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BabyDrive Verdict

HERE IT IS… The much anticipated NEW 2021 Kia Carnival. Far too excitedly I got to have a preview of the top spec Platinum model with ALL its bells and whistles! Without further ado let's dive straight in and find out how good it is as a BabyDrive…

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2021 Kia Carnival Launch Review KA4

Starting with the exterior of the New 2021 Kia Carnival, it has lost its frumpy mum bus stigma. There is no denying the New Kia Carnival is vying for some of the large SUV customers and it is definitely a contender now with this look, which is kind of a little Range Rover-ish. The step up height its lower than before, it has been made longer and wider but by shortening the nose it Kia has somehow made this one not look as big as the old model.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum

The shape and style of the new front grille (especially on this Platinum version) and the squaring up of the rear side windows as well as the sharks fin aerial on the roof mean the Carnival is now looking more like a cool, luxury SUV than a van!

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4

My daughter commented that the wheel arches look like rainbows!

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4

There are two new VERY COOL new family friendly door features in the new 2021 Kia Carnival. Firstly if you hold the unlock button down on the key fob for a few seconds it automatically opens both the rear side doors and the boot. I can imagine using this when we go to the park or the beach to let a breeze through the car and cool it down before we get in (unlike some cars such as the new Sorento it doesn't have remote engine start) or so the kids can get themselves in or get things out of the boot.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 with side doors and boot open

The second one is you can walk up to the car with the key fob in your pocket and if you stand near the boot or either side door then they will automatically open. This is great for everyday use, when you go out to the car with your arms laden with kids and their many belongings.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 with side doors and boot open


How big is the boot of the New 2021 Kia Carnival?

The lift over height of the boot of the New 2021 Kia Carnival has been lowered by 26mm making lifting prams, shopping or bikes in and out or dogs getting in and out much easier.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 boot space

The boot space is now even bigger! It's cavernous, it is now 72mm longer and can easily fit multiple prams or strollers. I like the drop down into the Carnival boot because it holds everything securely and nothing slides out when you open the boot door. I also noticed there is a cargo net to cover the boot area so objects don't fly into the cabin if you brake suddenly.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 boot space and shopping bag hooks

There are four bag hooks on the back of the seats too.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 boot storage shelves

There are large storage shelves in the side wall which will be really handy for holding wet beach gear or things you keep in the car like endless supplies of band aids, suncream and baby wipes! We will do a full shopping bag and pram test with the boot when we do our full review in the coming weeks.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 boot storage shelves


How good is storage in the New 2021 Kia Carnival?

In the front of the new 2021 Kia Carnival everything is easily accessible and practical.

There are two cup holders in the central console, they will hold a reusable and disposable coffee cup and between them is a slot useful for holding your phone.

There is a wireless phone charging well in front of them with USB, AUX  and 12V socket too.

The double glove box I loved in the previous model has been replaced by one cavernous glove box, which will easily hold a wallet and iPad with the manuals. We'd miss having that upper glove box though, as it was super handy to be able to separate stuff.

I did also notice the glasses case is now gone from the ceiling AND the conversation mirror 🙁  A sad day for parents who want to keep an eye in the back seat!

Instead there is a well in front of the central console box big enough to store glasses but not conceal them (maybe put your designer sunnies in a daggy case when you leave them in the car).

The central console box is very large and can easily hold all the things they get filled up with!

There is a shelf on the side of the central console box large enough to hold an iPad.

The door bins in the front will hold a large refillable water bottle and there are the little handle wells in the doors too.

In the back of the new 2021 Kia Carnival storage is excellent too. There is a bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat.

Two cup holders are conveniently positioned on top of the central console box at the back so they can be accessed by either the front or second-row passengers. They will hold a reusable or disposable coffee cup and a large refillable water bottle fits in them too.

Between them is another phone storage slot.

Below them in the back of the central console box is a phone shelf and there are USB ports in the side of both front seats making charging easy while driving for rear passengers.

There are double layer map pockets on the back of both front seats. Great for extra storage and the solid layer will conceal anything you leave in there when going to the park for example.

The door bins in the back are a single bottle holder and will hold a large refillable water bottle.

You can fold forward the seat back of the central second-row seat if you are not using it and it makes a table. There are also two good size cup holders and two phone storage slots.

In the third-row there are double cup holders on either side and a phone storage well.

There are USB ports in the third-row on both sides too, so everyone can be plugged in and keep devices charged rather than running out of battery half way through a long journey!


What is new in the interior of the New 2021 Carnival?

In the top spec Platinum model the interior is very modern and feels luxurious. For example there is a rotary dial instead of a gear lever which is more minimal and clutter free. It also reminds me of the one in some Jaguars and Range Rovers

One of the BEST features of the interior of the new 2021 Kia Carnival is the seat pleather is now available in black! No more trying to keep light grey or cream interiors clean with kids!!

The driver's seat can remember your seating position so when you switch between parents you just press a button and don't have to readjust it every time.

The front passenger seat can be easily adjusted by the driver using the buttons on the side of it, great for school pick ups when you don't get out of the car and for helping elderly relatives in and out too.

Thankfully the rear window blinds have stayed and are in all four rear windows of the new 2021 Kia Carnival and so little rear passengers are still shaded from the sun.

As are the air-con vents in all three ceiling rows so everyone is kept cool.

There are controls in the ceiling of the second-row for older kids and adults to use..

or the rear air-con can be controlled from the front dash and locked from there too.


How many child seats fit in the back of the New 2021 Kia Carnival?

There are now five top tether anchorages…

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 has five top tether anchorages

…and five ISOFix points in the back of the 2021 Kia Carnival! YIPEEEE!!!

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 has five sets of ISOFIX child seat anchorages

Three across the second-row seats…

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 second row seats

…and two in the outer third-row seats.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 third row seats

The second-row is made up of three individual seats that can be moved backwards and forwards independently to distribute legroom. The amount of slide the second-row seats have has been increased in the 2021 Kia Carnival, giving even more interior space in the back.

The shoulder width of the second-row seats has been increased slightly and three full size child seats fit really nice and easily across the second-row.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 three child seats in second row

I found I can very comfortably sit between them too and I'm 162cm.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 two child seats and adult in second row

The central seatbelt has been moved to now come from the shoulder instead of the ceiling which is fantastic as it now sits properly and doesn't cut into your neck.

Two full size child seats fit very comfortably in the third-row outer seats too and I can just fit between them and I'm 162cm.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 two child seats and adult in third row

There are two options for accessing the third-row seats. The first is to remove the second-row central seat, creating a walkway through to the back of the car.

2021 Kia Carnival walk through with central seat removed

Secondly you can bring the outer second-row seats forward when using the ISOFix attachments rather than the  seatbelt. It moves far enough for a kid to climb through. I could also just squeeze through and I'm 162cm.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 third row access with child seats installed

However I do not think the third-row access is quite as good as the previous Kia Carnival and is now more SUV like. The second-row outer seats do not tilt forward like in the previous model so there doesn't seem to be as much step through space.

With the load height lowered on the boot it is also the case for the step up height so getting in and out of the new Kia Carnival is even easier for everyone, especially the kids, dogs and grandparents.

There is no hump in the central footwell of the 2021 Kia Carnival which makes walking through from one side to the other very easy.

The overall length of the 2021 Kia Carnival has been considerably increased and the nose shortened and this space given over to the interior. This means legroom has been increased throughout so that with a full size child seat in the third-row and a rear-facing child seat in the second-row I could fit a 180cm passenger in the front.

2021 Kia Carnival Platinum KA4 legroom with rear-facing infant capsule child seat installed


What's the New 2021 Kia Carnival like to drive?

Well you ‘d think the increase in length and width would make it harder to manoeuvre around town but it really is not the case with this very large SUV, I mean people mover. The turning circle is unbelievable!

It was even tighter than that of my videographer's Kia Rio! The steering is really light too and combined they make parking really easy and with the sliding rear doors you don't need to worry about parking space width so much either as the kids won't open the doors out into other cars. I found the new 2021 Carnival Platinum model to be quick and nimble around town too (I drove the diesel and there is a V6 petrol available as well).

I found the new 2021 Kia Carnival to be a quieter and smoother ride than the previous model but will learn more when I get more time with the car for a full review.


What safety features are in the new 2021 Carnival?

The 2021 Kia Carnival is yet to be given an ANCAP crash test rating.

There are seven airbags in the new 2021 Kia Carnival including side protection for passengers in all three rows of seats.

As well, there is rear seat occupancy alert for both rear rows of seats, to help prevent you getting out and then forgetting to take your kids (or pets) with you.

There is a long list of safety features for the new 2021 Kia Carnival but some I'm pleased to see are Lane keep assist (LKA) and lane follow assist (LFA), blind spot collision avoidance (BSM), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA)

high beam assist (HBA), autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with junction assist, multi-collision braking (MCB) and side exit assist (SEA) so you or your rear passengers can't open the doors if a car is coming along side you.

My favourite is the driver attention warning (DAA+) which alerts you when you are tired and need to take a break as well as when you are stopped at traffic lights or a junction and the car in front has moved off and you haven't. It's so often at lights when my rear passengers decide to pass me their empty snack box or apple core etc and I don't notice the cars pulling off in front!

The cruise control in the new 2021 Kia Carnival is bang on like in most Kia models, with really easy to use controls on the steering wheel and very accurate. There is also intelligent speed limit assist (ISLA) which reads the road signs and drops your speed down to the speed limit, which I am yet to test out.


What's the media system like for families in the New 2021 Kia Carnival?

The media system in the new Kia Carnival is still lovely and simple and easy to use. The touch screen is really nice and large 12.3 inches in the Platinum, Sli and Si models and 8″ in the S base model.

There are some great new features in the new Kia Carnival the are great for families. We have seen their benefits already in the recently released 2021 Kia Sorento, firstly it's the sounds of nature. White noise at your finger tips! I LOVE this feature, you can choose between the sound of the rain, lively forest, open air cafe and our daughter's favourite calm ocean waves. Guaranteed to get her to sleep on any journey!

The second great feature is quiet mode. Once you have got your kids to sleep you can shift the sound to the front speakers and put your own music on and it won't disturb the rear passengers. Also good for when bought for use as Ubers, Shebahs, taxis and airport shuttles etc.

The third and the one we had most fun with is the passenger talk function. This amplifies the drivers voice into the third-row, so you do not have to shout to be heard. We found it was very good for in car karaoke if your kids like a sing along!! Like quiet mote I think it would also be good for when the Carnival is used as Ubers, Shebahs, taxis and airport shuttles etc.

The media system has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can access the apps kids love in the car like ABC Kids listen etc…

…as well as digital radio that allows you access Kinderling and other kids' favourite channels.

There are also multiple bluetooth connections so two passengers can have their phones linked up at the same time.

The new high resolution 720-pixel screen means the camera images are much clearer and crisper too. You have multiple angles to view from and a birds-eye view as well.

You can easily turn the parking sensors off with a button down in the central console.

I recently spent three months with the previous model Kia Carnival and it was pretty much perfection for my family. It's great to see the few things that did disappoint me have been changed in the new 2021 Kia Carnival, like the second-row central seatbelt and the addition of more top tether anchorages and ISOFix making seating much more flexible.

That said, it's a shame Kia ditched the sunglasses holder and conversation mirror and I wish the third-row access with child seats installed was still as good as it was before because this was a huge advantage. On the upside, there are now more options of where to fit the child seats so it's a downside many families should be able to overcome or not even notice!

I have LOVED my time with the 2021 Kia Carnival although it has been far too brief! I can't wait to drive it again for longer, have more in car karaoke (sorry passenger talk!) and whizz my family about in it!

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Mocka nursery furniture
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.


  1. Great review! One question, how easy is it to buckle in the child(ren) in the 3rd row? Do you have to be a contortionist to reach into the 3rd row to strap and buckle the child in whilst standing outside? If the 2nd row middle seat was removed would it be easier to get buckle them in whilst inside the car? We have 2 boys under 5 and 1 on the way so wondering what would be the best configuration with 3 boys. Thank you!

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