2021 Kia Carnival Platinum review: Family functionality

  • Doors and Seats
  • Engine
  • Engine Power
  • Fuel
  • Manufacturer
  • Transmission
  • Warranty
  • Ancap Safety

No prizes for guessing here, but the 2021 Kia Carnival is a damned good family car.

  • So easy to get into, get comfortable and get around in
  • Boot space particularly excellent
  • Single-minded focus on practicality works a treat

  • Infotainment gremlins have taken some sheen off the experience
  • Biscuits getting caught in the seat tracks
  • Second-row floor mat hampers cleaning efforts, slightly

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum review: Family functionality-0

For a family car, space and versatility are highly sought after and appreciated. And in this regard, it’s the 2021 Kia Carnival that reigns supreme.

In comparison to the more popular SUV segments – whose vehicle designs are being pushed and pulled in multiple directions – the Carnival’s aspirations are more singly focussed on being a good people mover.

And it yields big dividends inside for family usage, which makes the Carnival hugely popular with me and my wife. 

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum diesel
Engine Four-cylinder turbo diesel
Displacement 2.2 litres (2151cc)
Power 148kW @ 3800rpm
Torque 440Nm @ 1750–2750rpm
Drive Front-wheel drive
Transmission Eight-speed torque converter automatic
Fuel consumption (combined cycle, claimed) 6.5L/100km
Fuel consumption (on test) 7.8L/100km
Fuel tank size 72L
Length/wheelbase/width/height 5115mm/3090mm/1995mm/1775mm
Boot size (5-seat/8-seat) 2785L/627L
Competitors Honda OdysseyVolkswagen MultivanToyota Granvia
Price as tested $70,490 drive-away
2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

The kids have taken a shining to the ‘purple bus’ as well, taking great delight in crawling through it and pressing as many buttons as possible.

Firstly, this Carnvial is big. While the overall length remains steady at 5155mm, the wheelbase (3090mm), height (1775mm) and width (1995mm) have all gone upwards with this generation. 

Despite the overall growth in dimensions, the new Carnival has managed to shed 55kg when compared to a previous-generation diesel Carnival Platinum. It’s impressive, and can be put down to the new platform and lighter all-alloy engine. 

And while it’s got a sleek and attractive design – no small feat for a people mover – it’s still a box that manages to maximise the amount of interior space on offer. 

Another thing to consider here is that the Carnival is only available as a front-wheel drive people mover. This kind of thing might not bring the same levels of kudos in the school parking lot, but it does yield a significant advantage over any AWD-accomodating SUV.

Because things like the engine, transmission and driveshafts are all packaged neatly into the nose of the vehicle, only the exhaust pipe needs to make the journey to the rear end. This allows for a low and flat floor unencumbered by the likes of a tailshaft or transmission tunnel.

Even the spare wheel – a space-saver – is mounted off to the side underneath the driver’s side sliding door, to not impede interior space.

2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

And the space is glorious. We’re only a family of four, so using the Carnival as our surrogate family car has been wonderful overkill. 

With the baby seats installed into the second-row outboard seats, we had a variety of set-ups going. Sometimes we removed the middle seat in the second row to allow walk-through access to the back. The middle seat works well as a centre console for snacks and drinks, or we chucked in an extra seat when we had the rare chance of a playdate with friends.

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Not many cars or SUVs have the width required to fit three baby seats abreast of each other like this, but the Carnival has that skill. And because each seat in the middle row slides fore and aft independently, you can apportion space accurately where you need it.

2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

2021 Kia Carnival long-term review

The third row was often folded into the floor, which gave us a massive load space for groceries, hardware, bicycles and other bulky items. It’s quite an indulgence to know that just about anything would fit in the back. Even Trent’s Vespa…

People might assume that it’s the big burly four-wheel drives and the bristling sports cars that are the favourites of the Drive.com.au office. But it’s the Kia Carnival – an elite performer within its own discipline – that manages to earn some of the highest respect.


2021 Kia Carnival Platinum review: Family functionality

Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.

Read more about Sam Purcell