Is it a people mover, is it an SUV, is a Mum Bus?! What ever you would call the 2021 Kia Carnival SLi, it is COOL! And I challenge any parents to test it with their family and not want to keep it at the end of the week! I previously tested the top-spec Platinum model for the launch and this is the SLi spec. Let's see how we get on putting it through our usual BabyDrive testing on a very wet and windy week…
The main difference that affected me as a parent between the Platinum model Carnival that I previously tested and the SLi model here were the lack of rear window blinds, they are only available in the top-spec Platinum model and I did feel we missed them to keep rear passengers shielded from the sun beaming through those huge windows while driving.
The good news is, this SLi model Carnival also gets the excellent quality 360-degree cameras that are really good when parking and manoeuvring.
Especially being a big people mover, you need the extra set of good eyes!
Boot space is fantastic in the new Kia Carnival SLi model. It has definitely increased from the previous model Kia Carnival. When you are only using the first two rows of seats it gives you a super large van like space in the back, which is great for carrying extra-large dogs however that floor is not even and there are handles and lumps and bumps dogs could trip over so you'd need to put a sturdy boot mat down.
26 shopping bags fit in the boot when you are using the first two rows of seats only in the new Kia Carnival, which is two more than the previous model Kia Carnival that held 24. It also trumps the Hyundai Staria boot which also holds 24 shopping bags, the Hyundai Palisade that takes 21 and the Honda Odyssey boot which holds 20 shopping bags.
When you are using all three rows of seats, the boot of the Kia Carnival dips down, which I like for holding everything still in the boot and not letting it roll around.
Ten shopping bags fit in the boot when you are using all three rows of seats in the Kia Carnival, which is the same as in the previous model Kia Carnival. It is four more than in the Honda Odyssey that holds six, two more than the Hyundai Palisade that holds eight and six less than the Hyundai Staria that holds a massive sixteen.
A pram stands up nicely in the boot of the Kia Carnival when using all three rows of seats, or you can transport a medium-size family dog.
When it comes to installing child seats, five child seats fit nicely in the back of the 2021 Kia Carnival SLi. There are top tether AND ISOFix anchorages in all three second-row seats.
The top tether anchorages are at the bottom of the seatbacks and I needed extension straps for all rear-facing child seats…
…and in the two outer third-row seats!! Again they are right at the bottom of the seatbacks.
That's AMAZING!! FIVE top tether anchorages AND five ISOFix in total!! Not many cars have that (see how many have three or more sets of ISOFix points here).
Three child seats fit nicely across the second-row seats or you can remove the central second-row seat to make a walkway through to the third-row seats.
Taking a closer look at the central second-row seat, you can take it out altogether or you can turn it around. Now it is not legal in Australia for any child seats to be installed while the seat is turned around however an adult can travel facing backwards, which might be useful for facing your forward-facing passengers in the other seats.
Now the legroom in the Kia Carnival is very good and has been increased from the previous model, meaning we could easily fit a forward-facing child seat in the third-row, a rear-facing child seat in the second row and a 182cm driver in the front.
There is also no hump in the floor of the second row, which makes it really easy for passengers to walk through from one side to the other.
Third-row access is also good in the Kia Carnival SLi, you can bring either of the outer second-row seats forward and climb through to the third row.
I do think the mechanism in the previous model Kia Carnival was better for third-row access than in this model and it gave you more space to fit through.
The new Kia Carnival has airbags in all three rows of seats which is great for protecting those rear passengers in the event of an accident.
There are also air-con vents in the ceiling for both rear rows of seats too. There are two vents in the ceiling above each row of passengers, you can adjust their position before you set off.
There are controls in the ceiling in the second row…
…as well as being able to lock these and control the climate from the front media screen to stop any fiddly fingered little ones or any sibling squabbles over the controls.
Storage is really good throughout the Kia Carnival and there are a few differences to the previous model; the conversion mirror is gone and so is the double glove box. However, the new glove box is ample in size
The central console box is cavernous and easily fits everything we families need.
The new Kia Carnival has plenty of cup holders throughout all three rows of seats.
There are also USB ports to charge phones and devices and places to store them in each row too.
There is a handy bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat…
…and four handy bag hooks across the back of the third-row seats, which are great for hanging all the schoolbags on for drop off and pick up!
In the side of the boot wall are some shelves…
…these are really convenient for leaving the everyday things we need in our family car, like sunscreen and first aid kits etc.
The boot door of the Kia Carnival SLi model opens automatically when you walk up to it with the key in your pocket, which I found one of the most helpful features when going to the car with my kids and it also has an auto-close tailgate too.
The Kia Carnival SLi is really nice to drive, the steering is really light which you do not expect in a car of this size and the turning circle is incredibly small. I would recommend test-driving one so you can experience it for yourself! This does make driving round town and parking really nice and easy, which is a relief if you are a bit intimidated by the size of this car because it doesn't feel so big from the driver's seat!!
Let's face it, we all use stopping at the lights to pass something to someone in the back or change the radio station. For this reason, I like the driver-assist that lets you know if the person in front of you moves away and you haven't noticed.
I also found the cruise control to be really easy to use AND incredibly accurate too.
The media system in the new Kia Carnival is still lovely and simple and easy to use. The SLi model has the large 12.3-inch screen like the Platinum and Si models and the S base model has an 8 inch screen.
There are lots of features within the media system that are great for families like Sounds of Nature white noise, passenger talk, quiet mode and voice memo. You can learn more about these in the expandable section ‘noise' below.
The reversing camera is a really clear and great quality image and you can turn the parking sensors on and off with a button down in the central console.
The 2021 Kia Carnival has been given a 5 Star ANCAP crash test rating. Scoring 90% for adult occupancy protection and 88% for child occupancy protection.
The new Kia Carnival is packed full of the kind of safety features you expect to see in a large family SUV including Lane keep assist (LKA) and lane follow assist (LFA), blind-spot collision avoidance (BSM), rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA)…
There is a rear seatbelt removal alarm and lights in the ceiling in the front so you can easily see if anyone in the back removes a seatbelt.