100% impartial car reviews, news and comparisons

Hyundai Staria v Kia Carnival: Flagship people-mover specs compared

Maybe you don't want to follow the SUV crowd and love the idea of a people-mover. Korea's two main car brands have related offerings that look very different.

Mike Costello
Mike Costello
News Editor
Hyundai Staria
  • Space age styling
  • Extra height, bigger windows
  • Diesel comes with AWD
Kia Carnival
  • Could pass as an SUV
  • More standard features
  • More power, lighter weight

The majority of bigger families opt for large SUVs, but there’s still a market for the humble people-mover.

As there should be, because you’d be smart to go down this path. These are vehicles designed with practicality as considerations one, two and three.

Two of the newest and best are the space-age van-like Hyundai Staria and the sleeker and crossover-styled Kia Carnival.

This pair share a heck of a lot under the skin, but outside they could scarcely be more different.

In the interest of giving consumers some digestible facts, this is a specs-based comparison of the two. We’ve honed in on the flagship variants in particular.

You’ll also note that we draw on our previous reviews of both, and have embedded a few of our videos with relevant time stamps to the section discussed, to really enhance the experience.

How much?

The Hyundai Staria is available in three specification levels, and the Kia Carnival has four trim levels to choose from.

The prices listed are before on-road costs such as state taxes and dealer delivery, known as the manufacturer list price.

Hyundai Staria

  • Base: Petrol $48,500/diesel $51,500
  • Elite: Petrol $56,500/diesel $59,500
  • Highlander: Petrol $63,500/diesel $66,500

Kia Carnival

  • S: Petrol $46,880/diesel $48,880
  • Si: Petrol $52,380/diesel $54,380
  • SLi: Petrol $57,180/diesel $59,180
  • Platinum: Petrol $64,980/diesel $66,980

There’s symmetry between the Staria base/Carnival S, Staria Elite/Carnival SLi, and Staria Highlander/Carnival Platinum. The Carnival Si doesn’t have a direct price rival in the Hyundai range, really.

Side note: The Hyundai’s diesel is more expensive than the Kia’s because it also comes with all-wheel drive.

What do you get?

We will narrow the features lists down to the range-toppers: the Hyundai Staria Highlander ($63,500 – $66,500) versus the Kia Carnival Platinum ($64,980 – $66,980).

The lower grades are mechanically the same, they simply come with fewer luxury features so your best bet is to define your non-negotiables and find the cheapest variant that covers all your particular bases.

The top-of-the-range variants are hard to go past, and if you want to spoil the kids or wow your customers then these variants will do the job.

Shared features at the top level include proximity key access, remote start function, powered side doors and tailgate, a dual-panel sunroof, leather seats with heating and ventilation up front, and front- and back-row climate control.

Both additionally come with satellite-navigation, live traffic updates, digital radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two Bluetooth connections, USB points in all seat rows, LED interior lighting, and window blinds.

But the Kia adds extras such as 19-inch alloy wheels, projector LED headlights, heated back seats, a bigger 12.3-inch touchscreen, and a superior 12-speaker Bose sound system. On the other hand the Hyundai alone gets a useful full-sized spare tyre.

Staria HighlanderCarnival Platinum
Wheels18-inch alloy19-inch alloy
HeadlightsLED reflector, dusk-sensingLED projector, dusk-sensing
Proximity keyStandardStandard
Starting processButton, remote-by-keyButton, remote-by-key
Sliding side doorsPoweredPowered
Parking sensorsFront and rearFront and rear
SunroofDual panelDual panel
Seat tempsFront heated and cooledFront heated and cooled, some rears heated
Air-con typeClimate control front & rear controlsClimate control front & rear controls
Satellite navigationLive trafficLive traffic
Digital radioStandardStandard
Audio system6 speakers12-speaker Bose
USB pointsAll three rowsAll three rows
Bluetooth connections22
Wireless chargerStandardStandard
Cup/bottle holders1613
Cabin lightingLEDLED
Window blindsStandardStandard

Are they safe?

It goes without saying that safety in a people-carrier is paramount.

Both have dual front-occupant airbags, dual front-occupant thorax airbags, and side head-protecting curtain airbags that are advertised as covering all rows.

The Kia has a driver’s knee airbag unlike the Hyundai, but the Hyundai has a front-centre airbag unlike the Kia.

The Hyundai offers ISOFIX and top-tether child-seat attachments in row two, whereas the Kia has these attachments in rows two and three.

In terms of active safety and driver-assist features both come with all the key features available at the minute.

This means autonomous emergency braking for cars, vulnerable road users and junctions; active lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot intervention, active rear cross-traffic avoidance, safe exit assist, a 360-degree camera, and active cruise control.

The Staria is yet to be crash-tested by ANCAP unfortunately. On the other hand the Carnival carries a 2021 five-star rating.

Video starts at interior section

What are they like inside?

While the Kia offers more features for the same price, the Hyundai offers more metal for the money.

It’s 98mm longer and 215mm taller, with the latter being an obvious headroom gain. The Staria is also 183mm longer in the wheelbase.

Video starts at interior section

Both ought to blow you away up front if you’re hopping out of a 10-year old Tarago.

Each has a large centre touchscreen running similar software, and novel shift-by-wire gear selector buttons or knobs.

The Kia has the more impressive centre display and a more driver-focused cabin with SUV-like driving position, whereas the Staria is a vast and airy experience and full digital instruments.

Both offer vast centre-row seats accessed by sliding doors, which themselves slide forward and tilt downwards (the Kia’s in three pieces, the Hyundai’s bench in two). There isn’t an SUV on the market with better third, fourth and fifth seats.

Both have adult-friendly three-seat rearmost benches. The Kia’s is the only one that split-folds, but the Hyundai’s high roof and massive windows give it an edge when it comes to spaciousness and ease of ingress/egress.

Both offer third-row seats that can be moved out of the way (the Kia’s fold down, the Hyundai’s) to free up more space. With all seats in use the Staria’s 831L boot betters the Carnival’s 627L.

For more detailed breakdowns of the respective interiors, if you’re interested, we strongly recommend you check out our reviews here:

MORE: 2022 Hyundai Staria review
MORE: 2021 Kia Carnival review

Hyundai StariaKia Carnival
Boot size VDA:
Behind 3rd row831 litres627 litres

What’s under the bonnet?

Both come with petrol and diesel engine choices, the former being cheaper, more responsive and a little smoother, but the latter more fuel-efficient. The Hyundai diesel has an additional party trick too…

Both models’ petrol engines are a 3.5-litre V6, though as the table below shows the Kia’s makes an extra 16kW of power and 24Nm of torque, and uses a smidgen less fuel – though neither are miserly. The Hyundai is bluffer and a bit heavier.

Both are front-wheel drive and use an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Hyundai’s 2500kg towing capacity is 500kg greater than the Kia’s but if you need to pull trailers you really should get the diesel.

Hyundai StariaKia Carnival
Engine3.5-litre V6 petrol3.5-litre V6 petrol
Power200kW @ 6400rpm216kW @ 6400rpm
Torque331Nm @ 5000rpm355Nm @ 5000rpm
Driven wheelsFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
Transmission8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
Fuel cons.10.5L/100km9.6L/100km
Emissions239g/km Euro 5220g/km Euro 5
Fuel tank75 litres72 litres
Towing capacity2500kg2000kg

Both the Hyundai Staria and Kia Carnival use a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, though once again as the table below shows the Kia’s version has higher outputs – an extra 18kW and 10Nm to be precise.

Note the fact the diesel’s higher torque output (meaning pulling power) also kicks in much earlier than the petrol, and note also the superior combined-cycle fuel efficiency in lab tests – that sleeker Kia is particularly frugal.

Both again use eight-speed autos and the towing capacities are the same as the petrol models, though again the diesels are better suited to the job.

The Hyundai’s party trick is that it alone has all-wheel drive with its diesel engine, with a centre locking mode no less. There’s no low-range or anything and not much clearance, but for slippery surfaces it’s compelling.

The downside is a further fuel-economy impost.

Hyundai StariaKia Carnival
Engine2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel
Power130kW @ 3800rpm148kW @ 3800rpm
Torque430Nm @ 1500rpm440Nm @ 1750rpm
Driven wheelsAll-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
Transmission8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
Fuel cons.8.2L/100km6.5L/100km
Emissions218g/km Euro 5170g/km Euro 5
Fuel tank75 litres72 litres
Towing capacity2500kg2000kg

How do they drive?

The tech specs as the table below shows are very similar. Both use independent all-round suspension and electric power steering, and have large dic brakes at both ends.

Don’t let the Staria Load van spinoff lull you into thinking this is antiquated under the skin.

The best ways to see us driving both and giving our thoughts are watching the detailed videos below.

In short, the Staria is both heavier and has lower engine outputs so isn’t going to out-drag the Kia, which itself feels a little sportier (if there’s such a thing for an MPV) next to the Hyundai. Both are quite plush but the Kia is a touch firmer.

Both offer super-light electric steering that makes these two big buses feel more wieldy than they area.

We also noted that both are similarly guilty when it comes to letting wind and tyre noise into the interior more than they ought to.

Hyundai StariaKia Carnival
Kerb weight2212kg petrol2136kg petrol
2325kg diesel2134kg diesel
Gross vehicle mass2920kg petrol2880kg petrol
3040kg diesel2876kg diesel
Rough payload708 – 715kg744 – 752kg
Front suspensionMacPherson strutMacPherson strut
Rear suspensionMulti-linkMulti-link
Front brakes345mm ventilated disc325mm ventilated disc
Rear brakes325mm ventilated disc325mm ventilated disc
Turning circle11.94m11.7m

Cost of ownership

Hyundai’s five-year warranty falls two years short of Kia’s seven-year plan, both with unlimited kilometres.

Both Hyundai Staria engines have 12 month and 15,000km servicing intervals and average annual servicing costs averaging $360, though there are some additional charges along the way.

Both Kia Carnival engines likewise have 12 month and 15,000km servicing intervals, but respective average annual servicing costs from $492 (petrol) or $515 (diesel), though there are no mentions of additional charges.

CarExpert’s Pick

Our pick is, either seem better for big families than a Sorento or Santa Fe/Palisade SUV.

Ultimately it’s going to come down to balancing the Kia’s more SUV-like looks, extra features, better power-to-weight and longer warranty versus the space-age Hyundai’s airier and taller interior and available AWD.

Full videos here:

MORE: 2022 Hyundai Staria review
MORE: 2021 Kia Carnival review

Link copied!
Mike Costello
Mike Costello
Mike Costello is the News Editor at CarExpert.
Learn about CarExpert or contact CarExpert.

Also on CarExpert