I ended up driving the car as soon as I could and found it easy to handle and manoeuvre, despite its weight, which is upward of 2,000 kg. Given its size, it’s particularly suitable for a world where physical distancing has become a necessity.
It allows for a safe distance between the passenger in the second row and the chauffeur. Opening the rear door is easy: just flick a button and its one-touch technology gets the door to slide open with pioneering electro-hydraulic mechanisms, though this does take some getting used to.
The automatic eight-shift transmission, which drives power to the front wheels, makes for a smart and peppy rev that is quite respectable for the weight of this car.
The version I drove was the 7-seater VIP, which meant that the second row down in the back had space for just two passengers and was designed in a configuration with two executive armchairs. Sit in the second row and you find an abundance of AC vents, space bins, wireless chargers, cup-holders and buttons to control TV screens as well as controls to adjust the seats and slide them back and forth according to personal comfort.
The foot recliners — yes, this vehicle comes with those too — attached to the chairs also make it possible to comfortably snooze during long road trips or when caught in city traffic. Without doubt that’s a blessing for any car-owner in any Indian metropolitan city today. The rear row can also be easily knocked down to make room for luggage for a large family as also for large pets.
While the car’s engine does take a little time to wind up to top speeds on the open highway, the getup and go is ample for inner city driving.
Kia and its parent company, Hyundai, have both made no secret of their partiality towards state-of-the-art technology and the determination to cater to millennials with an overarching focus on wireless tech, apps and electric vehicles. So, it comes as no surprise that if you download the right software, you can start and stop this car, gauge its fuel levels and so on with your smartwatch.
One late afternoon, I took the Carnival out to a local grocery store to pick up what could be deemed emergency supplies. A friend, who is the former chairman of a prominent advertising agency, also needed to make the trip and decided to come along.
When he saw the car in my parking lot, his eyes widened in appreciation. Then he attempted to open the rear door the old-fashioned way, and I explained he just had to tap the handle-button to activate the one-touch door sliding feature. I didn’t think it was possible but that made his eyes widen even further as the door moved back smoothly allowing him to enter the vehicle. He lifted the kurta of his Pathan suit and took a seat in the second-row arm chair and watched in amazement again as the door smoothly closed by itself with just a squeeze of the handle button.
On the way to the store, he looked up, then right and left, twirled his moustache and remarked: “Spacious, and very international in its fit and feel.” Coming from a man who had driven to my house in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine, that was a compliment to the Carnival. We reached our destination and half an hour later returned with multiple bags of assorted war-time supplies that we dumped in the middle and back rows of the car.
As we drove back along the highway, he asked, “What’s this priced at?” I shot back, “Ex-showroom, Rs 34 lakh.” He nodded sagely, as he reflected how in his earlier years as an adman, his constant gripe with Asian car-makers was that they charged a lot but hardly ever held their Indian products up to the standards they used worldwide. The Carnival, to his mind, broke new ground in that regard.
I couldn’t agree with him more. As we reached home and I turned to say goodbye, I found that my friend had dozed off in the car. Space for seven, safe physical distance between seats, ample room to carry six bags of groceries and comfortable enough to allow you to take a nap — that’s the Carnival for you.