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.
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.
It rides well and doesn't have too much of body roll, either
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.