motioncars
As Good As It Gets: Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001)
 
Americans popularized the form of transportation known as the minivan. The premise was simple: combine the space of a van with the good performance and external packaging of a sedan, so that even without the kids, mom or dad can be comfortable driving it. Finally, an affordable American minivan has arrived on our shores—the Chevrolet Venture from GM. Surely this has piqued the attention of many moms and dads who are looking for the ideal vehicle for their caboodle. The Venture’s specifications are certainly impressive, particularly the price: a reasonable PHP1.15 million.

We’ll give you a comprehensive look at this American van, with some comparisons to its closest competitor, the Kia Carnival. This time, the American is the upstart, muscling in on its well-established rival from Korea. Will it be a rout or a close match? We’ll examine our contenders in the most relevant areas.

Seating

The Venture is certified by the government as a 10-seater vehicle, and indeed it has count-’em, ten seatbelts. All seating positions get a headrest, too, except for the last row middle passenger. The front row features a driver’s chair and a separate bench good for two more persons. The middle row is made up of two split-folding and removable benches, to seat four persons. Three people can fit in the last row bench seat, which can also slide, fold, tumble and be removed.

That fits 10 people—in theory. In practice, we found out that the Venture can indeed seat 10 people, but it’ll entail some careful selection as to who sits where.

We tried seating three adults in the front row and it was a snug fit. The driver and middle passenger felt too close for comfort. Also, the middle passenger has limited legroom because of the dashboard. However, if the middle passenger happens to be a kid, or a very good friend of the driver, then you won’t hear any complaints from the front.

For the second row, better select two wide and two narrow people. The bench seat is expansive and back support is adequate. The adjustable headrests help immensely with comfort. Elbow room is at a premium, though. As for the last row, at least two of the three people should be the narrow type. Not to worry if you’re assigned to the last row; it boasts of headroom equal to that of any other seating position—meaning there’s plenty of space above your head. Legroom is also generous even for a trip to Tagaytay or for hours of crawling in Manila traffic.

If you’re all tall and wide, then forget everything we just said, hop on board and hope that you get to your destination quickly!

The Carnival doesn’t even attempt to squeeze ten seats in its interior. Its seating configuration clearly dictates a maximum of eight passengers. There are two chairs in front, and like the Venture’s, each has armrests. (We’re wondering why all cars don’t have this feature—it’s so comfortable!) The second row has a one-person chair and a two-person bench. You can even swap the positions of the chair and bench. The third row is a three-person bench.

Take note that all Carnivals come with two-side facing benches in the rear as standard. Now that would be a 10-seater Carnival, but with considerable compromise in comfort. You’ll have to pay more for the front-facing seats.

The advantage of the Carnival is that the separate front seats allow for a “walk-through space” in between. Meaning, mom can check on the kids without exiting and re-entering the van. The big dilemma in the Kia is who to relegate to the back row. There’s a bar that runs across the ceiling just over the rear seat and because of that even a 170-cm adult (5 ft-7 in) will find his hair scraping the headliner. Watch out for humps! Kids should be just fine in the back seat.

Ingress and egress are easy for either van, because of their large dual sliding doors. The Venture has a slight advantage because the middle row can slide forward as well as fold its seatback.

Luggage

We’ll have to declare no contest on this one. With all seats up, the Carnival has almost no luggage space. The Venture has a vast expanse that can swallow all your belongings for a long voyage, even if you’re going camping.

Perhaps the best trait of the Venture is that it doesn’t make you choose between people and luggage. Most vans including Starex, Space Gear and yes, the Carnival, have close to zero luggage space when all the seats are up. With a full load of people, the Venture has plenty of room left over for their stuff. We tried doing a little bit of shopping with all rows of seats up and configured for maximum legroom. A surprising amount of stuff still fit in the luggage bay, including a cooler, books, groceries, even a small Christmas tree!

If you need even more luggage room, such as on a trip to the airport, just slide the rear row forward a bit using the conveniently-located lever at its base. Legroom is still adequate, and now you’ll be able to fit as many as five full-sized suitcases! You can even remove the middle and rear seats without any tools, but actually lifting them out would be easier if you had Schwarzenegger’s biceps.

The Carnival’s last row does fold and tumble forward, and frees up a large amount of luggage space. However, you’d now be able to seat only five.

Driving Performance and Ergonomics

The Venture has another ace up its sleeve, or rather in its engine bay. A 3.0 liter V6 engine pumps out 171 bhp and a massive 345 Nm of torque. (The torque is more than double a Corolla Altis 1.6’s.) Given those figures, the acceleration is not as immediate as you’d imagine, probably due to the automatic transmission. Sometimes you’d have to wait about 1 or 2 seconds for the acceleration to arrive. When it does arrive, however, hang on! The vehicle surges forward with a vengeance, and you’ll have enough torque on tap to overtake a GTi or two.

As for slowing the whole thing down, the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS effectively bring to a halt all 1900 kg of van.

Highway blasts aside, we extensively drove the Venture where it will probably be used the most: the usual family haunts of Metro Manila. We drove into mall parking garages, up hotel driveways, jammed it into parking lots and jostled with the thickest Manila traffic.

We discovered that the Venture’s handling and steering are quite carlike, losing only a bit of sharpness of response. You don’t feel like there’s a train behind you. As for visibility, the front fenders and hood might as well not exist from the driver’s seat. You can’t see them, but then it's not necessary to do so. Short front overhangs make it easy to maneuver in parking lots or in heavy traffic. The overall length is about 320 mm more than a long sedan (Accord, Camry or Cefiro), but in many repeated attempts it was easy to insert into a parking space or garage.

There’s a whole gaggle of toys to keep the Venture driver entertained. An overhead multi-function display can act as a compass and thermometer, or it can keep tabs on your fuel economy. A useful indicator is how much distance you can travel before you have to fill up with gas. There are front and rear foglights, the fronts very helpful in night driving. Rounding up the gadgets are a single-disc CD player with speed-sensitive volume (when you go faster, the stereo pumps up its volume), and of course, front and rear aircon controls.

The Carnival for its part has a more ergonomic cockpit. The gearshift is mounted on the dashboard to free up center space. It’s just a hand-drop away from the steering-wheel: excellent! The switches are also smartly located near the driver, and can be more easily differentiated by touch alone. There’s also a large single knob to control the major stereo functions and stereo-control buttons on the steering wheel. The aircon controls are also a model of simple and effective layout, with a rotary knob for the fan control and a wheel for temperature.

With such an excellent cockpit, can the Carnival deliver on performance? For starters, its 2.9 liter turbocharged diesel engine is no slouch. It may have only 135 horses, but in diesel tradition it has a robust 315 Nm at just 2000 rpm. This powerplant can pull the van up steep hills and ramps without running out of breath. The acceleration is brisk with only two people on board. With a full load, it’s noticeably slower but still not strained. The automatic downshifts promptly on command, and upshifts are smooth and unobtrusive.

As for cornering, the Carnival retains a good carlike feel. It’s a touch more nimble than the Venture, but the Kia won’t be able to keep up once the Venture’s engine goes on full boil. The Carnival’s braking is via vented disc / drum, also equipped with ABS. Brake feel is nothing spectacular, but performance is certainly adequate.

Value for money / build quality

Both vans have seemingly solid build quality. The Kia is holding up well with already 9500 on its odometer. Only time will tell of course, but right now everything seems to be screwed on right where it should be.

Dual airbags are standard on the Chevy, single airbag on the Kia. Both are covered by a 2-year 50,000-km warranty. The Venture retails for PHP1.150 million, with everything mentioned as standard.

Now PHP1.150 million is a lot of money, but with 1.6 sedans costing almost PHP900,000 suddenly it doesn’t look so expensive. The Venture’s cabin may be overly plasticky in some areas, but it’s otherwise well designed and executed. The cabin is quiet apart from the soft V6 rumble, which isn’t such a bad thing to hear.

Fuel economy is about 5.3 km/liter in city driving, again not too bad considering the engine’s size and the vehicle’s capacity. The Venture even manages to pack a 95-liter fuel tank, allowing a range of 500+ km between fill-ups.

The Carnival does a more economical 6.5 km / liter, on cheaper diesel fuel. The van itself is 20% cheaper at PHP909,000. Some people who sat in both vehicles preferred the Carnival’s seating, because the configuration was more suitable for their purposes. The Kia’s sculpted side panels and tapering taillights lend a hint of sporty styling.

Yet other people are already voting with their checkbooks. Less than a month after the launch, the first batch of Ventures has already sold out; the second batch, even before it reaches the showrooms, is rapidly being spoken for, too. In our three days of testing, motioncars.com already “sold” two Ventures, and impressed another potential buyer. One family who saw it on Saturday went over to a GM on Sunday to make a deposit.

We would have to agree with them; we can’t think of a currently-available minivan that's better than the Venture. It combines uncompromised head- and legroom for up to ten persons with a large space left over for their luggage. Its flexible seating and powerful engine seal the victory. Perhaps the best thing about the Venture is that it drives closely enough to a car that even after spending some time behind the wheel, you’re not going to be daydreaming of that sedan you left behind. Family man, your vehicle has arrived at last. You can have your van and drive it, too!

motioncars.com would like to thank

General Motors Philippines
for lending us the Chevrolet Venture for a weekend.

Reminder: Children are safest when they're seated at the middle or rear rows. They should always wear seatbelts or sit in a child car seat. Never place a child seat in the front row.

By Jason Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang and Jason Ang
Originally Published in the December 2001 Issue
As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001) As Good As It Gets:  Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001)

 

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December 4, 2002
The Sky's the Limit: Peugeot 206 CC (2002)
November 3, 2002
Class of the Titans: Lynx GSi, Civic VTi, Corolla 1.6 J (2002)
November 3, 2002
Any Given Sunday: BMW 318i (2002)
October 1, 2002
Sexy Sensibility: Volvo S60 (2002)
October 1, 2002
Anti-Lexus: Toyota Echo (2002)
September 30, 2002
Borrowed Time: Mitsubishi Lancer (2002)
September 30, 2002
The Right Stuff: Ford Escape (2002)
September 30, 2002
Torque Wrench: Ford Focus (2002)
August 1, 2002
Siren Song: Nissan Serena (2002)
July 2, 2002
Top Level: Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP (2002)
July 2, 2002
One More Time: Opel Astra (2002)
July 2, 2002
Staple Food: Toyota Hi-Ace Super Grandia (2002)
May 26, 2002
King of Plain: Toyota Camry (2002)
May 26, 2002
Energizer Bunny: Honda Accord (2002)
May 26, 2002
Conspicuous Consumption: Ford Expedition (2002)
April 28, 2002
Utility Sport: Honda CR-V (2002)
April 28, 2002
Fighting to Stay Ahead: Mitsubishi Adventure (2002)
April 28, 2002
The One: Honda Civic VTi-S vs. Corolla Altis (2002)
March 13, 2002
Welcome Mr. Hyde: Honda Civic Type-R (1997)
March 13, 2002
Better the Second Time Around: Ford Lynx (2002)
March 12, 2002
The Weakest Lynx?: Ford Lynx (2002)
February 19, 2002
Ultimate Toy Story: Porsche Boxster 2.7 (2002)
February 16, 2002
Spiritually Correct: Porsche 911 Cabriolet (1997)
February 16, 2002
Steady as She Goes: Hyundai Starex (2002)
January 21, 2002
King of the Hill: Ford Ranger 4x4 XLT (2001)
January 21, 2002
Lost in Space: Ford E150 (2001)
December 12, 2001
Not Quite Yet: Isuzu Crosswind (2001)
December 12, 2001
As Good As It Gets: Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001)
December 12, 2001
Superman The Ride: Ford F150 (2001)
October 21, 2001
The X Factor: BMW X5 (2001)
October 21, 2001
RAVishing Performance: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
October 21, 2001
Viva La Carnival: Kia Carnival (2001)
September 10, 2001
Class Leader: Toyota Corolla Altis (2001)
September 10, 2001
Condition Normal: Honda Accord Long-Term Test Update
September 10, 2001
Four-Eyed Monster: Mercedes Benz E320
August 15, 2001
Different Road: Nissan Exalta Grandeur (2001)
August 15, 2001
Happy Endings: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
August 15, 2001
Ultimate Experience: BMW 318i and 325i (2001)
July 19, 2001
Slick Cat: Jaguar S-Type (2001)
July 2, 2001
Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001)
May 18, 2001
Slow Advancement: Toyota Revo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Below Expectations: Toyota Echo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Civic Revolution: Honda Civic (2001)
April 15, 2001
White Collared Brawl: Honda Accord and BMW 523i (2001)
March 12, 2001
Bus Driving 101: Mercedes-Benz MB100 (2001)
March 12, 2001
Everyday Transport: Toyota Corolla (2001)
February 5, 2001
Beautiful Day: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
February 5, 2001
Civilized Monster: Ford Explorer (2000)
December 18, 2000
Empty Space: Mitsubishi Spacegear (2000)
November 18, 2000
First Class Effort: Hyundai Starex (2000)
November 18, 2000
Service Please! Nissan Cefiro Classic Long-Term Test Update (1998)
November 18, 2000
Astra La Vista: Opel Astra (2000)
September 18, 2000
Old World Brute: Nissan Patrol Safari
September 18, 2000
Newly Hatched: Toyota Echo (2000)
September 18, 2000
Goodbye Beetle: Toyota Echo (2000)
August 15, 2000
Steer Flick'n Good: Audi A4 (2000)
July 9, 2000
No Lucky Stars: Ford Taurus GL (1998)
June 11, 2000
Simply Bulletproof: The Honda Accord VTi-L Long-Term Test Update (1998)
June 11, 2000
Still Life: Mitsubishi Lancer (2000)
May 13, 2000
Living with America: Ford F150 (2000)
April 16, 2000
Civic Minded: Honda Civic (2000)
February 20, 2000
Ford Lynx Ghia (2000) Driven
January 18, 2000
White Lightning: Honda Civic (1999)
December 18, 1999
The Lost World: Volkswagen Polo Classic (1998)
December 12, 1999
Against All Odds: Mazda 323 (1999)
September 29, 1999
Warp Speed Transport: Nissan Sentra Super Saloon (1995)
August 30, 1999
Complete Change of Mind: Nissan Cefiro (1997) Long-Term Test Update
August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998