The Kia Carnival is certainly going ‘places’ since it was introduced early this year by being ‘localised’ and venturing further upmarket with fewer seats to pander the more discerning prospective customers.
By doing so, it has transformed from a 11-seat people mover to seven- and eight-seat variants that are more in tune with those looking for premium family MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) as an alternative to a popular grey import market rival.
As a local assembled line-up with five-year warranties and free scheduled maintenance, the Carnival CKD is believed to be the only one in its premium class that could lay claim to such benefits.
While these new fewer seat variants might cost more, what with the lifting of the Sales and Service Tax (SST) since end June, the Carnival CKD models remain competitively priced from about RM232,500 for the eight-seater standard spec model to RM261,200 for the seven-seater high-spec variant (on-the-road without insurance).
And as premium variants, they come with a better level of specification and fittings to justify the higher prices and status over the 11-seater offering.
Some of this is focused on the driver and the 12.3-inch digital ‘Supervision cluster’ instrumental panel is a pleasant visual complement to the 12.3-inch ‘Capacitive Touch Screen’ on the centre dash.
Other premium items are the 12-speaker Bose system that should find favour with those who like good music on the move and dual sunroof (front and mid-section) for the high-spec models.
The fewer seat configuration also means there is a luggage area to accommodate holiday travel needs with more than 1,000 litres of space.
If you fold away the 60:40 split third row seatrests and remove the second row seats, you would have up to 4,110 litres to accommodate sizeable purchases from Ikea!
For the seven-seater Carnival that has two captain seats in the second row, you could go business-class with adjustable leg support and seatrests.
The eight-seater Carnival has a more flexible interior; the second row seats could be removed quite easily and refitted to face passengers in the third row or the middle seatrest could be folded away to serve as a shared ‘table’.
The higher-spec variants come with a full suite of ‘advanced safety technology’ that includes High Beam Assist, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Smart Cruise Control, among the many.
The Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist actually pulls you back to your lane should the system detect a vehicle alongside you out of your vision so that you won’t collide with it.
Likewise, the Forward Collision Avoidance Assist is another practical feature, especially when making turns at junctions; the system uses sensors and cameras to scan the road ahead and would apply the brakes if it detects an oncoming vehicle.
As a locally assembled vehicle, some 40% of the vehicle content value is sourced from Malaysian vendors, and this includes the seats; this also complies with the requirement to ‘export’ the vehicle to Asean markets.
It’s leather for the seven-seater and leatherette for the other models, including the 11-seater Carnival that is currently imported to meet the transport needs of the hospitality industry.
The CKD models have ventilated and heated seats that are said to provide for a comfortable seating environment.
Powerwise, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is common across the variants and delivers a strong output of 199hp and 440Nm that comes on early in the rev range.
Similarly, the variants also share a common transmission in the eight-speed automatic that conveys engine output to the front wheels.
We continue to revel in the Carnival’s good standing sprint as well as moving acceleration despite the vehicle’s kerb weight of under 2,130kg for these premium models.
We could carry a quick turn of speed on the highway with the engine turning at an easy pace without burning too much fuel; we still had more than half tank when we got to Penang and this included detours to secondary roads for a lunch stop in Tanjung Tualang.
Wind and road noise was sufficiently lowered for us to appreciate the drive and ride while enjoying the music from the 12-speaker Bose system.
We made use of the good interior space to lounge in comfort as we had three on board and the retractable screens on the rear sliding doors were useful in keeping the harsh sunlight out.
The Carnival might be a sizeable MPV but it took readily to winding roads, especially the Teluk Bahang stretch in Penang, with minimal body lean and good speed.
Being locally assembled, the premium Carnival variants run on 235/60 R18 Goodyear EfficientGrip tyres that provide the ride qualities for Malaysian road conditions.
And there is enough camera guidance, which includes the Surround View Monitor, to manoeuvre in tight spots or park in narrow spaces.
The winning factor is undeniably its standard five-year warranty and maintenance schedule; it definitely makes the premium Carnival range a good buy against the grey imports that do not come with such benefits.