2020 Kia Carnival review

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When we first drove the Carnival back in January, we were left more than impressed with the short amount of time we spent with Kia’s new offering in the MPV space. But, as one would expect, we were also left wanting for more. That’s because we hadn’t quite figured out what it’s was all about. Recently though, all that changed – the Carnival is in town!

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

First, the powertrain. The Carnival is offered with a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, CRDi engine which produces 197bhp and 440Nm of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Right off the bat, it has to be said, this is one solid motor. Maybe not in terms of fuel efficiency, which hovers around 9 – 10kmpl at any given time, but in the way it delivers that power on tap. Whether you’re in the city or on the highway, there’s always that torque waiting to lunge you past any traffic that needs overtaking.

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

The gearbox too does a good job of keeping the revs up if you’re in the mood but is more at home when the shifts are gradual and consistent. Overall though, the two most endearing traits of the Carnival are the sense of solidity and ride comfort. Mind you, it should feel that way, given that this thing weighs over 2 tonnes! But, does it change when there’s a full house in the back? Not really. After chauffeuring around my parents for their daily chores and taking the family for a quick getaway over the weekend, I realised that the push from the engine is dulled, but only ever so slightly. Which is an impressive feat in itself!

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Since we’ve touched upon the weekend getaway, the Carnival we had was the top-of-the-line Limousine variant with the ‘VIP’ seven-seats. Which means that this has two captain seats in the middle and a third-row of seating for three people. The business end of this car, obviously, are those two decently sized seats in the middle. Granted that most of the controls are manual, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The Nappa leather-wrapped seats do an exceptional job at keeping you comfortable at all times.

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Even the third row is decently sized and comfortable but mostly for two passengers. The second-row seats also get two 10.1-inch touch screen infotainment systems mounted on the back of the front two seats and a sunroof as well. Speaking of which, there’s a sunroof for the front two passengers as well. Kia’s taken it one step further by providing a cooled seat for the driver – nice! But, if you want more bang for your buck, so to speak, you’re probably better off choosing the other variants (Premium and Prestige) with seven, eight or even nine seats. Yes, there’s an option to have a nine-seater Carnival as well. But we’re going to save that test for another day, for now back to our ‘limo’.

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Next, let’s move onto the dimensions. The Carnival is a large vehicle. It’s 5115mm long, 1985mm wide and has a wheelbase of 3060mm. Now, for reference, the Innova Crysta is 4735mm long, 1830mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2750mm. But, the Innova has the advantage in height, which is 1795mm compared to the Carnival’s 1740mm. But that does translate into a more ‘sedan-like’ feel to it’s handling. The Carnival feels grounded and stable in the corners but never exciting. However, the steering feedback is quite phenomenal for a car of this size. In city limits, it can feel a bit heavy but at higher speeds out on the highway or an open stretch of road, that means a lot more sore-footedness.

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

By no means is this an agile, but, does it really need to be? We don’t think so. In fact, we feel that it does everything it is supposed to as a people carrier, really really well. Apart from that, we have to mention the wide array of features on offer and the quality of the interiors on a whole. It comes with sliding rear doors, which are electronic but can be switched to manual at any given time. It also comes with a power-operated tailgate and a tri-zone climate control system. And like the Seltos, it comes with an air purifier too. Another great use of space which I forgot to mention earlier comes in the boot. When the third-row seats are folded down, there’s a practical flatbed for your luggage. But, when it’s folded up, there’s still a crater of space created by where the seats sit – very clever!

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2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

To sum it up, we were left deeply impressed by the ease with which the Carnival delivers on its promise of comfort and space. But we were also surprised by the power and refinement of the diesel engine. We would’ve preferred the Aurora Pearl Black or Steel Silver over the White Glacier Pearl, but that is a matter of personal choice. On the whole, if you’re out looking for a car that you can accommodate seven, eight or even nine people without compromising on comfort, space or power, the Carnival could be the vehicle for you.

2020 Kia Carnival Limousine (Image: BBC TopGear India)

Photography: Jassi Singh