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Kia Carnival (1999-2003)

by John Ewing,reviewed December 2003

The Carnival, Kia’s first people mover style vehicle, went on sale here in September 1999, well before it had reached Kia’s biggest export market, the USA.
There it was known as a Sedona

With pricing significantly below its new rivals, the well-equipped Korean quickly became a sales hit, especially with fiscally challenged larger families. Pricing even looked keen compared to second-hand people movers.

Models and Features

Kia’s seven-seater was built on the Credos sedan platform, and initially was offered in only one specification level, the Carnival LS. Transmission options were either a five-speed manual or the far more popular four-speed electronic auto.

The standard goodies list included dual-zone climate control air conditioning, power steering, windows, aerial and heated mirrors, plus tilt steering column, tinted glass, central locking and six-speaker radio cassette. Auto versions picked up a driver’s airbag and CD player too. March 2000 also saw these added to the manual’s standard repertoire.

In late 2000 Kia offered a limited edition, the Classic, with extras such as leather trim and alloy wheels.

A model upgrade in December 2001 brought refinements, improved comfort, revised styling and optional ABS brakes. A new and better-equipped grade, the Carnival LE, also debuted.

On The Road 

The 2.5litre all-alloy V6 engine does a fairly good job of hauling the five-door Carnival’s considerable kerb mass about. However performance trails some of its V6 competition and its lack of outright muscle when climbing steep hills or with a full load is noticeable, with frequent transmission shifts and plenty of engine noise. Drive is delivered to the front wheels.

Its blend of ride comfort and handling characteristics is acceptable for a vehicle of this type. A large turning circle and vague steering detract from overall road manners though.

However Carnival’s seating flexibility, interior space, sliding side doors and lift up rear gate, along with a number of practical features will please those chasing sensible family transport.

Overall finish was decent but arguably, trailed its Japanese competition. Prospective owners should be aware that major engine problems have been encountered in earlier build Carnivals, with a number of vehicles having engines fitted (sometimes more than one). Look carefully for signs of head gasket failure including water in the oil or oil leaks at the head joints, or signs of overheating. Some specialised engine reconditioners can perform engine modifications to prevent further problems, but this or any other major repair may be economically unsound given vehicle values.

Other checks should include pads and discs for wear, and an inefficient handbrake could indicate cable problems. Scheduled servicing of oil and coolant and the timing belt is vital, so check service records too.

Given age, likely kilometres travelled and Carnival’s primary role as family transport, general wear and tear to mechanical components and interior trims is likely.

For those still intent on an early Carnival, a professional pre-purchase inspection is an essential – it’s the best chance of staying out of trouble.

Fuel Consumptions

From 10.2 to 14.95litres/100km, depending on model and conditions.

How Much? 

For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to RACQ's online car price guide or contact our Motoring Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 1800 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.

Kia Carnival 1999-2003

Car Details

Vehicle make Kia
Vehicle model Carnival
Year 1999
Current price range $ - $

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This review is based on road testing conducted by The Road Ahead. Further vehicle reviews, in-depth comparisons and coverage of consumer motoring issues can be found in the Club's magazine. Prices listed were current at the time of review and are manufacturers list prices and do not include statutory and delivery charges. Prices can vary from time to time and dealer to dealer.