It has a lot of bodyroll, which tends to exaggerate the understeer, even if you are pushing the car just beyond "average" driving.

The brakes are also not the greatest. It just doesn't pull up as well as its competitors and the spongy pedal feel makes it seem worse than it is. The test car's auto gearbox had a tendency to "hunt" gears a little.

Engine and exhaust noise are also higher than average in this class as well.

Now, reading the above might seem a little below par, but when you take into consideration that the price is a hell of a long way below par it might not seem so bad.

The Carnival's starting price is $32,990 for the 2.7-litre manual. But even in Grand Carnival "Premium" form with 3.8-litre engine it is about the same as the entry-level Odyssey and Mitsubishi's Grandis, $5K under Tarago's $48,990 entry price and more than $10K under Voyager.

You can argue until the cows come home about specifications of the different competitors but we'll tell you what the press kit says (and then Dave can't argue):

"Power steering, adjustable steering column, power side windows and remote central locking with alarm and panic button are standard. Dual front airbags are standard and additional front side airbags and curtain airbags are available as part of an optional Luxury pack.

"Grand Carnival also has handy extras such as a conversation mirror to allow you to check the kids while on the move, eight cup holders, a CD compartment, lockable glove box and a remote fuel release. Grand Carnival Premium adds front foglights and alloy wheels as standard."

"Ample interior space for up to eight people plus roof rails and optional roof bars provide that all-important carrying capacity.

"There are tray tables with cupholders on the back of the front seats. A fold-up table between the driver and front passenger can be folded away to enable walk-through access to the 2nd and 3rd rows. Both the 2nd and 3rd rows seat three passengers and each row can be simply folded if additional space is needed.

"The 3rd row folds flat into a deep well in the luggage compartment for increased luggage capacity. Wide, side-sliding doors allow access to the 2nd and 3rd row from both sides. Take the Grand Carnival Premium and enjoy standard electric sliding side rear doors - just a press of a button opens or closes each door automatically."

The summing up I'll leave to Dave.

"The Carnival's got everything we need, and it's a heap cheaper than the rest. The kids will only trash a plush car anyway."

And you can't argue with that.



ENGINE: 2.7-litre / 3.8-litre V6 engines with CVVT DOHC

POWER: 136kw at 6000rpm; 184kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 246Nm at 4000rpm; 343Nm at 3500rpm

TRANSMISSIONS: Five-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic auto (four-speed in Carnival)

ECONOMY: 11 / 12.8 litres/100km average

TOWING CAPACITY: 2000kg with trailer brakes

PROS: Size; specification; price

CONS: Soft handling; soft brakes; auto hunts a bit

BOTTOM LINE: $32,990