Kia Carnival SLi Diesel Review

2019 Kia Carnival Road Test Review

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.

Kia pretty much `owns’ the people mover segment with its Carnival accounting for the lion’s share of sales. They sell more Carnivals than all the rest put together…. for good reason.

Where Toyota’s Tarago and to a lesser extent the Honda Odyssey were once the go-to people mover choices, Carnival now convincingly out guns them on just about every score, not the least being styling and performance to say nothing of safety, value and warranty.

If you have eight peeps to move, a Carnival makes it easy offering roomy, accessible seating for everyone and a decent load space down the back.

It shares some underpinnings with Kia’s impressive Sorrento SUV meaning strong engines and now, an eight speed auto transmission optimising fuel efficiency and performance.

The diesel SLi driven is perhaps pick of the bunch as it’s more affordable than the top of the range Platinum and comes with plenty of kit missing out only on some advanced driver assistance features and other luxury stuff you really don’t need.

The price is a tick under $55,000 which gets you a whole lot of vehicle complete with limo feel and leather upholstery.

To look at, Carnival is more like an overgrown station wagon than a bus.

Available performance from the 2.2-litre diesel four cylinder is strong, even with a full passenger load.

No wonder they sell so many…

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.


As far as people mover’s go, Carnival is easy on the eye  with a handsome frontal look incorporating Kia’s family bowtie grille with large integrated headlights and supplementary driving lights/vents let into the bumper. It’s a wide vehicle giving it plenty of on road presence.

The sides are long and fairly upright exhibiting minimal curvature into the roof (`tumble home’ as the styling guru’s call it) while a small kick behind the rear sliders adds some drama to the profile leading to a smallish rear side window.

The rear end is fairly generic Kia and in fact can easily be mistaken for Sorrento. It’s upright and has nicely shaped tail lights and a protruding bumper with a spoiler up on the roof lending a sporty touch.

The overall external appearance is pleasing and classy. No complaints here at all.

2019 Kia Carnival PE SLi interior.


Inside is, once again, standard Kia fare with a large central control screen dominating the dash which also features a neatly angled instrument pod for the driver and well laid out centre stack for supplementary controls.

The seats are large and comfy, in SLi’s case, upholstered in leather and the rear two pews are adjustable with a clever folding system. This facilitates easy passenger access and more load space if required.

The power operated side sliders (and tail gate) open wide and there’s an easy to use seat folding device in the middle row to access the rear row.

It has plenty of room inside and I lost count on the number of cup and bottle holders dotted around the cabin.

I particularly like the power operated side sliders that are relatively quick to operate as is the tailgate that opens high enough to clear tall people

The load space down the back is like a bin – deep and wide.

Drivers will appreciate the tilt/telescopic wheel adjustment and the wheel itself is a chunky, multi -function, sporty style tool.

The tones are grey and the space is generous inside.

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.


The SLi is the penultimate Carnival and as such, scores well in the features department boasting goodies like;

  • SUNA satnav with traffic bulletins
  • Heated exterior mirrors
  • Rood rails
  • Digital speedo
  • Rear spoiler
  • Tri-zone climate control
  • Clean air module
  • 3 x USB points, 3 x 12v outlets
  • Cooling glovebox
  • JBL premium audio
  • Chrome body hardware

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.

Drive and Engine

I thought it was a rear wheel drive but it ain’t. There’s no torque steer to reveal front wheel drive because the entire powertrain is so silky smooth thanks to that impressive 8-speed auto transmission.

It doesn’t offer paddle shift but you probably don’t need that on a people mover.

The ride is supple and controlled and yet you can still have a bit of a go in corners if you want to make your passengers queasy.

It floats along like a luxury limo’ and even though there was a diesel four banger under the bonnet, minimal engine noise intrudes into the cabin.

That engine benefits from a high efficiency variable geometry turbo to help produce 147kW and 440Nm of torque – plenty to push Carnival’s 2137kg bulk.

Acceleration is strong across a wide engine speed range and the transmission shifts seamlessly between ratios to fully capture available power and torque.

The Carnival SLi has a reasonable amount of advanced driver assist technology including smart cruise control.

It is extremely comfortable wafting along in this vehicle at any sane speed.

But the air recycle button kept on defaulting to outside air which annoyed the hell out of me.

On the plus side, the Carnival can tow up to 2.0 tonnes and would make light work of it though I would suggest with an additional tonne of human on board things might become a touch strained. That’s 5.0 tonnes all up Gross Combined Weight. You nearly need a truck licence.

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.


Carnival scores a 5-star ANCAP rating and offers a high level of primary and secondary safety thanks to its design and safety features fitted.

The SLi misses out on some of the high end advanced driver assist stuff like lane departure warning, a 360 degree camera, blind spot warning and lane change assist but it gets AEB, reverse park sensors, reverse camera, auto headlights and multiple airbags right down past the third seat row.

Good Bits

  • Impressive engine performance and economy
  • Excellent 8-speed auto
  • Power operated side sliders and remote tail gate operatio

Not So Good Bits

  • Misses out on vented/heated front seats
  • Annoying recycle air function
  • Seat height may be an issue for some


I don’t need a `bus’ and I never did so my view of them is a touch biased.

But, if you are a big breeder or have a tribe to get somewhere then Carnival is the obvious choice these days. It looks good, isn’t an adapted van,  the diesel goes great, it has large seats for eight and easy access as well as a decent load space and the best warranty in the business.

Fill ‘er up

2019 Kia Carnival PE Platinum.

Also Look At

Facts and Figures: 2019 Kia Carnival SLi diesel

  • Engine: 2.2L four-cylinder turbo diesel producing 147kW/440Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Warranty: 7 years/ unlimited km
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: South Korea
  • Price: from $55,000 MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.

Kia Carnival SLi Dieel Review


Kia pretty much `owns’ the people mover segment with its Carnival accounting for the lion’s share of sales. They sell more Carnivals than all the rest put together…. for good reason.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.