MPVs have always inhabited a slightly awkward section of the market, and it’s the same story for seven-seater cars, where manufacturers have often found it difficult to marry practicality and desirability in one package.
With the Carens, Kia might have it finally cracked though. Aside from the new Citroen C4 Picasso it’s probably the best looking car in its segment with the same Peter Schreyer-penned design as the rest of Kia’s range.
It’s got the space, it’s got the style and it’s also got a lot of neat equipment as standard working in its favour too. Is the Carens the car to make the people carrier cool?
Three engines are available in the Carens range: a 1.6-litre petrol and two 1.7-litre diesels with outputs of 114bhp and 139bhp respectively. The petrol, which is smooth but a bit underpowered, is best avoided but the most powerful diesel is probably the pick of the bunch.
It’s not the fastest thing in the world, but it’s smooth and has plenty of torque which is great for hauling all those passengers and also for smooth motorway overtakes in higher gears.
As standard, the car comes with a six-speed manual gearbox but buyers can also opt for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic 'box which came fitted to our test car. The automatic does make the car easier to drive, but be warned that it will cut the 0-62mph time from 10 seconds to 11.6 seconds.
Ride and Handling
Compared against the previous version, the latest Carens is much better to drive, but as a family car it still prioritises comfort above everything else.
Compared against the previous version, the latest Carens is much better to drive, but as a family car it still prioritises comfort above everything else. Soft, forgiving suspension makes for a comfortable ride and the car feels really refined and quiet at all speeds, but this does come at the cost of engagement. Body lean in the corners is still a problem and the suspension gets wallowy and bouncy over bigger bumps, while steering is on the vague side and doesn’t offer much by way of feedback. Compared against the likes of the Ford S-Max, the Carens is far from the best car to drive in its segment, but it makes a fine cruiser that’s an ideal option for drivers who would rather spend their time relaxing than tackling B-roads.
Interior and Equipment
It’s unlikely to have been chosen for this reason, but did you know that the word ‘carens’ means ‘lacking’ in Latin?
Inside, the Carens gets a smart dash layout that’s similar to the Cee’d hatchback, and which comes with some nice soft-touch plastics and perforated leather inserts in the doors. The control layout is arranged well and easy to access, making it a doddle to adjust temperature or vehicle settings on the move. There are still some lower quality plastics but they’re hidden well and the car’s large windows let a lot of light in to prevent the cabin from feeling too dark, and in conjunction with the high seating position it also means that all-round visibility is excellent. Four trim levels are available, handily named 1, 2, 3 and 4. Standard equipment across the range includes LED daytime running lights, cruise control with a speed limiter and adjustable steering modes, plus air con and Bluetooth connectivity. Opting for the range-topping 4 trim, which is the version that we tested, will add features like an upgraded seven-speaker sound system, parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof, plus a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s a big improvement over older versions and which comes with integrated sat-nav. Like most MPVs, the Carens has a three-row seating arrangement with two small seats in the back to allow up to seven people to fit in the car. Room in the back row is fairly competitive for its class, although access is tricky and the seats are best used for short journeys only. You will have to compromise between seating and boot space, however. With all the seats up there’s only a tiny boot space left, but folding all the seats down opens up a maximum capacity of 1,650 litres.
It’s attractively priced against its rivals, while it also comes with Kia’s class-leading seven-year warranty for added peace of mind.
Prices for the Carens range start from £17,400 for the entry-level 1 trim, while the range-topping 4 trim that we have starts from £26,500. It’s attractively priced against its rivals therefore, while it also comes with Kia’s class-leading seven-year warranty for added peace of mind. The more powerful 1.7-litre engine fitted with the auto gearbox is reasonably efficient too, though the 48mpg average we recorded does fall short of the claimed figure of 59mpg. CO2 emissions are 127g/km, which equates to £110 road tax a year.
There are certainly cars in its class that drive better and some that are more efficient too, but in terms of comfort, practicality and equipment the Kia Carens more than holds its own. It’s definitely one of the best looking MPVs as well, and so if practicality’s your thing but you don’t want to compromise on style or desirability then the Carens is more than worth your attention.