Kia Carens review
The Kia Carens is a spacious, well priced and generously equipped MPV, but it's beginning to show its age
For cheap and versatile family transport the Kia Carens makes a lot of sense. Despite being thoroughly redesigned in 2006 though, it feels like a previous-generation Kia, before the Korean company started challenging European manufacturers for quality and performance. Available with five or seven seats, and a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engine, the Carens is still a lot of car for your money, but rivals like the Vauxhall Zafira deliver a more polished driving experience and carry more prestige.
Our choice: Kia Carens 1.6 CRDi 2
With a redesign in 2006 came a bold new look for the Kia Carens. Its raked windscreen, larger grille and prominent fog lights are a big improvement over the old car, but it hasn't yet received the new family face seen on models like the Kia Sportage. The rear-end is tidy but unremarkable, while roof rails fitted as standard boost practicality, but also help to break up the plain styling. Athough the dash is well laid out and logical, don't expect soft touch materials. Instead, hard plastics form the majority of the surfaces.
There's little verve to the way the Carens drives. Only available with a disappointing manual gearbox (five-speed on the petrol model, six-speed on the diesel) , the steering is extremely light and body roll in the bends and diving under braking is pronounced. In a straight line though the soft suspension deals well with bumps. A 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol and a 126bhp 1.6 CRDi diesel are offered, but both lack refinement at speed - a problem that's compounded by excessive wind noise from the A-pillar. It's the oil-burner we'd go for though for its superior pulling power and fuel economy.
When it was crash tested back in 2007 by Euro NCAP, the Carens scored three stars for child protection, which is slightly disappointing, and four stars for adult protection which is acceptable for a car of this age. Other rivals like the Vauxhall Zafira and Mazda5 scored the full five however. Six airbags are standard, while electronic stability control is only offered as an option.
The high-set front seats give a good view of the road ahead, but could do with more padding, while there are plenty of storage solutions dotted about. A foot-operated parking brake frees up space for a storage box between the front seats, there's a large glove box and passengers in the middle row get their own cupholders. Seven seats are standard on the 2 and 3 trim levels and there's plenty of space for passengers in the second row which can slide back and forth. The third row can fit adults at a squeeze but is really designed for kids - the down side is that with all seven seats filled boot space shrinks dramatically to just 74-litres. Fold the second and third rows flat though and there's a van-like 2,106-litres to play with.
With prices starting from around £15,000 the Carens certainly scores well against its rivals. And equipment levels are high too, with basic models getting alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electric mirrors and windows. Higher spec cars get cruise and climate control, parking sensors and leather seats. Fuel economy of 49.6mpg for the diesel model is around 10mpg up on the petrol and CO2 emisisons of 149g/km mean a yearly tax bill of £125. The Carens also comes with Kia's unrivalled seven-year warranty.