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Because of the Filipino’s love for K-Drama, Korean brands like KIA are once again at the top of every car buyer’s minds when considering a value-packed, affordable and stylish vehicle. Whereas the brand used to sell solely on price, today’s KIAs have a certain verve, style and sexiness many competitors lack. Add to that, a fantastic value proposition, and it’s hard to imagine why their cars don’t sell in far bigger numbers. 
Case in point: the KIA Grand Carnival. This luxurious 7-seat minivan offers huge space, comfort and refinement in a stylish package that sets it apart from the droves of other vans, minivans and MPVs that ply the Metro. 
The piece de resistance of the Grand Carnival are its second row captain’s seats that slide forward and back, recline and crucially, are comfortable enough to rival most business class airplane seats. Having recently tried a GAC GM8 and a Toyota Alphard’s second row captains seats, KIA is the widest and roomiest of the three. The third row is also spacious and folds flat to increase cargo capacity.  With all the seats up, you get 960 liters of cargo space, but fold all the seats away and you get a massive 4022 liters of cargo space.
Of course, power activated sliding doors, operated either by a simple tug of the door handles, or by a button beside the map light above the rear view mirror opens them with ease, for a more graceful entry and exit. The 171mm ground clearance might not seem much, but makes it easy for nursing moms, chatting toddlers or the elderly enter and alight from the KIA with ease. 
The top-spec EX 7-Seater A/T we tested comes with triple-zone climate control, an 8-inch infotainment multimedia system with Apple CarPlay, auxiliary jack, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and glass sunroof for the fronts, a reverse camera and parking sensors. Safety comes in the form of ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, dual front airbags, traction / stability control and ISOFIX Child Seat anchors which will be handy once child seats for children become mandatory. 
Power comes from a 2.2 liter E-VGT common-rail direct injected turbocharged diesel engine that delivers an ample 197hp and 441 Newton-Meters of torque, driving the front wheels via an 8-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission. There’s a Macpherson-strut front suspension and a smooth-riding multi-link rear to tame the large vehicle when it’s unladen. Ride is compliant yet controlled; no wallowy riding land yachts here.  The tires are a meaty 235/60R18 in size, offering a good compromise in stylish looks, coupled with comfort and performance. 
Out on the road,  the Grand Carnival rides serenely. Power delivery is smooth; keep the revs below 2,000rpm and you’d think the KIA was slow and lethargic but as soon as the rev needle sweeps past 2,0000rpm, the huge surge in power can catch you by surprise. The smooth power delivery suits its character, especially when trundling about in traffic. You feel relaxed, and the car feels well isolated, refined and cocooned from the harshness of the outside world. Working inside, catching up on emails, Zoom Meetings and more are perfect. It easily absorbs all the humps and bumps of EDSA, and the provincial bumpy roads with aplomb. On the expressway, it feels like you really are cruising inside a small plane, the only noise you hear is that of a gentle turbine-like hum from the diesel engine. The massive 3,060mm wheelbase helps with directional high-speed stability, plus of course uninterrupted legroom inside. With a maximum height of only 1,740mm, it fits in most carparks, even older buildings that have the smaller 1.85 meter clearance. The only real challenge is its length, which at 5,115mm means you’ll have to rely a lot on the reverse camera and parking sensors to manoeuvre into and out of tight parking spaces. With an 11.7 meter full u-turn circumference or 5.85 meter turning radius, it does require a lot of space.
As a self-driven vehicle, the Grand Carnival is relaxing to steer. Yes it’s big, but it feels so easy at the same time. As a passenger, you will find comfort and refinement afforded by the massive space, the same comfort and refinement you’d expect to find in cars far more expensive than the KIA’s 2.395M asking price. Sexy, value-packed, supremely refined and comfortable, what more can you ask for? 

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