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I travelled down to Sydney for the launch of the updated 2025 Kia Carnival! This is an eight-seater family favourite! Let's have a look at what’s new about the updated Kia Carnival and re-cap the things we already know that make it a great BabyDrive.

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The first changes I notice are to the exterior design. The front has a new ‘Tiger Nose’ grille…

…vertically stacked headlights…

… and a new indicator light design.

The new design gives the Carnival a shorter nose and a more SUV-like appearance than a people move.

At the back, the taillights and bumper have also been redesigned to match the front.

The launch drive of the 2025 Kia Carnival is from Sydney to West Head Lookout and on to BarrenJoey Boat Shed. (This area is where they film Home & Away if it looks familiar!)

This allows me to test the drive of the 2025 Kia Carnival in morning city traffic as well as on beautiful winding, hilly coastal roads and stretches of highway.

Exciting news is that kia is introducing a 1.6-litre Petrol Hybrid model to the existing Diesel and Petrol engines for the 2025 Kia Carnival. The hybrid model will be available from June onwards.

Due to the popularity of the Special Edition (SE) trim, the diesel and petrol Carnival variants are now available in five different trim options: S, Sport, Sport+, GT-Line Lite, and GT-Line. The Petrol Hybrid is only available in the GT Line.

When I first get into my car, I see the next biggest change on the dashboard. The new 12.3” media screen and 12.3” driver display wrap the driver's side of the dash in the GT Line.

The media system has the new minimal system, as seen in the Kia Sorento and Kia EV9. With the introduction of Valet Mode, voice commands, weather, SOS button, and stolen vehicle assistance, to name a few. You can customise the arrangement of the icons in the media system so the ones you use most regularly are easy to access when driving.

The updated 2025 Kia Carnival also has the Kia Connect App. With Over the Air (OTA) updates, so you don’t have to go into a dealership. Kia Connect allows you to control and monitor a lot in the Carnival remotely from the App on your phone. Some of these include the 360-degree camera and door lock and unlock so the kids can put school bags in or get things out. You can set the climate and ventilated seats before you get to the vehicle so it is a comfortable temperature before your journey and open windows to air the cabin.

Sport-grade models and above have wireless phone charging, and all models have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice recognition so you can access your phone's navigation, listening and messaging apps while driving.

I'm the driver of the Petrol V6 top-spec GT-Line for half the morning's journey from Sydney CBD around Akuna Bay and through the national park out to West Head Lookout. It’s incredible. After the torrential rain and rush hour traffic, the winding country roads and those of the national park, the greenery is a very welcome relief.

The 11” head-up display in this 2025 Kia Carnival GT Line shows me my sat nav directions turn by turn with Google Maps and Waze, along with speed, music, etc. This is really helpful when navigating Sydney's early morning traffic and means that while driving the beautiful winding country roads, I don’t have to take my eyes off the road to look at the media screen for directions as they’re projected into the window in front of me.

The GT Line I am in also has a digital rearview mirror, which will be great when the back is full of child seats and the boot is full of kids' prams, bikes, scooters, etc., so you can see well behind.

I noticed the updated 2025 Kia Carnival doesn’t ‘pitch and roll’. It’s as if the underside stays flat to the road. The ride is smooth and I’m keen to see how my children go with motion sickness in the back in this new updated model.

After a brief look out to the ocean across to the lighthouse and Boat Shed at Barren Joey, where we are heading for lunch. It’s an incredible view. The sun is out, the sky is blue and it’s as if the earlier torrential rain never happened!

It's time to swap vehicles, and I jump into the Diesel S model. The engine has a different feel – louder and gravelly compared to the quiet, smooth and punchy petrol variant I just got out of. I feel like the Hybrid will give you that quiet petrol feel but the fuel efficiency of the diesel when it arrives, as well as all the other hybrid benefits for parents like being able to run the aircon for a while without the engine starting (great if you get stuck with a sleeping child in the car).

The interior comparison is noticeable, too. The base model of the 2025 Kia Carnival has cloth seats and fewer interior luxuries than the GT Line.

The drive is still pleasant in the 2025 Kia Carnival. Wind and road noise are good, and as I drive to Barren Joey Point, I don't feel like I'm driving an eight-seater people mover. The Carnival does a really good job of feeling smaller! It has a REALLY tight turning circle, so it's very easy to park and maneuver, and it feels reactive and nimble when steering. Visibility is excellent on the winding country roads, with the large deep windows, so I can enjoy the scenery and the drive! But also once we get into the town and traffic it's confidence-inspiring knowing where the edges of this big bus are.

The updated 2025 Kia Carnival includes lots of active and passive safety features, including rear parking collision avoidance, blind spot view monitoring, Junction crossing/lane oncoming/lane direct, surround view monitor and highway driving assist 2 on the top three trims and driver attention alert, multi-collision braking, junction turning, parking distance warning on the front and rear, rearview camera high beam assist and blind-spot collision avoidance assist are some of the new safety features now on all models.

The pre-update, Kia Carnival, has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring 90% for adult occupancy and 88% for child occupancy in crash testing. With all the new safety technology, Kia is waiting for a decision from ANCAP on whether they are to carry over that rating.

Kia has added an eighth central airbag between the front occupants of the 2025 Kia Carnival to prevent them knocking heads in the event of a side impact, bringing the total to eight airbags, including side airbags that extend to the third-row occupants.

All the things we know and love about the Kia Carnival remain. When it comes to seating, the 2025 Kia Carnival has a total of five top tether anchorages and five lots of ISOFix points.

2025 Kia Carnival top tether child seat anchorages in the second row

All three second-row seats have ISOFix, which are not within plastic guides and are easily connected to…

2025 Kia Carnival ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the second row

…and top tether anchorages right down at the back of all three second-row seat backs. (You may need a top tether extension strap for some rear-facing child seats)

You can install three Infasecure child seats across the second-row seats of the 2025 Kia Carnival. Today, I have the Infasecure Momentum More, convertible 0-4 years child seat installed in the second row.

2025 Kia Carnival legroom with forward-facing child seats installed in the second row

The third-row seats have ISOFix in both the outer seats…

2025 Kia Carnival has ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the third row

… and top tether anchorages right down on the back of both of those seats, too. (You may need a top tether extension strap when installing child seats in these seats, too)

2025 Kia Carnival has top tether child seat anchorages in the third row

I have installed the Infasecure Quattro Onyx, a convertible 0-4 years child seat in the third-row seats.

2025 Kia Carnival legroom with forward-facing child seats installed in the third row

I know from previous testing that five Infasecure child seats fit nicely in the back of the Kia Carnival for those families that need to. I look forward to putting the updated 2025 Kia Carnival through our testing with the full Infasecure child seat range soon.

Access to the third-row seats is good in the Carnival. You can fold the central seat flat or remove it altogether to create a walk-through to the third-row seats. Or the second-row outer seats slide forward with a child seat installed with room to squeeze through to the third-row seats.

2025 Kia Carnival access to the third row with child seats installed in the second row

Legroom is great in all three rows of seats, and you can slide the second-row seats individually to distribute legroom as your family needs it. We found we could have a 180cm driver and third-row passenger with the Infasecure Momentum More child seat installed between them in the second row.

The 2025 Kia Carnival's storage is fantastic, with ample cup and water bottle holders and phone and tablet storage in all three rows.

2025 Kia Carnival has ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the third row

There are also USB-C charging sockets in all three rows, so passengers can charge devices while travelling along. So, if you forget to charge your child's iPad, you can plug it in on your journey – phew!!

There are air vents in the ceilings of both rear rows of seats, so rear passengers can be kept at the right temperature while driving.

2025 Kia Carnival has ISOFIX child seat anchorages in the third row

There are controls in the ceiling for rear passengers to use; however, parents can control it from the front and lock the rear aircon to stop little fiddly-fingered kids messing with it in the back!

The 2025 Kia Carnival's top two models, GT Line Lite and GT Line, have window blinds in all four rear windows, so rear passengers can be shaded from the sun while driving along. This avoids hanging towels and wraps over the windows or expensive and ill-fitting aftermarket options.

Boot space is excellent in the 2025 Kia Carnival whether you use two rows of seats…

2025 Kia Carnival boot space for twin side by side stroller pram and shopping with two rows of seats in use

…  or three. The boot is enormous and practical for everyday family use as well as family holidays.

2025 Kia Carnival has top tether child seat anchorages in the third row

The Thule Spring, a lightweight, one-handed folding stroller, fits easily in the boot of the 2025 Kia Carnival without even folding down!

2025 Kia Carnival boot space for single stroller pram and shopping with all three rows in use

The updates to the 2025 Kia Carnival bring it in line with the Kia Sorento and Kia EV9 in terms of looks, drive, comfort and technology. It now has push-button start, rear occupant alert and rain-sensing wipers.

The GT Line has remote parking from the key fob, which is great if you have a tight garage or parking space. You can drive the car out using the key fob and then load the kids in through the side sliding doors.

The updated 2025 Kia Carnival is a very comfortable, practical, and functional car for families big and small. Its modern exterior and interior design mean it looks good, too, and it feels more like an SUV than a people mover. The improvements to the drive will make it much more comfortable for your rear passengers.

A favourite with my household, I can not wait to drive it with my family on board and put it through our full BabyDrive testing with the full range of Infasecure Child Seats and Thule Prams.

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Tace Clifford
About Tace Clifford
Tace Clifford founded BabyDrive in 2017 after discovering a huge information gap in mainstream car reviews that left new parents and expanding families in the dark when it came to one of the biggest purchasing decisions of their lives.

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