£18,995 - £27,790 Price range
45 - 67 MPG
The Kia Carens is the largest car the manufacturer offers and comes with seven seats as standard. It’s rivals are the Ford Grand C-Max, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the Renault Grand Scenic and all of them are highly accomplished and slightly larger than the Carens.
Prices start from £18,995 and if you buy your new Carens using carwow you can save £3,300 on average.
The Kia’s interior may be a symphony in grey, but the uninspiring layout and crude materials on the basic version are perfect for withstanding the heavy toll of family life. Passenger space in this type of car is a high priority and the Carens is decent if not class leading – the Grand C4 Picasso is more spacious. However, the boot is on par with rivals and has some clever storage areas.
Driving the Carens is confidence inspiring, safe, predictable and as a result quite unexciting. Even though the Kia rides the firmest of all its rivals and even has a ‘Sport’ (!?) mode for its steering it is miles away from the Grand C-Max that proves a seven seater doesn’t have to be boring to drive.
The choice from three engines may sound limited but it’s actually fairly simple – pick the petrol if you plan on using the Kia mainly for the school run, the lower-powered diesel if you enjoy the occasional trip out of town, or the high-power one if you plan on constantly driving the Carens full of people or luggage.
The basic Carens is truly basic – low quality plastic interior, no alloy wheels, but you do get cruise control, remote central locking, air-conditioning and Bluetooth phone connectivity – all essential for family life. Higher up the trim levels the Kia gets more and more luxurious and the top-of-the-range model has just about any extra you’d need in a family seven-seater.
Cheapest to buy: 1.6-litre ‘1’ petrol
Cheapest to run: 1.7-litre ‘2’ diesel
Fastest model: 1.7-litre 139hp DCT ‘3’ diesel
Most Popular: 1.7-litre ‘2’ diesel
Testers say the Kia’s interior “looks smart”. Everything is nicely laid out and as we’ve come to expect from the company these days, of decent quality too. Most buyers will be very happy with the Carens’ interior.
Kia Carens passenger space
The Carens is a seven-seater car, the rearmost row being small fold-down units better suited to children than adults. The middle row is certainly suitable for adults, with three full-sized pews, while front seat occupants will be plenty comfortable and have a large, expansive dashboard to survey.
Kia Carens boot space
Fold all the seats flat and you have a large, flat, 1,650-litre load area; in five-seat mode there’s 492 litres of boot space, and with all the seats in place there’s still over 100 litres of luggage space. Perhaps not enough for each of the passengers’ belongings, but a useful amount of storage even so.
If you’re expecting proper fun from an MPV then you probably haven’t got your priorities right, and rightly the Carens focuses more on ride quality and rolling refinement than it does Porsche-aping handling and Lotus-like grip. Not that it’s poor in either of these areas – testers say it has direct steering and doesn’t roll too much, and grip is decent.
As far as refinement goes, it’s very good – stable and quiet at higher speeds, and composed over bumps. As a device for moving people from place to place, it does pretty much everything you’d ask.
Some Carens models get Kia’s ‘FlexSteer’ variable steering system, with settings from Comfort to Sport. We’re not sure how you can have “comfortable” steering, but regardless most testers say it’s largely pointless anyway – this isn’t a car over-endowed with steering feel whatever settings you play with.
Kia offers three engines in the Carens, two of which are based on the same 1.7-litre diesel unit.
Kia Carens diesel engines
The 1.7-litre turbocharged diesel is offered in 112hp and 132hp outputs, and it’s the latter you’d be best off with if moving people and stuff is a priority. The extra power and torque makes lighter work of heavier loads – it’s more “effortless” as one tester puts it – and doesn’t give away much to the lesser-powered car’s economy – 56.4 vs 60.1mpg.
Kia Carens petrol engines
The other engine is a 131hp 1.6-litre GDi petrol. For some testers this is the pick of the range – provided you don’t need to haul much stuff. It’s smooth, refined and quiet, and has just enough power to move you from A to B around the city. Venture onto hills or fill it up with people though, and refinement and economy can suffer as you thrash it to compensate.
It's not especially powerful though at 133 bhp, which means the engine can struggle with the Carens' bulk - particularly with a few people on board. This "spoils the refinement and hits the economy", even if it'll get you to 60 in 10.9 seconds - a respectable figure.
If you're a town-dweller, the 1.6 GDi should be all the engine you need - but regularly fill up the car or embark upon longer trips and the diesels may be the better options.
Reviewers have driven both and generally recommend the slightly more powerful option, even though it's a little more expensive. It's the difference between a 10 and a 12.6-second 0-60 mph time, but there's less than 4 mpg between the two cars.
The smaller output lacks a little low-down torque, noticeable with a bit of weight on board. The larger output is "mostly effortless" though, and should be more suited to heavier-duty work.
Euro NCAP awarded the Carens a full five-star rating after testing it in 2013.
Detailed analysis states that the MPV scores almost full marks in adult protection, child protection . As part of the standard equipment, the Carens gets ABS, stability control, and a total of six airbags.
A typical Kia high point, the Carens scores well here. For a start there’s that seven-year warranty, better than virtually any other rival. Economy is good too, while every Carens is well-equipped.
All models, starting with the 1.6 GDi in ’1′ trim at under £18,000, get seven seats. That price is less than you’ll pay for an entry-level Ford Grand C-Max, a little more than the (less economical) Renault Grand Scenic.
The trim levels have arguably the most logical names out of any manufacturer. They are ‘1’, ‘SR7′,’2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ from least to most expensive. We have already established that the ‘1’ is pretty basic but well equipped for family life and our trim level of choice would be the next in line – the ‘SR7’.
Kia Carens SR7
The ‘SR7’ addresses most of the shortcomings of the basic model by adding alloy wheels, tinted windows, automatic lights and wipers, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, roof rails and airline style trays for the rear seats.
Kia Carens 2
The middle-of-the-line trim does a good job of adding a more premium atmosphere in the cabin by replacing all the cheap plastics with more expensive materials. It also gets cruise control, LED lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Kia Carens 3
The second most expensive trim level adds some more technology such a 4.3-inch infotainment system, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats and a reversing camera among quite a few others. This trim level is also a prerequisite if you want to opt for the most powerful diesel.
Kia Carens 4
For buyers that want all the kit available on more premium seven-seaters and don’t want a BMW 2 Series Grand Tourer, the ‘4’ trim level is fully loaded – 17-inch alloys, self-parking system with all-round parking sensors and a camera, a bigger seven inch multimedia screen, full black leather interior and an upgraded stereo system stand out from the long list of standard equipment.
Kia has got the Carens pretty much right. It doesn’t dwell on things most customers wouldn’t be bothered about anyway, like fun or flair, but gets the important stuff right – practicality, value, equipment and comfort.
That makes it a good choice for family buyers, who’ll also appreciate the Kia’s styling and the typically long warranty.