I reluctantly fell in love with the Kia Carnival

Ample boot space: 'I wouldn’t be surprised if you could fit a cello and a double bass in there.'
Ample boot space: 'I wouldn’t be surprised if you could fit a cello and a double bass in there.' Photo: Supplied

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I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to love the new Kia Carnival. Perhaps my resistance to a car with sliding doors was simply denial that I have four children? The fact my husband declared, “I’m never driving a car with sliding doors” didn’t help.

That all changed when we drove the Carnival.

Kylie Orr reviewing the Kia Carnival.
Kylie Orr reviewing the Kia Carnival. Photo: Supplied

Valuable lesson #1: don't knock a car with sliding doors until you try one. The ease, the practicality, the amount of time saved not getting in and out four trillion times to open and close doors, or to lean contortionist-like over seats, helping children buckle belts absolutely sold us on the sliding doors.

Visiting the supermarket no longer caused heart failure as our children piled out of the car – no chance of a door being slammed into the Audi parked next to us.

Sliding doors were a clear winner and the rest was icing on the Kia.

A stylish makeover has paid off; the Carnival is a people mover that actually looks sleek. Goodbye van-dag, you can now proudly drive a people mover without feeling like the local laughing stock.

Superficiality aside, when you have a crowd of people to move, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Cabin space is the cause of and solution to all parenting problems, especially on long trips. In our current car, our children climb over baby seats, boosters, and each other. Someone inevitably cops an accidental kick in the head during a mid-climb and it’s on for young and old.

Not in the Carnival.

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Clear access and vacuous space mean the life of a parent just became easier. Keyless entry, and remote sliding doors along with low entry floors save lifting; even the little kids can climb in themselves.

The car comes in 7- and 8-seater configurations, with fabric and leather seat options, depending on the model. The second row can have two captain chairs or a three seats across. Removing the middle seat in the second row allows a walk-through to the third row making loading and unloading kids a breeze. Four child seat anchor points, (three ISOFIX compatible) allow flexible car seat configurations. Sliding and reclining seats ensure comfort for all passengers is a reality.

The boot space is deep and useful with ample room for school bags, shopping, prams and sports gear when all seats are in operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could fit a cello and a double bass in there. The final row’s 60:40 split fold mechanism with seats sinking into the floor transforms the car to a mother ship.

Size mattes but so do the details. When you start the engine and begin to drive, the Carnival senses the speed and automatically locks all doors. Kids safely locked in? Check. A light under the door handle illuminates when you unlock the car at night, the side mirrors fold in when the engine is off, the boot has a remote sensor to open and close it, as do both sliding doors. This is a smart car that responds to the busy life of parents and addresses everyday needs.

In my eternal search for a family car that actually fits all of us comfortably, a car that has considered each passenger, rather than offered an afterthought add-on scenario, it is common for the third row to be ignored. Some 7-seaters don’t offer third row vents, or airbags! It’s imperative all passengers are safe and comfortable, particularly on lengthy drives when there are 14,000 other things for them to complain about.

With six airbags including full curtain airbags, Kia have it covered in the Carnival. Precious cargo (children and perhaps a dozen bottles of wine) are well protected. There’s also 10 cup holders, 4 bottle (not wine) holders, 2 coat hooks, a centre console storage you could fit a pony in, shopping bag hooks and more pouches than a kangaroo farm.

In terms of technology, Bluetooth connectivity is standard, plus the usual suspects, cruise control, reversing camera and sensors. Three 12-volt power outlets and three USB charging points have all the gadgets sorted. Satellite navigation was easy to use and I actually developed quite a fondness for the kind man directing me. Is that wrong?

The Carnival felt like a sedan to drive with clear, wide vision. The only place I noticed it’s size was driving up a steep hill, packed full of kids and camping gear. The turning circle was brilliant, a great benefit when a child forgets their lunch and you attempt to swing around and hammer home before the school bell rings.

With a petrol engine boasting fuel consumption of 11.6L/100km and the diesel engine an economical 7.7L/100km, families won’t be stung at the pump ferrying their passengers around.

After driving around in the Kia for a week, I can truly say I’m a convert. Slide those doors and bring on the Carnival!