2023 Kia Carnival SX Review Philippines
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2023 Kia Carnival SX Review

The 2023 Kia Sorento is often compared to the Toyota Alphard, but at more than a million Pesos less, it might be an MPV worth considering.

Minivans and MPVs have fallen out of favor due to the SUV’s rise in popularity. People nowadays would rather have the “cool factor” associated with a rugged vehicle as opposed to the boring or responsible parental image associated with MPVs. Here in our region, though, premium MPVs are seen as a status symbol of sorts and a vehicle of choice for a number of affluent families and VIPs. One look at the Alphard is enough to explain what I mean. Kia, however, has done something interesting to the MPV segment. By combining some of an SUV’s rugged design elements, they’ve managed to create an MPV that looks visually interesting, and the result of that is this 2023 Kia Carnival SX that you see here.

Exterior

2023 Kia Carnival SX Review Philippines

2023 Kia Carnival SX Review Philippines

Kia is currently on a roll as of the moment in terms of design. I’d be bold to say that they have a lineup of breathtakingly gorgeous vehicles whatever the price point. Okay, so one vehicle that sticks out like a sore thumb in this description would be the Soluto, but then, that’s a Kia that wasn’t designed in the current era. By adding a few rugged touches such as those black cladding along with Kia’s design flourishes such as the signature “Tiger Nose” grille, slim LED headlights, full-width LED taillights, and an interesting silver trim for the window line, this is an MPV that stands out. Unless of course, you’re in Makati or Bonifacio Global City then you’d simply blend in since these have become common in our business districts.

As this is the range-topping SX variant, some of the special design features you get are chrome detailing for the front fascia and larger 19-inch wheels. The rest of the design is pretty much similar to both the base EX and this SX, which is a good thing if you’re already content with the EX’s features set.

Interior

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

Moving inside the 2023 Kia Carnival SX, you’ll be greeted with an interior that’s as stylish as the exterior, but I do have a few qualms. Fundamentally speaking, the materials used as premium and upmarket, though the sheer amount of gloss black trims on high-touch surfaces means that this demo unit already has plenty of smudges and scratches that are very visible. Black leather upholstery also wraps the seats, while a dual sunroof and ventilated front and rear seats is exclusive to this range-topping SX.

Features And Infotainment

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

Now, this is where I have a few issues that can be a deal breaker for some buyers. In terms of tech, the 2023 Kia Carnival SX is a mixed bag. The 8-inch infotainment system, as with every Hyundai Motor Group vehicle, works excellently. The interface is simple and responsive, and there’s even wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging. But the screen is smaller than the 12.3-inch ones in overseas models, leaving you with a large expanse of empty black bezel. Ditto the analog gauges, which come with a tiny 4.2-inch color LCD as opposed to the 12.3-inch gauges found in the Sorento SX. It’s an eyesore to what is otherwise a modern and high-tech interior.

As for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), blind spot warning and the usual reserving camera come as standard on all variants, but only the range-topping SX gets automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, lane centering, and rear cross traffic alert. The ADAS suite isn’t as comprehensive as I would like, but it gets the basics right at least.

Space and Practicality

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

There’s probably a reason why the tech situation at the front isn’t that impressive, and that’s because Kia thinks that most of this car’s buyers will have their personal driver or chauffeur. While there are generous space and comfort features in the front seats, the main highlight of the Carnival SX is its power-adjustable rear captain’s chairs. These Relaxation Seats, as Kia calls them, are a step above the standard captain’s chairs in the EX, due to the heating and cooling function, along with the footrests and the one-touch Relaxation Mode that converts the seat into a nearly flat bed. This gives rear-seat occupants a perfect way to gaze at the rear sunroof. Of course, the sliding doors open automatically and these come with integrated sunshades.

If space is solely your concern, here’s another reason why you probably should splurge for an MPV as opposed to an SUV. The Carnival offers excellent third-row space that even a full-size adult like me will find comfortable. It’s a genuine space where there’s good space and long-distance support for the seats.

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

 

That generous space utilization by MPVs is further evident when it comes to cargo capacity. Even with the third row in place, you already get a massive 627 liters of space. Folding these seats under the floor is enough to provide you with a massive 2,587 liters of space. Unfortunately, those power-adjustable second-row captain’s chairs can’t be removed, but the ones in the EX can be removed from the cabin, thus giving you a massive 4,110 liters–far larger than any SUV can achieve.

Driving Experience

2023 Kia Carnival SX Philippines

Under the hood of the 2023 Kia Carnival SX is a 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that produces 197 horsepower and 44 Nm of torque. This is a familiar diesel engine that’s done duty in the Sorento, Santa Fe, and even the Staria. Mated to an eight-speed automatic that drives the front wheels, this diesel engine is smooth, punchy, and refined. The tuning here skews more towards a smooth power delivery compared to what I experienced in the Sorento, and therefore there’s less chance of overwhelming the front wheels. Ditto the smoother eight-speed auto as opposed to the Sorento’s dual-clutch transmission (DCT)–though even that is also smooth by DCT standards. And being a diesel, it’s very fuel efficient, averaging at 12.5 km/l in mixed city and highway driving that was mostly driven with five other passengers.

Smoothness is a word you’ll be hearing a lot from this review because of how the Carnival rides over bumps–even when empty-loaded is really good. The handling of the Carnival skews towards stability and relaxed driving, since the steering offers a decent response, but not to the point that it makes the vehicle agile and darty through corners. It’s also light and devoid of feedback, but then again, this is what you’re probably after with a vehicle like this in the first place.

As for other aspects of the vehicle, while the Carnival is refined in general, I do think this has a bit more wind noise compared to the Hyundai Tucson I recently reviewed, but it’s more of an observation rather than a negative. The Carnival is refined, mind you, but because of its sheer size and the fact that it occupies more space in the air, thus making it more prone to wind noise–especially in the wing mirrors. Road noise is well suppressed, though, and it’s a quiet car even when overtaking other vehicles. The diesel engine isn’t vocal, though the sound it produces isn’t necessarily smooth next to the V6 of the outgoing Alphard or the hybrid drivetrain of the new Toyota premium MPV.

Verdict

2023 Kia Carnival SX Philippines

Speaking of the Alphard, this is where comparisons of this vehicle will be inevitable. While the Alphard is bigger and more luxurious, the Carnival probably fulfills 90 percent of what its target demographic wants. This begs the question, is the million or two peso jump worth it? For those who can afford and definitely want an Alphard, probably. Otherwise, the Carnival is probably good enough for its target demographic, which is probably why it’s Kia’s third best-selling model in the Philippines.

The 2023 Kia Carnival SX has room for improvement. While I do think its tech features are a hit-and-miss, everything else perfectly meets what the Carnival’s target demographic is looking for. It’s not the most luxurious out there, nor the most high-tech, but by giving it an interesting design and features that clearly focus on the Carnival’s customer profile, it manages to be a premium MPV that’s well-designed and satisfyingly luxurious to own.

More Photos

2023 Kia Carnival SX Philippines

2023 Kia Carnival SX Interior Philippines

Pricing and Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Features: ★★★★☆
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★☆
Handling: ★★★★☆
Comfort: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆

Prices: P3,088,000

Overall: 4.3 out of 5

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