FORLORN and on the verge of tears, the four-year-old being strapped into the latest groovy-looking European wagon had suddenly entered a world of pain.
Channelling my best inner caring parental voice while still keeping one eye on the lock in the usual morning drop-off regime, his response to questioning about the sudden sadness was clear: "I miss the van".
That's the power of the new Kia Carnival.
The acumen from the youngster is spot-on, there is a lot to love about a van. And there is ample appreciation for the Carnival.
Having been in the mid-spec diesel- powered version earlier this year, we returned to Kia's least expensive eight-seater which is motivated by a V6 petrol engine.
Make no mistake, the "S" derivative is all business. Back to basics, it's family travel with few bells and whistles.
Where it excels is the primary function of a people-mover: space. There are acres of cabin area within the Carnival and it deserves plaudits for the usability and the functionality within.
All three rows offer excellent head, shoulder and leg room, so carting eight can be done with these.
The driver has a basic set up, with a tacho on the left and speedometer on the right. In the centre is a trip computer which can feature various information, including instant and average fuel consumption.
Central to the dash is a small colour screen where the key operations can be found, and it's easy to operate with shortcut buttons available either side of the display.
On the road
The V6 petrol feels strong underfoot with linear power delivery that gets the van moving along nicely without feeling like you're in its neck to get off the line or overtake.
Improved rigidity and acoustics over the previous model ensure a quiet ride and it's actually not a bad thing to steer.
Drivers do need to be mindful of the size… getting into tight car parking spaces can take some precision manoeuvring but after some experience behind the wheel the Carnival is relative easy to drive. Rip into a bend too quickly and you are quickly reminded of the length, although you have to be pushing the boundaries to find those limitations.
What do you get?
Being the base model this is really the realm of budget shoppers and hire car companies. It comes with 17-inch steel wheels, 10cm colour touch-screen, rear parking sensors and camera, cruise control, six-speaker CD stereo with Bluetooth phone connectivity and air-con.
Coming second in the segment is Honda's Odyssey ($37,610), while also worth a look with petrol engines are the Hyundai iMax SLX ($38,290) and Toyota Tarago GLi ($46,990).
In modern-day terms the V6 petrol can be thirsty. Kia has proven its official fuel consumption figures are accurate, and we managed just over 11 litres for every 100km.
That's still pretty good for a vehicle of this size, although those chasing less pain at the pump will have to pay an extra $2500 to get into the diesel which offers average consumption of less than eight litres/100km.
Capped price servicing is available, and the lure of returning to the dealer for maintenance is too good with an industry-leading seven-year warranty.
Next to the shifter are dual cup-holders, there is also a pair at the back of the console and another two in the fold down arm rest of the centre row.
There is a dual glovebox offering additional space while every door has an area allocated for maps or documents, as well as slots for bottle holders. Another boon for those in the middle row is the electric rear windows. For those in pole position, in front of the shifter is the USB and auxiliary ports while there is a superbly deep centre console, along with a handy nook which is perfect for phones, keys and other important family stuff.
All seats have three-point seat belts, while there are four top tether points for child seats and three Isofix-compatible slots.
Even with all seats in place you have 960 litres of space, but the ability to drop and fold the second and third rows is superb. Collapse them all and you get more than 4000 litres of space for a pseudo van.
Designers would have been fist-pumping when one onlooker helping to load the Carnival said, "Oh, it's a van… I thought it was an SUV". The front end looks far more appealing and the Carnival actually manages to make the people-mover genre more appealing. White is the only colour which doesn't attract a $695 premium.
The Carnival has long been champion of the people-mover segment, and this latest model strengthens its resolve.
One issue Kia faces is a four-star safety rating - ANCAP testing found deficiencies in the local head-on test, but the Carnival did receive full marks overseas.
For those who need to haul a big crew and are watching the pennies, the Carnival will leave you in a happy place.
What matters most
What we liked: Brilliant space, hairy-chested six-cylinder performance.
What we'd like to see: Alloys on this base model, five-star safety - but so would Kia.
Warranty and servicing: Seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist (as long as you maintain dealer servicing) with capped price servicing. Services are annual or every 15,000km, average price for petrol is $390. Free map upgrades for first two years.
Model: Kia Carnival S.
Details: Five-door eight-seat front-wheel drive people-mover.
Engines: 3.3-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 206kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 336Nm a 5200rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual mode.
Consumption: 11.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $41,490.
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