The Kia Grand Carnival has long held the reputation of one of the best-loved people movers. Despite a rocky start plagued with some durability issues, the Kia Carnival and Grand Carnival recovered and eventually garnered a best-selling sales record in Australia that hasn’t stopped yet. The Korean company had some mixed reviews with its first Kia Carnival because of some catastrophic engine failures, but by the time it released the improved Kia Grand Carnival, those issues were no longer a factor.
Based off of the Kia Sedona first generation, which was launched internationally in 1998, the Kia Carnival first went on sale in Australia in 1999. This generation lasted until 2006, with the second-generation Kia Grand Carnival launching in January. Aside from greatly improved reliability and durability, the big difference between the Grand Carnival and its predecessor is a much-improved engine and trim levels with some excellent features.
The Kia Carnival and Grand Carnival gained prominence though besting their rivals by undercutting their prices and providing standout features. Both came with eight seats, unlike many competitors’ people movers, which only had seven. The Grand Carnival also added a diesel engine option, which helped significantly with fuel consumption and performance.
The early 1999 Kia Carnival had a slight edge over its competitors in performance. It came in a manual 5-speed and automatic 4-speed transmission, and its 2.5-litre V6 engine featured power of 132kW and 220Nm of torque. The earliest model’s fuel consumption was 15.6L/100km in the city, and improved to 14.8L/100km by the 2005 Kia Carnival model.
The Grand Carnival took performance further with a range of trim levels and engine options. It upgraded to a 3.8-litre V6 engine with 184kW of power and 343Nm of torque, plus an average combined fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km. The biggest change, however, was the addition of an optional diesel engine. The 2009 Grand Carnival introduced a 2.9L turbo diesel engine with 136kW of power and 343Nm of torque, plus phenomenal fuel consumption of 8.5L/100km. The range of Grand Carnivals continues to add new and greater performance features.
When the Kia Carnival was first released in 1999, it was lacking in some features that other minivans had, including power sliding doors, power lift-gate, navigation system, rear-view camera, and backup sensors. What it did have was dual-zone air conditioning, power front windows, a CD stacker, and, after 2000, dual air-bag protection. After 2001, a more costly LE model arrived, coming with leather seat trim, electric seat adjustment, and alloy wheels. After 2003, a restyled version came with an improved interior and rear disc brakes.
The 2006 Grand Carnival came in either short (SWB) or long-wheelbase models, plus trim levels of an entry-level EXE, mid-spec Premium, and range-topping Platinum. The general rule with standard kit in the Kia Grand Carnival is that if it doesn’t come standard, you probably won’t miss it.
Standard kit in the second-generation Kia Grand Carnival includes six airbags, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control with traction control and brake assist systems, dual or tri-zone heating and cooling, rear side sliding doors with “hold open” locking feature, backup sensors, and in-dash navigation. There are enough features and options in the entry-level, mid-spec, and range-topping trim levels to attract all kinds of people interested in a quality people mover.
As a car in the people mover class, the Kia Grand Carnival had some competition from fellow people movers like the Toyota Tarago. Unfortunately for the Tarago, the Carnival had a more powerful engine, a better interior layout, and automatic transmission for a price that was highly competitive with the Tarago. It topped the Tarago in 2001, and it led in sales and shattered minivan sales records in 2004 and 2005.
Other competitors for the Kia Grand Caravan include the Toyota Avensis, the Honda Odyssey, and the Volkswagen Multivan. Each of these is a worth competitor, but for the money, Kia’s Grand Carnival offers one of the best values in its class. Based on its popularity so far, the Kia Grand Carnival is destined to remain a perennial favourite.