First Drive: Kia Carens

First Drive: Kia Carens

What is it: New version of long-running compact MPV

Key features: Redesign to incorporate two previous models

Our view: Kia’s Carens has been around a long time – one of those compact MPVs that was easily passed by. Now to complete the revitalization of its entire range under the leadership of design director Peter Schreyer, the Carens is taking on a new image, replacing both its direct predecessor and the much larger Sedona.

Kia CarensAnyone that follows the current motoring scene will know that the new Kia line-up produced by Schreyer has served to cement the brand as a major player – clearly demonstrated by the fact that the major growth that Kia enjoyed in the recession-busting Government scrappage scheme has simply continued since.

The secret has been quality new product, totally at home amongst the traditional volume names both for its looks, inside and out, and its quality.

The Carens very much maintains the breed. This is a car far removed from its rather forgettable predecessors – a thoroughly impressive seven-seat compact MPV.

Kia CarensIt looks sleek – a big brother to the c’eed family hatch, rather less of the slab-sided bulbousness that used to characterise such people carriers. And the inside is impressive too – not stylish for the sake of style, but practical with quality fit and finish, lots of soft-touch surfaces – especially if you choose any but the first of the three trim levels. These are named 1, 2 and 3 by the way…

There’s more room in the cabin compared to the previous Carens, and the practicality is clearly demonstrated by the one-pull ease in which the third row of seats fold flat into the floor.

Kia CarensPlenty of storage is included too – underfloor compartments in the second row, door pockets big enough for drinks bottles for example. These sit alongside lots of nice-to-have items, such as a cooled glovebox, flip-up tables on the back of the front seats (except on entry-level versions) and a central middle row seat that folds down to form a table. The middle row is clever as a whole, all individual and both sliding and reclining.

The engine choice is three-way – a petrol of 1.6 litres and 133bhp, and a 1.7 diesel with either 114 or 134 horses. The more powerful one can be specified with a six-speed auto gearbox (which significantly compromises economy and emissions) otherwise a six-speed manual is fitted.

CarandVanNews tried all three on the launch and the one we would leave at home is the petrol. It is smooth enough, but has a distinct lack of lowdown grunt that you really notice the moment you come to an upwards gradient of any significance.

We would probably opt for the larger diesel – with official fuel economy figures of 56.4mpg it’s less than 4mpg behind its smaller sister, but boasts a useful extra dose of power with a 0-62mph time some 2.6 seconds faster.

Kia CarensOn the road the Carens is a competent performer, but only that. It rides well enough, smothers the bumps more than adequately, but there’s not much feedback through the wheel, it all feels a bit divorced. In truth, however, you are never going to buy a car such as this for its performance, but instead its people-carrying practicality, and the Carens has that in spades.

Kias are no longer priced to greatly undercut the opposition – prices for the new Carens range from £17,895 to £23,895, which is comparable to the Fords and Peugeots it’s now competing against.

You get a lot for your cash, however. The equipment list on standard models includes such highlights as cornering headlamps, daytime running lights, cruise control, Bluetooth and the like, while the 2 grade gets alloys, roof rails, chrome bits, auto lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone air-con and more.

Go for grade 3 and the wheels get bigger, a panoramic sunroof is added along with leather upholstery, 10-way driver’s seat adjustment, a reversing camera…

Perhaps most practically of all, however, every version gets Kia’s seven-year 100,000-mile warranty – which makes the Carens a very tempting prospect.

Key specification:

Kia CarensModel Tested: Kia Carens 1.6, 1.7

On Sale: May 2013

Price: £17,895–£23,895

Engines: 1.6 petrol, 1.7 diesel x 2

Power (bhp): 133, 114/134

Torque (lb/ft): 122, 192/243*

0-62mph (sec): 10.9, 12.6/10.0*

Top speed (mph): 115, 112/119*

Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 44.1, 60.1/56.4*

CO2 emissions (g/km): 149, 124/132*

Key rivals: Ford Grand C-Max, Peugeot 5008, SEAT Alhambra

Test date: April 2013

* = with manual gearbox

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