Wheels (Australia) - - First Drives -

KIA CAR­NI­VAL Si En­gine 3342cc V6, dohc, 24v | Power 206kw @ 6000rpm Torque 336Nm @ 5200rpm | Econ­omy 10.8L/100km | Price $47,990

Kia’s big bus starts off on the back foot, with a pric­etag-to-equip­ment ra­tio that’s not quite as sharp as the Honda’s. Just shy of $48K, the spec list cov­ers the ba­sics, but the only real stand­out fea­tures are sat-nav, tri-zone cli­mate con­trol, ac­tive cruise con­trol, lanede­par­ture warn­ing and AEB – fea­tures also boasted by the Odyssey VTI-L. In­stead, the Car­ni­val’s value lies in its size and power. 16/20

Car­ni­val’s in­te­rior is cav­ernous, plac­ing its pas­sen­gers at SUV height and de­liv­er­ing am­ple leg and shoul­der room for eight peo­ple – with a fair amount of cargo on board. In­fo­tain­ment needs are well catered to, with a large and re­spon­sive 8.0-inch touch­screen, three USB charg­ing ports and stan­dard An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay. In fact the only real down­side is the ba­sic beige cloth trim. 17/20

The Car­ni­val is big, and it cer­tainly feels it from be­hind the wheel. Plenty of steer­ing as­sis­tance makes for easy park­ing, but the penalty is com­pletely re­mote feed­back through bends. Not that you’d re­ally be at­tack­ing curves in a five-me­tre-long van that weighs over two tonnes, but if you do the Kia re­ponds with planted and faith­ful han­dling, while the ride is de­cid­edly plush. 16/20

Power is most def­i­nitely a Car­ni­val strength, thanks to the 3.3-litre V6 lurk­ing in the snout. The 336Nm out­put eas­ily out­guns the Odyssey’s mea­gre 229Nm, and com­pen­sates hand­ily for the Kia’s weight. The pre­dictable down­side is thirst. The of­fi­cial con­sump­tion fig­ure is 10.8L/100km, but you won’t even do that well if most of your driv­ing is in the sub­urbs. 15/20

As war­ranties go, the Car­ni­val is un­beat­able. At seven years/un­limited kilo­me­tres, Kia’s fac­tory war­ranty brings supreme peace of mind for own­ers. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are sched­uled for ev­ery 12 months or 15,000km, which gives the Car­ni­val a fur­ther edge over the Honda, and ser­vice prices range be­tween $356 and $689 per visit, for a five-year ser­vice tally of $2428. 19/20

HONDA ODYSSEY VTI-L En­gine 2359cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v | Power 129kw @ 6400rpm Torque 229Nm @ 3900rpm | Econ­omy 9.7L/100km | Price $47,590

Honda packs in plenty of equip­ment into the VTI-L for the money, bring­ing stan­dard-is­sue leather, power-op­er­ated rear slid­ing doors, 360-de­gree cam­era view, blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing, ac­tive cruise, AEB and lane-keep as­sist for a lower out­lay than Kia’s mid-spec Car­ni­val. The trade-off is four-cylin­der rather than six-cylin­der power and a cabin that’s not as roomy as that of its Korean ri­val. 18/20

VTI-L flag­ship brings captain’s chairs in the mid­dle for seem­ing lux­ury, but the cush­ions are flat and there’s not enough foot room. Com­fort in other seats is sub-par too, and fit­ting three across the third row will prove squeezy for adults. Poor cabin stor­age fur­ther hurts its score in this cat­e­gory, as does the ab­sence of smart­phone mir­ror­ing on the slow-re­spond­ing 7.0-inch touch­screen. 12/20

The Odyssey feels (is) notably smaller than its ri­val, and it’s ac­tu­ally de­cently dy­namic for a peo­ple mover with a tor­sion-beam rear end. While ride com­fort is de­cent, how­ever, there is a lack of depth and so­phis­ti­ca­tion to its set-up. Where the Car­ni­val drives like a tall but lush pas­sen­ger car, this can seem like a van with seats beyond the sub­urbs, a point re­in­forced by the ex­ces­sive road noise. 12/20

The Honda’s pow­er­train story is one of ef­fi­ciency. The Odyssey lacks mus­cle (it’s soft­ened fur­ther by its CVT) and with a full load of seven on board, it will no doubt segue from a bit slow to gut­less when faced with hilly ter­rain. It has a 160kg-odd weight ad­van­tage com­pared with the Car­ni­val, though and com­bined with that smaller en­gine, it of­fi­cially burns 1.1L/100km less. 15/20

The Honda fares quite well in the af­ter-sales cat­e­gory with a de­cent five-year, un­limited kilo­me­tre war­ranty. But that’s still two years shy of the Kia. A big­ger hand­i­cap, how­ever, is Honda’s six­month/10,000km ser­vice in­ter­val. Ser­vice prices that al­ter­nate be­tween $267 and $305 per visit (ex­cept for a $291 ser­vice ev­ery 30 months/50,000km) see the five-year ser­vice cost to­tal $3234. 16/20

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