After the runaway success of the Seltos, Kia is not resting on its laurels. In fact, it wants to disrupt yet another segment of the automotive market that has long been monopolised by one brand. We head to Hyderabad to get up-close and personal with the Carnival.

As far as MPVs go, the Kia Carnival is a well-turned out design overall. Nothing seems out of place and even Kia’s signature ‘Tiger-nose grille’ is well executed across the front. The right amount of chrome lashings and LED embellishments help lend the requisite luxury to a car that will be breaching the ₹30 lakh barrier. For Kia, it will be an important car and possibly a volume car too, bringing in customers not just from the Innova camp, but also the likes of the Fortuner, Endeavour and even the Mercedes V-Class if badge isn’t a concern.

A table for 9 please!

Part of the appeal of an MPV is its comfortable seating and the Carnival absolutely nails it in that area. The three trim variants offer different configurations and while the top-end Limousine variant gets 7 seats, the mid-level Prestige variant is the one to get all seat options – 7, 8 or 9! The entry-level Premium variant gets only a 7 or 8-seat option. It may sound confusing, but if you’ve spent time studying the 17 different variants of the Kia Seltos, this may be a walk in the park for you.

Once you’ve zeroed in on how many family members you want to take along, the Carnival opens its powered sliding doors to a world of comfort. It’s the second row which will be the most used in this sort of a vehicle and Kia has paid a lot of attention to detail here. For instance, the powered sliding doors on each side can be controlled via the B-pillar mounted buttons, by the driver, with controls placed near the front sunroof or even from the remote key directly!

Leave your home behind

Once inside, the VIP seats draped in Nappa leather invite you to stretch out with their leg extensions and individual arm-rests, and the seats themselves can be moved front/back or even sideways to open up more space for third-row access. It’s all very easy and intuitive, even though the seats are manually controlled. Only the driver’s seat gets the 10-way power adjust and cooling option, but the other seats don’t feel compromised at all – even the third row proving to be useful and well thought out with plenty of AC circulation and USB charging points. You do get a proper 220V laptop charger to work with, so a tray option on the back of the front seat would be a good addition. Instead, you get dual 10.1in rear-seat entertainment screens that allow you to connect your own source via HDMI, plug in a USB-drive, mirror your phone or just use the hotspot to surf the web.

Even smells better

Like on the Seltos, the Carnival too gets a smart air purifier on board with an AQI readout for the 2nd-row passengers. Three fragrance options are available, too, if you want your Carnival to smell like a spa, and why not, we say! AC controls are placed on top to one side, though, so sitting diagonally opposite to the driver, which is the position for most chauffeur-driven owners, it might be a bit of a stretch to reach to. Perhaps, this is remnant of an LHD-version not tropicalised for the RHD markets? The vents, though, rotate freely in any direction and even shut flush to the roof liner for a tidy appearance when not in use.

The system is a tri-zone climate control with separate controls for the individual front passengers and the rest of the rear occupants getting their own zone. Everything can be controlled from the front too, and the Carnival seems to have the right amount of physical buttons for direct access, besides the 8-inch touchscreen in the centre console. It’s a responsive unit with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and also an excellent built-in navigation system with live traffic updates, thanks to the eSIM that comes with a 3-year subscription to the UVO connected car app.

UVO’s got this

The Carnival has added another geek feature over and above the Seltos’ – smartwatch control! So besides your phone, you can also perform basic bragging functions like lock/unlock doors, start/stop engine, switch on air purifier and activate horn and lights to locate your car in a giant parking lot, using just your smartwatch now. It’s compatible with all three major smartwatch platforms like Apple’s watchOS, Google’s Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen. A wireless charging pad is standard across the range and the sound system is a Harman Kardon unit with 8 speakers and 400W on tap. It does sound expansive and punchy, but you do have to give it the beans for it to really shine. A couple more speakers for the last row wouldn’t hurt either, but you do get a centre speaker to anchor the image and it’s perfectly acceptable entertainment on long journeys.

Effortless driving

If it’s a long journey in an MPV you’re talking about, you can’t ignore talking about the ride comfort – and this is the Carnival’s key strength. The multi-link rear suspension just soaks up everything in its path with minimal body movement and the hushed and relaxed nature. The way it gathers speed and continues towards the destination is reminiscent of much more expensive luxury sedans. The 2.2 litre diesel engine churns out a healthy 200hp and 400Nm of torque and it’s so well mated to the 8-speed auto that you never ever feel a gearshift. The light steering and easy controls just let you munch mile after mile, almost lulling you into slumber. Don’t look for driver engagement here and you shouldn’t either. For all its intended purposes, the Carnival succeeds in being a large car that feels as easy to drive as a midsize sedan. The dimensions shrink while on the move and I was using the cruise control more often than ever on the outer ring road of Hyderabad where this drive took place. Its quiet cabin is a result of superb insulation, so both wind and tyre noise is all but eliminated and the large glass area with two sunroofs makes you feel like you’re in a living room with wheels! Get back into tight, city conditions and the parking sensors on either ends of the car along with a rear-camera make it easy to park too. Of the two wheel options, the laser cut wheels look a lot more bearable than the blingy chrome ones, but it’s again subjective.

Initial verdict

The Kia Carnival is a lot of car for the money and one that justifies its price tag. While the official pricing hasn’t been announced yet, the Limousine variant might be close to ₹35 lakh on-road as per estimates. It aims to chart its own course as its closest competitors are either more expensive or in a different genre altogether. For a large family looking to embark on long drives, the Carnival is a no-brainer with space for up to 9 people or over 2700 litres of luggage space with the seats folded down. No matter what your requirement, it seems versatile enough to take on the challenge. Some of the seats can even be removed entirely or turned into arm-rests! This is like a Lego car that allows you to build what you want of it – just make sure you gather around enough friends or family members to appreciate it!