FEBRUARY 2020. I WAS STANDING IN Hall 7 at the Auto Expo packed to the rafters with journalists with boilerplate tweets and half-finished web stories, waiting for the price of the Kia Carnival to be announced. The Seltos had already been established as a runaway success, but there was apprehension surrounding the Carnival. It was attempting something that had never been achieved in the last decade and a half of the Indian automotive landscape, one-upping the Toyota Innova. Many have undercut Toyota’s star MPV — the Ertiga, Mobilio, Marrazzo, Lodgy — all trying to offer the same number of seats at a better price. But no one had tried to go the other way, with more seats, more luxury and more equipment. I had already driven the Carnival and knew its potential. However, as it is with everything in India, it was all down to the price. The usual product presentation song-and-dance that I had already sat through once before at the first drive, was repeated here. Then came the prices. Just under ₹25 lakh for the base variant. Little under ₹34 lakh for the Limousine.
I remember muttering “interesting pricing” to the guy sitting on my left, and him nodding in agreement. I also remember congratulating the Kia execs (who seemed mighty pleased with themselves, and rightly so) after the launch. And interesting pricing it was, because the Carnival slotted itself just above the Innova. By a whisker. But also by a mile. For the sake of keeping it simple, let us look at the current prices (as opposed to telling you what has changed between February to now) — the most affordable Carnival is ₹1.3 lakh more than the most expensive Innova. And the most expensive Carnival, is a whole ₹10 lakh more than the most expensive Innova. That isn’t loose change — you can get an Eritga and double your people-carrying capacity. So this isn’t a story of two rivals squaring off to see which one comes out tops. Instead, we are answering the question: is this 7-seater ‘Limousine’-badged Carnival really worth ₹10 lakh more than the Crysta?
Pushing the boundaries
Why Kia would name a boring ol’ MPV the ‘Carnival’ had me stumped, until I tried to get in one. The Carnival feels like more of an event than anything on four wheels at this price, and I’m pretty certain the doors that slide back at the push of a button have something to do with it. Then you climb inside and press a button for the door to shut itself. There’s no unsightly huffing and heaving. Just the calculated grace of the machine doing what machines are supposed to do — work — leaving you to do what the backseat of the Carnival so desperately wants you to do. Chill!
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