Kia Carens Review
What's not so good
Kia Carens: what would you like to read next?
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.
The Carens is a budget MPV that is well worth a look
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.
For a more in-depth look at the Carens, look at the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review over the following pages. Or, to see what sort of offers are available on the Kia Carens, visit our deals page.
The Kia Carens has a reasonable amount of space in all seven of its seats, but the rearmost ones are best left for children and there’s not much boot space left when all seven seats are up
You can carry seven people or lots of luggage - but, as in many MPVs, not both at the same time
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.
In-car storage is adequate but not impressive for an MPV. There are numerous places to store your stuff but ultimately a VW Tiguan is better thought out.
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.
It rides well and doesn't have too much of body roll, either
Kia offers three engines in the Carens, two of which are based on the same 1.7-litre diesel unit.
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 and doesn’t give away much to the lesser-powered car’s economy – 56.4 vs 60.1mpg.
The other engine is a 131hp 1.6-litre GDi petrol. 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.
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 it’s largely pointless anyway – this isn’t a car over-endowed with steering feel whatever settings you play with.
The budget origins of the Carens are more easily spotted in the interior.