The people mover segment was still going strong in 1999, so Kia decided to jump in with a brand new, affordable 7-seater called the Kia Carnival. This bargain-priced people mover came standard with a 132kW 2.5L quad-cam V6, which was built for Kia by Rover in Great Britain. Although this rather advanced V6 did a good job of motivating Kia’s new family mover, it’s known to have reliability issues. So if you’re considering a 1999 to 2005 Kia Carnival, make sure you get it professionally inspected before purchase.
While that may seem rather ominous, a well-maintained first-generation Kia Carnival can actually be quite reliable. It’s also quite well optioned, coming standard with such niceties as dual-zone climate control, heated side mirrors, dual sliding doors, and second-row bucket seats that fold to make a picnic table. Kia’s optimistically named Carnival isn’t exactly a looker, but it will give you a lot of vehicle for the money.
Kia updated its popular people mover in 2002, with a more attractive front fascia, a new tailgate that had a larger back window, and updated interior and exterior trim. The KV11 Kia Carnival came with 7 seats (the second and third rows were removable) that could all be slid fore-and-aft to maximize cargo space, or passenger legroom. There were also 4 folding seatback tables, 6 cupholders, 2 extra power sockets, 10 shopping bag hooks, and the third-row bench folds to create a package shelf. The Carnival received another minor update in 2003, but the changes were limited to a new front grille and some equipment shuffling.
For 2006, Kia completely redesigned its popular people mover, making it safer, and more spacious than ever before. The VQ Kia Carnival could now be optioned with a short or long wheelbase, and both offered comfortable seating for 8. The larger Kia Grand Carnival was 205mm longer than the previous single-length Carnival, and it could carry an impressive 912L of cargo behind the third row. The rearward bench also folds flat into the floor, yielding 2380L of space. Remove the second row, and you’ll almost be able to rent out your people mover as a 1-bedroom flat.
The Kia Grand Carnival was powered by a 182kW 3.8L V6, mated to a manually shift-able 5-speed auto. That drivetrain was replaced for the 2011 model year with a Euro 4 compliant 3.5L V6, mated to a new 6-speed automatic. A more efficient diesel version called the Kia Grand Carnival CRDi joined the line-up in 2009. It was powered by a torque-tasic 2.9L turbodiesel that was capable of achieving 8.5L/100km. That engine was replaced in 2012 by a more powerful 2.2L unit.
The shorter, less expensive SWB Kia Carnival was powered by a 2.7L V6. That model was much less popular than the larger Grand Carnival, and it was finally discontinued in 2011.
The 1999 to 2005 Kia Carnival was powered by a Rover-sourced 2.5L quad-cam V6, which produced 132kW and 220Nm of torque. That power was sent to the front wheels through the standard 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic. Fuel consumption for this 1800kg people mover averaged 13-14L/100km.
The SWB VQ Kia Carnival used a 2.7L V6 that made 139kW and 249 Nm, while getting about 11L/100km. The longer Kia Grand Carnival used 182kW and 343 Nm 3.8L V6 that averaged around 12.8L/100km. In 2011, the ‘Lambda’ 3.8 was replaced by the more powerful ‘Lambda II’ 3.5L which produced 202kW and 336Nm. This motor was Euro IV compliant, and it came attached to an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission, which allowed this 8-seat people mover to average around 10.9L/100km.
The first version of the Kia Grand Carnival CRDi got a 2.9L turbodiesel that made 136kW and 343Nm, while expelling just 224g/km. Fuel consumption was rated at 8.5L/100km.
The 2012 Kia Grand Carnival CRDi was fitted with a new 2.2L turbodiesel which spit out 143kW and 429Nm of twist. Besides being more powerful, this engine was also more efficient, with a fuel economy rating of just 8.1L/100km.
The entry-level Kia Carnival LS came with a walk-through 7-seat configuration, dual-zone climate control with front and rear air vents, electric front windows, central locking, a driver’s airbag, and a CD player. The top-spec Kia Carnival LE adds leather seats and nicer exterior trim.
The VQ Kia Carnival was a much more advanced people carrier, so it came with lots more equipment. Base models got tri-zone climate control, a flat-folding third-row seat, electric windows, heated power side mirrors, and seatback tables. The latter two features were omitted from the standard kit list after 2012. The up-level trims offered luxuries like power sliding doors, a power tailgate, Bluetooth, and steering wheel audio controls.
Kia went from a no-name econobox-maker to a serious automotive contender in less than a decade. This happened because they started to offer affordably priced vehicles that were actually relevant in the marketplace. The market loves the high-value Kia Carnival people carrier, and people continue to buy them by the boatload. A properly optioned Grand Carnival can be just as luxurious as the Chrysler Grand Voyager and just as versatile as a Toyota Tarago or the older Toyota Avensus. And they hold their value too, which makes them a rather posh family bus on the used market.