Ever since I saw the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, I've rather liked the idea that your life can change in a split second simply by stepping through automatic doors. And this is precisely what happened when I test-drove the Kia Carnival recently. My life instantly became easier. Albeit for five days!
The new Carnival, launched in February 2015, has been designed specifically for families. This 8-seater combines functionality and safety with industry leading design and technology. It is powerful, spacious and packed with features. And it looks stylish, too. But as any frustrated parent trying to wrangle their kids will tell you, when it comes to people movers it's what's inside that counts.
Here are seven features I loved driving the Carnival:
1. Sliding doors
Let's start with those remote sliding doors, as they really are a game-changer when you spend half your life getting kids in and out of the car, buckling and unbuckling seatbelts. My children actually believed the car held magical powers when the doors opened and closed automatically. They gasped. They giggled. First big tick!
Driving with kids can be stressful. They drive you to distraction and fighting toddlers in the back of a car can test even the most patient person. The Carnival's sliding doors were such a thrill for my kids that I actually started to believe they were magical as my kids became entranced in a deliriously happy kind of way. Not to mention the ease of getting the kids in and out of the car at busy, crowded car parks.
Modern life is fast and furious, especially for full-time kid wranglers. During any given week, my life consists of multiple drop-offs and pick-ups, grocery shopping, and extra curricular activities. With so much time spent in the car, comfort is crucial particularly on lengthy drives, which for my kids is anything over 17 minutes. The Carnival has comfort covered. The seats are super comfortable and there's plenty of leg room. There are also 10-cup holders, 4 bottle holders, 2 coat hooks, and multiple shopping bag hooks. My kids never uttered "Are we nearly there yet?" once. Major bonus!
The Carnival is luxuriously spacious. In our current car, the kids are virtually on top of each other. The three car seats are squashed together so tightly, making it impossible for them to buckle themselves in, which when you multiply this by three kids, several times a day, is daily torture. In the Carnival, my three kids each had their own section of the car. They could spread out, which meant less squabbling and more of that lovely giggling. I could easily fit in a few extra kids, which would be helpful for picking up other people's children. There is heaps of leg room in the 2nd row and the middle seat easily slides forward to create a spacious runway to the 3rd row seats.
There's storage space aplenty in the Carnival. The boot is huge and much bigger than other people-movers. And there's the option for more, by folding down the back row of seats. I am convinced that it could fit half our house in it, which is what's required when you go on a family holiday. The centre storage console is enormous and my handbag and phone tucked away nicely.
Aside from my kids being mesmerised by the inner features of the Carnival, the car boasts some important safety features, too. Kia has it covered in the Carnival with six airbags including full curtain airbags.
The view from the big, wide driver's seat is very good too. It feels more like an SUV with its elevated driving position, providing a good view of the road. The windows are large too, offering good visibility front and sides. I was concerned that I would really notice the size of the car being accustomed to driving a wagon. The car is long but I wasn't really aware of it. It handles so well and was effortless to drive.
6. Stylish and sleek
I smiled to myself as I drove around the Kia Carnival thinking back to the car I was driving when I was pregnant with my first child; a convertible! How things have changed in six years. But finding myself driving around in a family-sized car did not horrify me. On the contrary, it excited me. I loved it. And what's more, it's stylish. At least being a taxi driver has benefits when you're driving in style and safety.
7. A stack of awesome features
The Carnival is jam-packed with features, which made my life infinitely easier. The excellent navigation system was very user-friendly, for even the most tech-challenged mum! It has a nifty conversation mirror, which is a great way to keep an eye on what the children are up to. I credit this mirror with giving me the warning sign that my three-year-old had motion sickness, enabling me to swiftly get off road and my little one out of the car, just in time.
When you're ferrying around children from one activity to the next, the Carnival's suite of features really matter. The rear view camera makes backing out and reverse parking a breeze. The electric outside mirrors automatically fold inwards when you lock the doors (more magic!). And I loved opening and closing the power assisted boot with a simple press of a button. Not to mention the multiple shopping bag hooks to conveniently hang the groceries. Really, the only feature missing is getting the shopping from the car into the house, and unpacking it! Perhaps they could look into that for the next model ...
The Kia Carnival comes up a winner in my eyes. They've thought of everything and more. lt ticked all the boxes and the kids declared it the coolest car ever. For all of us, it really was like a carnival in a car! We reluctantly returned the Kia but I've got my eyes on it for the future. My three-year-old was not impressed to go back to our wagon, which she described as small - "like a piece of Lego" - in comparison!