2018 Kia Carnival review - Top 5 Reasons why Carnival beats an SUV

The Kia Carnival is an eight-seater, but in this report, let me show you why it’s actually the ideal seven-seater for most families: Five compelling facts to prosecute this case, below

2015 Kia Carnival 10159.jpg

Needs versus wants. When objectivity and subjectivity collide. I can’t help you with the subjectivity - that’s your problem. But the facts are, nine out of 10 seven-seat SUV buyers would be better off in a Kia Carnival.

The only exception here is if you actually want to do hardcore off-roading or heavy towing. Frankly, most families are happy driving to the beach; they don’t have to drive on it. People fantasise about all the off-roading they could do - the only problem with that is: They never do it. So they drive around for years in a vehicle compromised by capabilities they never exploit.

Here are the top five five key reasons that punt the Kia Carnival to the top of the extended-family mass-transit class.

REASON 5: AUTOMATED ACCESS

2018 Kia Carnival 01.jpg

If you’re juggling your kids, their friends, your ageing mum, a tsunami of groceries, plus a baby and whatever else makes your life tick, having to free up one arm to open a door (or three) is a complete pain - sometimes literally.

Carnival offers huge automated sliding doors on each side, plus an automated rear tailgate - a major plus for both ingress and egress.

And don't worry about the danger of the doors becoming de factor guillotines: each has an anti-trap mechanism. So, happily, it doesn’t matter how stupid your kids’ friends actually are - their parents won’t be suing you over that inconveniently lost limb. The door will never go ‘Terminator - Rise of the Machines’ and cut anything off. So that’s nice.

Above, left: a real-life 'here's Johnny' moment proves the anti-trap works. Above, right: Access to row three (even without the assistance of Reason 1, below) is also excellent - except if the Row 2 outboard seats have child restraints mounted.

REASON 4: EQUALITY OF CRASH PROTECTION

In some (but not all) five-star SUVs, anyone who sits back in row 3 is - literally - a third-class citizen on safety.

Even on five-star SUVs, critical head-protecting curtain airbag protection is often limited to rows one and two only. I don’t know why. Obviously this information is hard to dredge up - and in particular the carmakers selling the SUVs without curtains for the third row don’t shout that from the rooftop (or put it in the brochure).

More detail on ANCAP's independent Carnival safety assessment >> plus the full ANCAP Carnival technical report >>

Happily, the Kia Carnival protects everyone equally on the side impact front, even way back in row 3. You even get air-con vents back there, and a sun shade/privacy screen. So it’s hardly Gitmo...

REASON 3: BEST CHILD RESTRAINT ANCHORAGE POINTS

I get so many anguished e-mails from prolific breeders searching in vain for that special ‘wide-bodied’ SUV that can accommodate three child restraints abreast. SUVs generally offer child restraint anchor points in row 2 only, where there are three, and if you have three young children, that can get a bit squeezy (or even one teenager and two babies from the second time around...)

But listen up, breeders. Because this will bring joy to your heart. Carnival has four child restraints. (And the three outboard ones - row 2 & 3 RH seats and row 2 LH seat - are ISOFIX-compatible as well.)

CHILD RESTRAINT LOCATIONS

REASON 2: LOADSPACE & ACCOMMODATION VERSATILITY

The second-best thing about Carnival - in the objective SUV-thrashing domain - is load and accommodation versatility. Carnival transforms rapidly from responsible family transport to a spacious, comfortable van, in moments. And there is tremendous flexibility between accommodation and cargo space.

FYI: The awesome all-terrain KickBike in these shots above, and in the video, is big. Really big - too big for most hatches, for example, and a challenge for a five-seat SUV. And Carnival swallows it with ease. You can carry it with five or even six seats deployed. It's a great vehicle for taking the kids to sport and getting dad to the hardware store - even in the same outing. I put 12 bales of mulch in it from the nursery during the week I evaluated the Carnival - and it wasn't even close to capacity.

More information on the Fat Max KickBike in this report from Andrew at Form+Design >>

REASON 1: WALK-THROUGH TO ROW THREE

2018 Kia Carnival 20.jpg

And now, the moment I’ve all been waiting for: The cherry on the icing on the cake of Carnival’s SUV domination. Here it is. SUVs are all about the prick-tease promise of seven-seat deliverability, but Carnival is all about the sex - it delivers truly orgasmic seven-seat self-indulgence. And all you have to do to experience this is get that middle seat in row 2 out of there.

If you do that, you can walk straight through to row three. If you have never been a frequent user of all seven seats in an SUV, you won't understand how truly orgasmic this experience can be.

Despite the hoopla I made of it in the video, you can simply unclip the centre seat in under 30 seconds, and store it the garage in perpetuity if you prefer.

Remember, Carnival is an eight seater - it still seats seven if you unclip that middle seat in row 2.

Above, left: Row 3 access is beyond good (the outboard seats in row 2 simply fold forwards at the flick of a lever) - but this becomes problematic if child restraints are fitted there. Above (centre and right): You can see what a difference it makes removing that centre seat. Even with child restraints fitted to both remaining row 2 seating positions, it remains easy to walk straight through to row 3.

I mean, Jesus - I still remember it. If you want to work up a sweat in Australia, strap a few kids into child restraints. And in an SUV you need to be a friggin’ contortionist. AND - with the kid seats fitted you need to be a Cirque du Soliel gymnast even to access the third row - so that’s kinda limiting for grandma and grandpa...

With that centre seat gone, even your ageing parents can walk through, and so can you - the easier to strap in various young children. Or victims.

2018 Kia Carnival 24.jpg

CONCLUSION

Look, I know you still want an SUV. But I also know you’ll be better off in a Carnival. You know that, too. All you have to do now is make friends with that knowledge. You did all that breeding. You made this bed, now - do yourself a favour and lie in it with some vestigial dignity. Get the Carnival. It’s making all the right moves here.

It’s over to you now - time for your id to battle your super-ego over the right new conveyance. May logic and rationality prevail. Good luck with that. Whatever you choose, I'm happy to assist with a discount, anywhere in Australia. (Plans for world domination, sadly still pending.)

Check out my full Carnival review >> and if you still want a seven-seat SUV, I thoroughly recommend the Kia Sorento >> and also the Hyundai Santa Fe >> (both quite good for occasional use of the third seating row). 

If you're confused about petrol versus diesel (Carnival offers both) you can clear that up here >> and - please - don't make these mistakes test-driving a new car >>

Stay up to date with current specs, recommended pricing and details on Carnival at the Kia Australia Website >> (But remember: Recommended pricing is something I can smash for you - hit the red link below for details there.)

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this report.

MORE REPORTS