The Kia Carens has never managed to properly stake its claim in the competitive seven-seat MPV class. With previous generations often seen as being built to a budget, the spotlight has too often shone on the Ford Grand C-MAX and Citroën Grand C4 Picasso. With its stylish good looks and improved onboard technology, the latest Carens is seeking to reclaim lost ground in its class. Could we be looking at a new king?
The latest Kia Carens is thankfully a lot better looking than its predecessor. It’s bigger – which is no bad thing when you consider its improved interior space – as well as being longer, lower and narrower than previous incarnations.
The Carens is also the latest Kia to benefit from the company’s characteristic ‘tiger-nose’ design philosophy. Take a close look at the Carens’ front grille if you want to understand where that particular nickname came from.
The Carens is also the latest Kia to benefit from the company’s characteristic ‘tiger-nose’ design philosophy.
What’s it like to drive?
As it’s an MPV, the Carens has the pleasingly high driving position shared by many in its class. Thanks to slim front pillars, the elevated helm gives you a good view out the front. Handling is decent, if not class-leading, with minimal body roll and plenty of grip helping out on curvy B-roads.
The Carens isn’t really about back road thrills – it is, after all, a seven-seat MPV – so Kia has focussed more on comfort than agility with this car, resulting in a pleasant, surprisingly refined ride and quiet interior. Well, quiet if the kids are absent.
Acceleration is in line with the competition, with the pair of available diesel engines (there’s a petrol one as well) giving the punchiest performance lower down the rev range – just what you want for fast overtaking manoeuvres. When it comes to motorway cruising, both the diesel and petrol units do a good job of spiriting the Carens along.
Back on the road, it drives unlike any other car.
Along with its elevated driving position, the Carens offers a manually adjusting seat and a height and reach adjustable steering wheel as standard, so getting comfortable isn’t a problem. As is often the case with MPVs, large rear pillars obstruct the view backwards. A rear-view camera and parking sensors – standard on the car’s 2 trim spec – pretty much eradicate that problem. Higher spec 4 trim cars come with front parking sensors too, as well as a neat self-parking system that does all the work for you.
The Carens’ trim levels couldn’t be simpler. The entry-level 1 model comes with cruise control, Bluetooth and a USB socket, while level 2 and 3 versions add a seven-inch colour touchscreen with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a rear-view camera and built-in sat nav. Top-of-the-range cars with trim 4 get a larger touchscreen and a panoramic sunroof.
The inside of the Carens’ is well put together, although not offering quite the same level of quality as you’ll get from rivals like the Volkswagen Touran. Cabin materials are good quality and switchgear is solid, with the gloss black trim found on level 2 cars and above lending a premium touch to the Carens’ somewhat sombre interior.
When it comes to interior space, the Carens easily gives the competition a run for its money. There’s plenty of head and leg room up front, while the car’s trio of middle seats will take three adults in comfort on shorter journeys. These seats also slide forwards and backwards and fold individually so you can tailor the rear load area for whatever you need to carry.
The Carens’ boot space isn’t class-leading. With the third-row seats folded flat, there’s still an ample amount of room in the back for a car of this size. It’s also an easy space to get stuff into, thanks to its square layout and lack of a loading lip – just lift and slide those heavy objects. The 50:50 split second-row seats can also be folded down to create an even bigger boot space if required.
Running costs and reliability
The Kia Carens is good value compared to its rivals. It’s well-equipped across its various trim levels and boasts reasonable running costs for its class, with its lower-powered 1.7-litre diesel engine returning more than 67mpg.
The higher-powered version boasts a still impressive 63mpg, while both have low CO2 emission figures in line with the competition. The 1.6-litre petrol-powered Carens lags some way behind, delivering 44mpg. For some drivers, the smoothness of this engine will make up for it.
What we love
We love the fact the Carens isn’t the obvious choice. While big-name competitors may offer better driving dynamics and a touch more quality, those things come at a price. The Carens offers great value, is well-built and generously equipped. It’s definitely worth considering. The Carens is perfect for families who need extra space for big camping trips or doing the school run, and it’s safe too, with stability control and six airbags standard on all models.
Still looking for the one?
Use our comparison tool to find the car for you
If you like the Jeep Wrangler...
Town and country drivers
The Kia Carens isn’t the obvious choice when it comes to buying a seven-seat MPV. There are more established, high-profile players out there. The Carens still has plenty to offer, namely good looks, proper space and a comfortable ride. Go on, give it a chance.
This review was