Forget the dual-cab, Kia Carnival is the best family utility
AUSSIES love their utes. We lay claim to inventing the concept, with Ford lopping the back off a coupe at its Geelong plant back in 1933.
The story goes that a Gippsland farmer's wife wanted something that would keep her in pristine condition heading to church on Sunday, then enable her husband to haul the pigs to market on Monday.
For decades we've loved utes, yet the modern dual-cabs have taken combining work and family duties to the next level.
Having shifted attention from the Commodore and Falcon V8 brigade, owners have turned to kitting out off-roaders like the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger which dominate the national sales charts.
There's no doubting dual-cab utes are brilliant for lifestyle flexibility. Five seats and a bloody big boot.
Yet what if you want to protect your cargo?
There's the option of installing a hard tonneau or a canopy, but for those who don't have off-roading intentions should give the people-mover a look.
Kia's Carnival is a stand-out for its internal flexibility with 960 litres available with all eight seats in use. That expands to 2220 with the third row seats folded - which involves a relatively simple process of pulling straps, pushing and folding them into the floor.
With the two second row outer seats in place and the centre chair removed, there's 4022 litres of room.
Alternatives like the Honda Odyssey only start at 330 litres (up to 1332 with the rear seats down and 1867 for all dropped). Volkswagen's Multivan has its rear seats on rails and with them all removed it can offer a gigantic 5800 litres...but you would rarely take them out due to the painful and heavy process.
During a recent weekend interstate triathlon trek, the Carnival flexed its spacious muscle.
Housing an adult-size bike without removing any wheels and standing upright, the boot swallowed four bags, including one large and two small suitcases which didn't come close to impeding reward vision.
Five seats were still in place, two up front three across the bench.
The same feat couldn't be achieved in an SUV.
A canopy-equipped ute would come close, but with loading heights of more than 220mm lifting and shifting items can be awkward - the Carnival has dual side doors for easy access. Utes also have wheel arches which can cause packing challenges.
Having hung bikes partially over the rear tailgate previously, it's a fast and easy way to load. But the trade-off comes when you want to leave the vehicle. Previously we've locked bikes to the car using cables but it's a clumsy process (suitcases also had to be transferred into the cab).
Where the Carnival does fall short is dump runs. You're unlikely to throw the garden clippings or shed clean-out remnants in the back, but you can tow up to 2000kg braked.
There's another caveat for most people. People-movers aren't sexy.
Kia Australia boss Damien Meredith aptly described the difference in buying an SUV or a people-mover: "one more child".
Our ride has even copped criticism from pre-teen kids at footy training. Labelled a "soccer mum", it's a difficult persona to overcome.
But those who don't want to tackle the beaten track and are chasing the ultimate internal flexibility, they'll find none better.
AT A GLANCE
KIA CARNIVAL Si
PRICE $54,708 drive-away
DIMENSIONS Length 5115mm, width 1985mm, height 1755mm, wheelbase 3060mm, ground clearance 171mm
TOWING 2000kg braked, 200kg towball download,
KERB WEIGHT 2195kg
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7-year unlimited kilometre, capped services $2510 5 years
ENGINE 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel 147kW/440Nm, 8sp auto
SAFETY Five star, six airbags, smart cruise control, AEB, lane departure warning
CARGO 960 litres, third row folded 2220