Kia Grand Carnival VQ MY12 SLi Diesel 2.2L – A Review

So you probably read my rant yesterday about the incredibly frustrating process of buying this vehicle. But when I drove it out of the dealership (after they had polished out a small scratch that I found on a rear panel – OMG yes I am serious but I wasn’t going to not take it after THREE months!!), I was thankful that we had persevered!

So first the details. This is the brand new Kia Grand Carnival VQ MY12 SLi Diesel 2.2L. The engine is an in-line 4 cyl VGT CRDi 16 valve, with a 6 speed automatic (Sportsmatic) gearbox.

We are upgrading from a 2007 Kia Grand Carnival for a couple of reasons. One was that we have just hit 100,000kms and Daddy Smiles was concerned that we would have to start shelling out some big bucks for ongoing maintenance. The other reason was that we were keen to move onto the diesel engine due improved fuel efficiency. This is a big thing for us as we drive 30 mins to school each day, which is 2 hours of driving every day as a minimum. The fuel economy is listed at 8.1L/100km (compared to 10.9L/100km). And I have to say that I have noticed that change in fuel consumption quite significantly. We are getting many more kms out of a tank of fuel, and of course it is cheaper to fill up at the bowser.

There are two different diesel models – the Platinum and the SLi. The Platinum is the top of the range and features an electric operating tailgate, a sunroof, and rear-parking sensors – of which we specifically didn’t want, so the SLi was the obvious choice.

One of the features that I LOVE is the electric sliding side doors. These can be opened remotely with the key pad which is brilliant for when the kids are running ahead of me and can jump straight in, or when my arms are full of bags, artwork and baby, I can just press a button and unload without dropping anything. It’s also possible to open the doors manually, and with a tiny pull at the handle, the doors slides back gracefully with no effort at all on my part. The kids squealed when they saw the doors open “magically”! The door controls can also be found at the driver command centre, and the curved mirror lets you keep an eye on the kids!

The seats are a beautiful leather and are a lot softer than I anticipated. The front seat arm rests can fold up and down, but unlike our old Grand Carnival, they can not be set at any height – they are either up or down. It doesn’t sound like a big thing but it was quite noticeable to us. The centre console tray can also be folded down to allow more room if needed.

I love that my iPhone connects through the car’s Bluetooth system which gives me the true handsfree experience. It is synced into the stereo system for fantastic clarity, and the steering wheel controls mean my hands don’t ever leave the wheel to answer an incoming call.

Also on the steering wheel are the control for the radio, which saves reaching across to turn the music up or down, or to change stations. I have been using this quite a lot so that I can listen to when the kids are talking or crank it up when Lady Gaga pumps out the tunes.

There is a MP3 CD player with AUX/USB input & iPod compatibility but … when I picked up the car I had to sign a disclosure statement saying that the Apple adaptor should not be used as it could cause a malfunction, and ONLY Kia genuine accessories should be used. Now I find this a little bit ridiculous – to advertise iPod compatibility but not Apple compatibility. I tried my iPhone with Apple adaptor (um-ahh), but it didn’t read. Not sure if this is an iPhone/iPod issue or a Kia/Apple issue. Either way it’s rather frustrating.

The reversing camera is set very cleverly into the rear vision mirror. When you hit reverse, the camera appears and is crystal clear. Change back into drive and you have the full length of rear vision mirror again.

Now one of the questions I am most often asked is how I configure the care seats for four children. You can see that we have removed the middle row seat from the driver’s side. We use this space as a landing pad. It means I can get the big three kids off the road and into the car in a matter of seconds. I then shut the door and they can sort themselves out while I go around and load Lucy into her capsule. It’s also a perfect spot for school bags and shopping bags, and even a nappy changing area!!

So in the middle row I have Miss L in a Maxi Cosi Pebble, and Miss K in a Recaro Pro Sport. At the back on each side are Miss M and Mr F in their Maxi Cosi Air Protects. Just a side note, I recommend you speak with your car insurance provider about coverage for your child’s car seats, as most will have a maximum payout for seats that have not been itemised separately, so it’s worth a quick phone call to make sure they are covered!

Probably the clincher for the Grand Carnival is the boot size. Even with the back row seats up, there is still ample room in the boot. It easily fits my Stokke Xplory as well as a weekly grocery shop (especially when using the landing pad in the middle row!). When you fold down the rear seats, the area is ENORMOUS and you could fit just about anything in the back!

Now the crazy thing is that I hadn’t ever driven the 2.2L until this one! I had test driven the 2.9L and it was awful! Slow and sluggish, and absolutely no power at take-off. I was used to the powerful V6 petrol, and hated the 2.9 dieselL! So I was really nervous about how the 2.2L would perform. I am pleased to say it is brilliant. It has enough power to get me off the line quickly and shifts smoothly through the 6 gears. Whilst the road noise is quieter in the new model, I can definitely notice the increased noise of the diesel engine. It’s not annoying though – it just makes me feel like I am driving a bus or a big rig – and what’s not to love about that!

So all in all I am thrilled with the new Grand Carnival. It is comfortable and easy to drive, and easily adaptable to suit any family configuration. It has lots of luxury touches, but is also competitively priced and offers great value for money. I can not possibly imagine any other vehicle that is more suitable for us at this time in our lives. As the children move out of their car seats, we will have extra seating to cater for car-pooling and days out with grandparents.

If you are in the market for a new Grand Carnival, and you are based in or around Brisbane, I can recommend you contact Michael at Toowong Kia. Let him know I sent you, and he’ll be sure to look after you!


  1. Great review! If I didn’t already own one and know how great they are, I would be very tempted to buy one from this review.

    We have taken out the middle row seat, passenger side – for much of the same reason as to why you said. Creates a launch pad area, fits groceries and everyone can jump in at the same time. We did this side so that the kids are always getting in and out curb side.

    I love the colour you have chosen too, makes me want to upgrade! LOL

    I always said though that I wouldn’t upgrade until they bought out lap/sash seat belts for all seats…. this is the one thing about the car I really don’t like or understand. As if my kids were not in car seats, I wouldn’t allow them to sit in the middle seats for this reason.

    • Yes that was one thing I could never understand Diane. I think it’s crazy that the middle seats are virtually unusable without a shoulder belt. This is one of the main reasons that we imported the Recaro Pro Sport. Miss K is over 20kg so would have had to have used a H-harness according to Australian Standards (which we know aren’t all that safe). However the Recaro offers a 5pt harness for up to 30kg and can be secured with the seat belt and anchor point or Isofix. Just a shame that Isofix aren’t in the middle seats either.

      • Hi Nat, great review. we too love our GC – 4 little kids and luggage are simply swallowed up in it. we’re just in the process of upgrading from the 2.9 turbo diesel to the new 2.2. good to hera there’s a real improvement.
        regarding the seat belts, man, i wish they’d just get it right. it was close to a deal breaker for us. but while we have one still in a harnessed seat we can manage. but anytime there is a friend or extra body we worry about the less-safe lap only belt.
        here’s the stupid thing. i’ve heard that in the US Kia have lap sash all round because that’s the legal requirements! so they already make the cars with this important safety feature, it’s just we aussies don’t get it because our auto standards don’t require it!
        at least give us the option. No forget that, make it and our kids saftey a priority!

        c’mon Kia! serve it up and hit the match winning saftey shot.
        that’d be ace.

        • Oh Matt it is so frustrating isn’t it!! It’s such a simple fix, and so much safer!!! (Bizarre that out standards don’t recognise this!).

          I live in hope that one day soon that they recognise that this is a huge benefit to the consumers, and make it standard on all vehicles!

          Love your tennis references lol!

  2. What a great review. We wanted to get the new diesel Grand Carnival but they were pretty scarce when we were looking, and the number of K’s we do a year didn’t seem to justify the extra $4000 purchase price. We are getting our new Grand Carnival Si Petrol delivered this Thursday in the same Titanium Silver colour you have. I think it looks great.

    We are in Victoria and had similar issues with dealers. I couldn’t believe how arrogant some of them are. Luckily we found a good one in Deer Park who we liked and who was good to deal with.

    With regard to the iPod, you need a special Kia/Hyundai cable that has the usb connection and the 3.5mm connection. It does seem strange that you can’t just use the Apple cable, but I guess there is some magic involved to integrate it with the car electrics. The cable is around $80 from a dealer but around $25 from eBay.

    • Wow Daryl that is so exciting! I am so glad we chose the Titanium Silver (it took us forever to decide!!) – it looks very stylish! I’m sorry you also had dramas with dealers – so very frustrating!

      Thank you SO much for the news on the iPod connector! I will definitely invest in one of these (from eBay lol).

      I wish you many happy and safe travels!

  3. Great review Nat, Kia really need to employ YOU to train up their salespeople and marketing depts.

    You’ve made me want to get one of these vehicles & I only have 3 kidlets! I have been considering our future needs in terms of vehicles….I currently have a Toyota Aurion, Hubby has Landcruiser (his pride & joy which I’m not allowed to have permanently LOL he is hilarious!!) My Aurion fits us all (3 carseats) in very nicely but there is no room for any other kids….maybe a Kia Grand Carnival is on the horizon for us, cause I can see the need for carpooling/sleepovers/footy & dance training etc.

    • We bought our first one just after Fred was born so only two kids!! It really has been an awesome car with being able to carry guests and the regular IKEA visits!

  4. PS – Noted the phone number you were calling…. LOL

  5. The above pictures of the kia vehicles are really really fantastic and can force anybody to buy this vehicle.I would also love to buy one of this kia vehicle.

  6. Thanks for that review, it’s so nice to read something positive about Kias, so many people are so focused on the 2004 and earlier models and aren’t willing to look past that, we have a 2007 Grand Carnival and love it. I’m hoping that by the time the kids are out of carseats (5-6 years away) that Kia will have looked forward and put in the lap sash belts as I’d love to buy another down the track but it wont be happening unless they catch up

    • Yes Lauren that is such a good point. The current Kia’s are a different breed to their predecessors, so it’s great to see the new ones gaining a better reputation.

      The belts are certainly a strange choice for a people-mover. I am hoping that Kia will see the sense in full shoulder belts by the time they release the new model.

  7. It’s really great to hear about your experience as a real person & not somebody with an agenda.

    We have the ’06 3.8 litre petrol & the 2.2 deisel will be our next car. It’d be great to get real life fuel consumptuion info on this model as the only problem with the ’06 is 18+ litres per 100km it uses.

    I once test drove a Hyundai Santa Fe wich has the exact same 2.2 litre motor. Plenty of guts, but the driving experience felt tinnie compared to the spacious surrounds and smooth sailing of our GC.

    • Hi Will – I promise I will get the fuel consumption updated! I am interested in comparing the real life usage to the proposed usage. Stay tuned!

  8. Wendy Janke says:

    We have had our new Grand Carnival Diesel Platinum for 5 weeks, and so far it is a fantastic car. The fuel consumption is amazing, especially for such a big bus. I love the diesel engine as it has so much ‘get up and go’, particularly when overtaking or climbing hills.

    It fits our four growing children in (plus the occassional friend) with plenty of room and the boot space is just enormous (compared to the tarago we previously had). Even my father, who is 6ft4″, can comfortably sit in the second row.

    I LOVE the electric doors and boot, and the reversing camera and sensors make parking so much easier. The bluetooth system makes answering the phone so easy (and safe.

    The only negative is the lap-only belts in the middle seating position and if we had more than four children this would be a real issue for me. It really is quite prehistoric to not have lap-sash belts in all seating positions.

    However, this is a great car to drive and is perfect for us – I love it!!

    • Hi Wendy, I’m so pleased you are also loving your new Grand Carnival! There really are so many features! But you’re right, I am amazed that Kia would continue to produce lap-only belts. It really can’t be considered a true 8 seater if you can only safely seat 6 passengers. Thankfully our car seats over-ride this so I am hoping by the time the next model comes out they will have fixed this issue.

  9. Hey came across your review and can’t agree more. We have a platinum 2.2 crdi MY12 in white and it’s been a great and practical vehicle. We get about 10L per 100k around town and got down to around 8 per 100 on a recent trip.. May impove as the engine losens up but still good for a 2 tonne machine.
    The r-series disel is a great engine with plenty of low down torque which is what you want for the daily grind, will spin the wheels if you boot it !
    The electric tail gate alone is almost worth it the spend to go platinum, just so easy to load things in the boot area.
    As opposed to your buying experience we had a great one. I can highly recommend Jason at Chadstone Kia if you are in Vic.

    • Hi Mark! I did actually reply to your comment but see that it has disappeared! So fantastic to hear that you are also thrilled with your GC!

      Glad you had a positive buying experience from Jason – can certainly make all the difference!

  10. Hi Nat,

    Just wanted to thank you for this review – it really helped us in our decision to purchase a Kia Grand Carnival. We just picked up our new car today – very exciting!
    I just wanted to ask if you did end up solving the problem with the iPod connection?
    And also, if you don’t mind me being nosey – did you get a dvd player installed? We’ve been thinking about having one put in but can’t decide on the one that sits in the ceiling or the ones in the back of the seats.
    Thanks again,

    • Hi Karen,

      YAY – I am so thrilled for you. How exciting!!!! What colour did you choose?

      I am planning on buying the Kia iPod connection – unfortunately the dealer couldn’t extend just that little bit more to include this for us (which I think should be a standard accessory but nevermind). I haven’t bought it yet, but I had visions of buying a non-Kia one and blowing my warranty if it exploded lol.

      We decided not to get the DVD. We thought if it was installed in the roof, it would be a very tiny screen for the kids in the back seat OR installed almost directly above the middle row. The back of seat ones would only be suitable for one row at a time (but you could technically buy two – one “pair” for each row).

      We decided that as each child has an iPod, it’s easier for them to be able to watch or play on those (with headphones) to allow for individual choice and avoid arguments.

      Hope that helps!!

      • Thanks Nat! We chose the latte color, kind of a greyish-beige. It has been very exciting as this is the first time we’ve bought a brand new car, rather than 2nd hand. However we’re having a little trouble with the aircon not working as well as it should be, so hope we can sort that out quickly.

        Strange that the dealer never said anything to us about any issues with the iPod connection and we were not asked to sign any papers. I wonder if thy could have fixed this already?

        Thanks for the review and advice, it has been really helpful!


  11. hi. Any update on real world fuel economy especially round town?

    • Hi Will. On my last tank I calculated 9.7L per 100km. However we did pull a trailer loaded with bikes on a few trips. It was interesting to see how much it impacted the fuel economy. On standard city driving we are averaging around the 8L per 100km, similar to what Pete has reported below.
      Hope that helps!!

  12. Hi Will – my wife and I bought a new Grand Carnival the same as Nat’s. I’ve been watching the fuel ecoonomy closely and am very pleased to say that it’s consistently between 7.5 and 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres – impressive for a car that weighs over 2 tonnes!

    • That’s fantastic feedback Pete – thank you so much! It’s fabulous to sit and watch the tank stay full for trip after trip! Glad you are enjoying your car too :)

  13. Hello Natalie
    Loved your review, we are close buying one BUT I would like to put 3,kids in back row on occasion, do you know if a child anchor point is available to back centre row for a h harness? I know itsvonlyna Lao belt?

  14. Great review. We’ve had the 2.2L CRDi since mid-June and love it. Coming from the shorter wheelbase Carnival with a petrol engine we still notice a huge reduction in fuel consumption. The diesel is great and for long trips (we go from Melbourne to Sydney at least twice a year and camping with our camper trailer several times) the car is so efficient, roomy and comfortable. The smaller Carnival was ‘nice’ but this is ‘great’. Glad we waited for the newer 2.2L engine as well

  15. Hi folks,

    We purchased a new GC Si petrol (MY13) a couple months ago, because we need to have it modified for wheelchair access for one of our children. We couldn’t afford the diesel as the car in total is going to cost us over $75,000 once converted – and we have never aspired to owning a new car! Was kind of a have to have.

    My question is, does anyone else have really poor fuel economy? We’re only getting 380-400kms tops out of a tank, combined small town and hwy driving. I’m not really enjoying spending $100 a week or more at the pumps when my previous 4WD on LPG did the same km’s for no more than $50.

    Air con doesn’t always blow cold air either…

    • Hi Josie,

      I haven’t heard from anyone that seems is experiencing poor fuel economy – it must be frustrating spending so much on fuel. Can you speak with a KIA service department about it?

      • Not as yet, it is due for it’s first “check up” so I will be sure to make a point of it. We hired a carnival the last time we went on holidays and we got about 550 out of a tank… And of course we (kindly) gave the car a hard time to assess it for our needs. While I think about it, the road/wind noise drives me nuts when traveling at 100km, and Kia offered to put wind deflectors on the driver and front passenger windows… Not exactly a look I was after! Hehe.

  16. Hi! Your review / story on your new adventure with the kia grand carnival diesel is amazing! Best I’ve found on my 3 month research on the vehicle. I was just wondering how your getting along with your car now? We have just purchased a grand carnival diesel (picking it up in 3 days) & I’m a little nervous on how the diesel will sound. I did get to take both the petrol & diesel for a test drive & perferred the way the diesel drove over the petrol one, seemed more sturdy. But I didn’t pay any attention to the noise it made! I have terrible memories of riding in a big 12 seater diesel van when I was little & really don’t want to live those memories each time I get in my car! Haha.
    Love the photos, too! :)

    • Hi Val! Thanks so much for your feedback – great to hear!
      Our Kia GC is trotting along nicely. We have had a couple of small issues with the engine (glow plus needed to be replaced) but it is all being covered under warranty. As to the noise, hmmmm lol. I must admit we now call our car “The Bus” lol. But it’s really not that bad. I certainly noticed a difference when we first picked it up, but now I don’t give it a second thought. Enjoy your new car – how exciting!

      • Ok, thanks for that. I’m sure once all the kids are loaded in there’s no chance of hearing the engine anyway ;). I am excited to having more room in the car & already planning our first weekend away in it.

  17. LouiseR says:

    Hi Natalie. Your review of the Grand Carnival is excellent and covers the issues that mums want to know about. I agree with others that it has really made me seriously consider buying one when we upgrade from Commodore wagon so we can carry the 3 kids plus friends. The lap belt issue concerns me so I would like to know where you obtained the Recaro Pro Sport seats as that would relieve my mind to have those.Thanks.

    • Natalie says:

      Hi Louise,
      The Recaro ProSport was purchased overseas (in America), so it’s a matter of doing lots of your own research to determine which is the best (and safest!) seat for your children.

  18. Hi all, I came across this website while researching on people mover. WHO THE HELL EVER PUT A HONDA ODYSEE IN THE PEOPLE MOVER CLASS is obviously stupid or been paid to review it. Put a car seat in the Honda and you lose the backups seat which is so cramp that a child would find it uncomfortable. I have a gc diesel platinum 2013. So far my first tank which the dealer supply got me 900km. Work out roughly 9 to 9.5l per 100km. This is city driving and no more then 30km per trip. The car is really nice to have and all the electric doors are great. But the battery size do huge I thought it was almost for a truck. I have to stress that you need to find a good dealer. I went to 4 and that’s all the dealer in Western Australia. New cars seems to attract lots of diets in and out.

    Only minor fault is the wind noise from the front door both side. If you are doing more then 80km/h you will hear t. I thought the wind has gone through the door but did not feel it and try to hose the door to check for water leakage but nothing.
    Has anyone else experience this and any solution? I am going to test it out by adding some foams for the rubber seal to see if this might have after the first service.

    I will post back here if I find a solution.

    • The noise issue is a known issue by KIA and they say they have found the problem and issued a alert to their dealers on how to fix it, we are getting ours fixed next week at our 30.000km service. We had been back to our dealer 4 times trying to get it fixed so hope this time it works

      • Thanks Nick – we haven’t actually experienced the noise, so good to hear there is a fix to it. I hope they can get it resolved for you!

  19. Hi all

    I am planning on buying a Kia Grand Carnival Diesel in the next week. I wanted to choose leather on the SI Diesel. The exterior colour is Black. I have 2 kids, 4 and 7 both girls. What colour would best suit the interior seats? Cream (will get dirty?) or Red? or Black? Please advise

  20. We got out 2011 grand carnival is petrol last week and LOVE it. We often travel long distances and on a recent 7hour trip back from Adelaide we fitted 2 split system air con units in the back! Plus all our luggage! The wall units went on the roof racks. I love how there is so much space even in the back seats, and also love how I can recline all my kids seats so they can sleep comfortably. It has plenty of grunt too! My only complaint is the high beam lights are next to useless. We are getting this checked out and also the oil light comes on when the car is in idle (also getting checked out). My partner is also very happy with our purchase and this blog is what made me want one!! Thankyou and happy driving everyone :))

    • Hi Chelsea – Congratulations on your purchase – how exciting! Great to hear you are happy with it (mostly!) so far. Thanks so much for letting me know. Enjoy!

  21. So sorry for all the typos! I posted the comment in the early hours of the morning :). We would have loved to be able to get the next model up, or even a diesel but a bit out of our price range. Even though the doors aren’t electric we still find them easy to open and we had a few extra things added such as a heavy duty tow bar, windows tinted and reverse sensors. We even managed to get them to chuck in a new dash mat and floor mats so very happy customers!! Will be taking my friends kids to dance lessons this week with mine as now we have room for them and they love being passengers in our new car! :)

  22. We are trying to decide between the petrol and diesel.
    How much fuel do the newer 3.5 6speed Carnivals use?

    • I’d love to hear a comparison too Richard. We have been very happy with the mileage and fuel economy of the diesel.

  23. Has anyone seen the new kia!!! How exciting!! Lap sash seat keys in all seats too :)). We have loved out 2011 sli and even my partner who wasn’t originally keen now reccomended them to his mates. They are just so roomy and so practical. Love love love!!!!

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