2021 Kia Carnival Review: Space Jam [w/video]

Kia’s Carnival might look space age, but it edges ahead on solid MPV ground in Singapore thanks to huge space, lots of features, and a decent drive 

Space might be the final frontier, but here in Singapore it’s already a big enough hurdle to cross with property prices being what they are. 

And if car buyers bought their wheels like they did houses, the Kia Carnival would be a sold-out development since it packs a lot to love within its considerable real estate. 

Even before its debut in late April 2021 – read our news story for full details on pricing and equipment levels – the fourth-gen Carnival MPV generated a lot of buzz as one of our most read and searched-for news stories. 

Why? Here was a very spacious, feature-rich and very large MPV that could be less expensive to run and own than similar-sized Japanese ones, while not looking totally like a box on wheels, and even injecting some interest too. 

Having tested the new Carnival, we think it lives up to its potential and then some, and it’ll bring some spunk to drivers who need to cart around more than five people at a time. 

“They’re behind us, aren’t they Timmy?’
‘Who the hell are you? Get outta my car!’

Analysis: Multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) are on the back foot, having gone from 27 percent of the market here in 2019, to just 14 percent in 2020.

Here’s our in-depth review of the Kia Carnival showcasing the very spacious second row, exploring the third row, boot space, and lots more!

Design and Appearance

The Carnival is an extra-large MPV – far bigger than a small MPV such as the former Kia Carens or VW Touran, and bigger still than a VW Sharan or Seat Alhambra. In fact, at 5,155mm long, it’s the longest ‘pure’ passenger MPVs here. Larger MPVs have their roots in commercial vans, such as the Maxus G10 and Mercedes-Benz V-Class.

The car’s key rivals are Japanese: the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire, and the Nissan Elgrand. These cars are relatively popular here, despite their S$200k+ price, they are known quantities and tall, boxy, and uniquely Japanese. 

The Carnival goes for a slightly different tack: It’s longer than those cars, and not as tall, so its proportions present a sleeker profile almost like a tall estate. But like the Japanese cars, it doesn’t hide its size, but plays this as an advantage. 

The broad grille spreads out across the front, blending into the high-mounted, unique split headlights, as well as the jagged daytime running lights. The flat, broad lower section has its own bash-plate style guard and fog-lights in the corners, and it makes for a car that looks rugged and imposing.  

The rest of the design sees typical MPV cues, but they’re not boring: the C-pillar has a textured chrome to break up the expanse of glass, and the taillights are joined by a lightbar, above which is a hidden rear wiper. 

All in, the new Carnival presents a funky soft-road-ified facade, one that implies that the business of people-moving needn’t be all humdrum MPV boring. 

We saw a similar tack in the ‘SUV-ification’ of the 2021 Honda Odyssey – and it makes the twice-facelifted Odyssey look almost totally new and fresh. In the Carnival’s case, it makes for a front end so eye-catching you miss the minivan-ness. 

Page 2: How yuuuuge is the Carnival?

1.Intro/Design and Appearance
2. Space and Practicality 
3. Interior and Features 
4. Driving Experience
5. Competition, Conclusion

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong