The Kia Carnival may not be stylish, but it's too useful to ignore
MPVs don't sell in great numbers here. If people have a lot of kids to carry they prefer SUVs - even if they don't need four-wheel-drive. Most folk prefer to pay the handling compromises of a big SUV, and go for seats-or-luggage instead of seats-and, than live with the automotive equivalent of crocs - practical and colourful, but devoid of style or character.
This Kia Carnival may not be stylish, but it's too useful to ignore, for it fits an astounding amount of guff alongside quite a lot of people - at which point we get to the elephant in the room.
There are eight seats in this Carnival, but the middle one has only a lap belt. That's safer than no belt - it stops you flying into the driver, for a start. But it's nothing like as safe for its occupant as a three-point, and it's a startling omission these days. At least the seat folds down to make a table, but still.
So, seven seats and a table - plus a boot deep enough to stand a big stroller in upright. Fold the rear seats flat and you lose the bottom section of boot, but get a flat load floor. The second row seats fold individually, swivel forward, or come out entirely, the Carnival then doubling as a carpet-lined van.
A rather comfy one. The seats are capacious. There are cubbies aplenty. A new iPod and USB port sit next to a power point and storage cubby. There's a little mirror to check on the kids in the back, and a reversing camera that shows its image in the rear view mirror, which you're already checking. Plus six airbags, ESP and ABS brakes, and stuff like cruise and climate contro.
The downsides used to be the petrol engine's thirst, but there's now this diesel. It's a 136kW/343Nm 2.9-litre turbo matched to a five-speed auto. The torque comes in strongly across a wide range of revs, but it feels strongest at its round-town speeds.
The engine had done well under 1000km when I collected it and would no doubt get a tad stronger, and more efficient as it beds in - my fairly demanding, hilly drive netted a 10.3l/100km average thirst, generously above the 9.0 claim.
My home environment also showed up the handling, which is as biased to comfort rather than incisive cornering, as you'd expect from the breed.
But the magic trick? That's the remotely-operated electronic doors. Press the fob and the rear doors slide open, or the tailgate lifts. Great when it's raining and you've armfuls of shopping and toddlers; or to fascinate older kids with your magical powers.
Either way, the Kia Carnival makes a lot of sense if you've got bods and luggage to carry on a daily basis - provided you don't need the eighth seat as more than an emergency extra.
See the Kia Carnival for sale here.