Kia Carnival long term review, first report

Our Carnival had a royal welcome with an exclusive trip on the yet-to-open Mumbai-Nagpur expressway.

You’d imagine a spacious and premium diesel-automatic would be lapped up in an instant at the Autocar office, and while the Carnival had everyone eager to drive it, its big size meant few were willing to use it as a daily driver. In a city like Mumbai, challenges like tiny lanes, congestion, road work and – the biggest of them all – parking, are quite a hassle for any car, let alone the Carnival. But, come long drives, the Carnival ticks all the right boxes. So, when the Samruddhi Highway shoot (pg 108) was being planned, the Carnival was the automatic choice as the support car. However, the shoot was to take place around 900km away, near Nagpur, and that meant someone had to drive the Carnival all the way there. Conveniently, every single colleague of mine opted to fly there, leaving me, the Carnival and some luggage behind to have a carnival on the road (pun intended).

YOU HAUL: With the last row folded down, there is enough space to move houses.

First rule of solo tripping, or any trip for that matter, is having a good stash of snacks, and thankfully, the Carnival had a number of stowage spaces. The large centre console, big bottle holders and split glove boxes meant I could turn the Carnival into a mini supermarket. Still, what was missed, especially in the searing heat, was a cooled glove box for the beverages.

Anyway, I decided to get a headstart on the sun and left Mumbai in the wee hours, and once on the highway, it was almost like the Carnival heaved a sigh of relief. On wide stretches, it is composed, calm, and the 2.2-litre engine has plenty of grunt too. Not that it’s exciting to prod the throttle, but if you do, it will lunge ahead. Whizzing past trucks on the Igatpuri Ghat was quite effortless, thanks to the 200hp on offer, and once the road flattened out, the Carnival was in its element.

HOT SPOT: Piano black panel on the dashboard reflects sunlight into the driver’s eyes.

Driving towards Nagpur felt like I was getting closer to the sun, as at points, the temperature was in the high 40 degrees. And around noon is where I hated the fact that this variant was the Limousine and not the Limousine Plus, as the latter gets ventilated seats up front. Also missing is a sunglass holder, but since I had mine on pretty much the entire day, it wasn’t too much of a struggle. With music loud enough to shame an actual carnival, the Carnival and I were heaving ahead.

I reached Nagpur just in time for dinner, and as I hopped out, I realised how comfortable the 900km drive was. I wasn’t battered, my back wasn’t sore and my shoulders were still strong enough to carry out the luggage. It genuinely is a superb highway cruiser, so I was happy. Who probably wasn’t happy was Amol from the accounts team.

SLIDE AWAY: Sliding doors meant Anand could lounge in the seat while shooting.

You see, a 200hp MPV is fun, but its sheer weight and shape make it a thirsty sipper. With moderate throttle inputs, the Carnival delivered around 8kpl on the highway and that meant fuel stops were frequent. The 60-litre tank empties quick, and I can only imagine what range I would have gotten if the car had more weight to lug and if I had been enthusiastic at the wheel.

10.1-inch rear screen can stream YouTube

Still, shoot day arrived and the Carnival had a prominent role. And boy did it shine! The tall stance made for a makeshift ladder on which Gaurav, our photographer, got some excellent top-angle shots. And the sliding door was a delight for Anand who could relax in the lounge seat while tracking video.

The third row also folds flat into the floor and this came in handy to carry all our photo and video equipment, which can run into several large and oddly sized bags.Despite its premiumness, the Carnival performed excellently as a workhorse and made light work of any task.

FEELING BLUE: In just over 3,000km, the Carnival needed an Ad-Blue fill-up.

I had to also drive it all the way back, and this time too, it was a comfortable experience, apart from the low urea (Ad-Blue for controlling emissions) warning light that lit up just after 3,000km on the odo. Though what the level was to begin with I didn’t know. Sure, consumption of Ad-Blue does depend on the type of driving, and hard driving can consume plenty of it, but even during the fast-paced shoot, it was only doing about 80kph. At the service centre, it gulped 10 litres of Ad-Blue, amounting to Rs 770. Also, while on the way back, I noticed that the plush-looking piano-black trim reflects a fair bit of sunlight right into the driver’s eyes. I ignored it at first, but it kept finding my eye, which was annoying after a while.

Still, the Carnival and I carried on munching kilometres, and by the third night of our entire trip, we were back in Mumbai. As I parked the Carnival and walked away, I sure appreciated it more than I did before driving it. Yes, it is big and cumbersome in the city, but if you aren’t the one driving it, it is an absolute treat. Better yet, take it out on the highway and enjoy the space and comfortable ride.

I hope that next time around I can relax, kick back in the lounge seat and watch YouTube while on a long trip.

Also see:

Kia Carnival review, test drive

Kia Carnival and Toyota Innova Crysta – What makes a premium MPV

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