Kia Carens review
The Kia design revolution has come full circle with the new Carens, which offers seven seats as standard
The Carens is the final car to receive the upmarket new look that was created by Kia’s design chief Peter Schreyer. What’s more, as well as replacing its rather forgettable predecessor, following the demise of the Sedona, the new Carens will become Kia’s largest MPV. That means all models sold in the UK get seven seats as standard, making the car a rival for the Ford Grand C-MAX and Renault Grand Scenic. Two diesels and one petrol engine will be available, with an automatic gearbox available on the high-powered diesel only.
Our choice: Carens 2 1.7-litre diesel 114bhp
Making an MPV look stylish is a tricky challenge, but with its swept-back lights, intricate creases and LED tail-lights, the new Carens is certainly a big step forward compared to its dowdy predecessor. The new car is actually 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 45mm lower than the old car, but by moving the A-pillars forwards over the front wheels, and stretching the wheelbase by 50mm, the interior has been made bigger. The changes also give the Carens a more planted look on the road. Inside, the Carens features quite a functional dashboard that’s made from some tough plastics, in keeping with the abuse it’s likely to get as a family runaround. The layout for the centre console is simple and easy to use and glass three-quarter lights mean excellent all-round visibility when parking.
Although the Carens is effectively an MPV version of the Cee’d, it isn’t built on the same platform, unlike the Focus and C-MAX. But despite having less sophisticated rear suspension than the Cee’d, it has a similarly comfortable, compliant ride and is very quiet and refined when up and running. It’s not as sharp to drive as a Grand C-MAX, but the steering is direct and body roll isn’t too bad for a car of this type. The high-powered 134bhp diesel engine is the pick if you regularly drive the car with all seven seats occupied, as it comes with 330Nm of torque. However it is a lot more expensive than the lower-powered version because it is only available in top '3' trim. The six-speed manual isn’t the most precise either, but the ratios are well spaced and - when driven gently - the Carens is an accomplished performer.
The Carens uses plenty of high-strength steel in its bodyshell, and Kia expects the car to receive a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating when the car is tested later this year. The engines, gearbox and much of the technology featured across the Carens line-up is already in use in other Kias, so should prove reliable. All cars come with Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile transferable warranty, which has now been extended to include seven years of free map updates for cars which are ordered with the factory-fitted sat-nav system. Kia finished a very respectable 12th out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey, ahead of Vauxhall, BMW and Audi.
All Carens MPVs sold in the UK come with seven seats. The front passenger seat folds flat with the pull of a lever, while the middle row of three seats all slide and fold individually, depending on your requirements. The two rear seats are for occasional use only, as they’re a little tricky to get in and out of, while head, leg and foot room is in short supply. They do fold easily into the boot floor with the pull of a toggle, however. There are plenty of cubbyholes, including two under the feet of the second row passengers, while the boot has a power point, removable torch and enough space under the floor for the luggage cover. Passengers in the rearmost seats will not be comfortable on longer journeys though and will all seven seats in place there is just over 100-litres of luggage space to play with.
Three engines are available in the Carens, all of which come with stop-start as standard. There are two diesel options to choose from – both the same 1.7-litre turbodiesel unit. In 114bhp form it returns 60.1mpg and emits 124g/km, and is the best all-round option unless you plan to tow a trailer or regularly have all seven seats occupied - if that's the case, the extra torque of the higher-powered diesel would come in welcome. The 134bhp version manages 56.4mpg and 132g/km with a manual gearbox, or 46.3mpg and 159g/km with the auto. The 133bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine is a little wheezy, but it’s smooth and quiet and manages 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2. Kia offers a Care-3 fixed price servicing pack and the excellent seven-year warranty should mean rock-bottom ownership costs.