People movers should take priority over SUVs as family transport, writes Matt Calvitto
A few weeks ago I was driving the Kia Carnival Platinum, and it reminded me – I’d driven the diesel version a year or so prior – of how multi-talented Kia’s people mover truly is. It will seat eight adults with ease – yes, you can fit six-foot tall grownups in the third row without any complaints – it was very comfortable, excellently equipped, pleasant to drive and even handsome in a boxy sort of way. And it got me thinking, why aren’t people buying more of these things over seven-seat sport utility vehicles (SUVs)?
Well, in Australia, there really aren’t that many purpose built people movers to choose from. There’s the Toyota Tarago which is old and expensive, there’s the Chrysler Voyager, the Honda Odyssey and the Kia Carnival, which we’ll use as a case example here. And that’s pretty much it.
Sure, there a wide variety of manufacturers from Hyundai to Mercedes-Benz that offer large vehicles with many seats in their ranges, but they’re based on commercial vehicles and aren’t designed as people movers from the ground up.
So there’s a shortage of choice. Virtually every car maker offers people movers in their product line-ups in the United States and Europe, but not here. Car companies know we’re generally not very interested, so they don’t bother.
Instead, we as Aussies feel that the seven-seat SUV is the family lugging vehicle of choice and the variety of SUVs on sale in Australia seems to be increasing rapidly.
And to an extent, I can understand why: they are fitted with seven seats, which is ideal if you have a number of small children or your children are popular, some have light-off-roading ability which makes them handy for family getaways to the snow or a favourite camping spot. All these things almost makes SUVs the Swiss army knives of the automotive world.
But there’s are two more things that make large SUVs king down under: that all important commanding driving position and the fact that to an extent, SUVs are fashion statements and status symbols. A certain model of SUV in the school or office car park can reflect your income and your social hierarchy.
A people mover just doesn’t have the same cache. They don’t have the same butch, pseudo-macho looks that SUVs do.
But that’s changing. The Kia Carnival is quite a good looking thing. And, it’s far better people lugger than its seven-seat Kia Sorento brother. For example, it’ll swallow eight passengers with ease, and they’ll all have room to stretch, and, you’ve still got a huge boot to carry things. So, people movers are actually more practical.
And we’ll let you into a little secret here – many people movers offer the same towering driving position as their SUV cousins. Getting back to the Kia Carnival, it’s even nice to drive – well the diesel is, the petrol V6 is too peaky. And if you opt for the Platinum version, you get plenty of luxury too, with everything from leather seats with heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, fake wood, adaptive cruise and something you don’t get in the Sorento Platinum: a rather good 360 degree camera system.
Don’t get us mistaken, we believe there are some truly good SUVs on the market – and some not so good ones – and if you only need to use seven seats occasionally, enjoy the odd weekend away which may require some light off-roading or you need to tow something relatively heavy, by all means, get the SUV. Just make sure it’s an all-wheel drive one.
But if you need to transport a small junior footy club much of the time or you need an abundance of interior space and you don’t really tow or venture to remote places. Get the people mover. It’ll suit your needs just fine and you might even look like someone who stands out from the crowd. And there’s nothing wrong with that.