Kia Carens 2 1.6 GDi ISG
Streamlined profile and new corporate 'face' are design highlights
- Exterior design is much improved on previous model
- Lofty driving position is helpful and view forward is good
- Engines are refined if driven gently
- Seat arrangement is clever and easy to use
- Access to the third row of seats requires some effort
- Lots of dark plastic in the cabin
- Keen drivers will be disappointed
- Auto gearbox option restricted to diesel engine
These days you're nowhere if you don't have a compact people carrier in your range. Kia's had one for a number of years but, thanks to the strength of the competition, its Carens has never really gained traction in the marketplace. This latest model aims to change that,
As part of the company's very public regeneration, Kia has opted for a bold approach to product design. Out has gone generic and forgettable styling, replaced by a more euro-centric and more adventurous policy. As such, this latest Carens mirrors the path taken by the popular C'eed hatch and estate models.
Although visually arresting on the outside, Kia has adopted a more conservative approach to the car's interior. Remember, though, that this is destined to be a hard worked family car, which makes the decision a sensible one even if the ambience is a little subdued.
What the Carens lacks in interior sparkle it compensates for in terms of versatility. As a seven seater, the car can easily accommodate children in the third row, which can be folded into the boot floor when not in use. Elsewhere the cabin offers plenty of room for a growing family and no shortage of oddment storage - just what you need in a compact people carrier.
And being compact, the Carens doesn't feel unwieldy when driven around town. With its lofty driving position and good forward visibility it proves to be a relaxing driving experience. Which is just as well as overall performance is modest from the choice of low power petrol and diesel engines. The emphasis is clearly on refinement and economy, and that could put off keen drivers.
Our verdict on the Kia Carens 2 1.6 GDi ISG
Any disappointment surrounding the Carens' average driving dynamics should be tempered by its flexible seating arrangement and practical cabin. This is a family-centric people carrier built to cosset and be kind on the wallet. Well built, well equipped and easy on the eye, the Carens hits the jackpot if your priorities are to save money and focus on many years of ease of use.
Considering the car's modest pricing structure, good level of standard kit and expected modest running costs, it's unlikely that the car will cost much to run over the ownership period. Don't expect gold-plated residual values but it's fair to expect a trouble-free experience thanks in part to Kia's generous seven-year warranty.
Space and practicality
In seven-seat guise the Carens offers a versatile cabin experience. The middle row comprises of individual seats, with the third row of two chairs disappearing into the floor when not required. Access to all seats is good - even those at the back - although there's most room in the middle row. Fold all the seats and you've got a spacious van-like arrangement. Oddment storage space is pretty good and should please most demanding families.
Controls and display
The layout in the Carens is straightforward and clear, with all the controls mounted high on the dashboard and sensibly grouped together. The instruments are large and easy to read, while the audio and climate controls are also chunky and well placed. The view out for the driver is also very good thanks to the low dashboard line.
Once you accept the Carens is built for comfort and not speed, the car's refined cabin ambience is an impressive attribute. Plush seats and minimal external noise intrusion into the cabin deliver an above average passenger experience. The generous amount of space is a welcome bonus, too.
Central locking with remote control plus an imobilisor package is bundled as standard for the Carens along with an alarm. Factor in a sturdy-looking rear load cover plus covered storage in the cabin and you've got everything you need for maximum peace of mind.
In line with Kia's generous safety provision policy there's no shortage of airbags fore and aft in the cabin. A basic level of electronic stability assistance is also provided, but don't expect anything particularly adventurous at this price point.
Don't expect the Carens to challenge Ford's C-Max when it comes to driving thrills. This Kia has been built more for comfort and ease of use, and it shows in the way the car serenely copes with poorly surfaced roads but rolls a little too much in the corners. Engine performance is modest at best, and although quiet they can struggle to cope with a fully loaded vehicle.
Family car appeal
In this thoroughly revised and refined form, the Carens should provide everything a family could need, with a great deal of versatility and high levels of comfort. The ability to convert the seat layout into various combinations is a useful feature, and it's likely to be an economical car in the real world too.
First car appeal
As with many cars in the Kia stable, the Carens is easy to drive and easy on the wallet. It might prove a little too big for some at first, but with practice it should be as easy to pilot and part as a conventional family hatchback.
Quality and image
No longer priced at the budget end of the market, the Carens competed directly with more established cars from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. The good news is that on price, kit and quality the Kia is a solid performer. Factor in the car's market-leading seven-year warranty and any concerns regarding durability should be banished for good.
With conventional doors and not sliding rear items, the Carens is more overgrown hatch than outsize MPV when it comes to accessing the cabin. This might result in the occasional tight squeeze in car parks, but once inside the seating layout is straightforward. The car's tailgate is also on the large side but easy to open and shut with little effort.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard stereo system is a radio/CD, which provides decent quality sound reproduction and, crucially, is easy to use even when on the move. Remote operation via the steering wheel is also possible, while sat-nav can be had if you're keen to browse the options list.
Colours and trim
Premium-looking exterior colours dominate the colour chart, while there's also been an uplift in the cabin. Dark plastics remain, but the overall impression is of a higher quality interior than before with only a scattering of not so nice hard to touch materials on show.
The Carens isn't a big vehicle but it does require some skill to park successfully. Forward visibility is good but with the various headrests and pillars, the same can't be said for the view rearward. Thankfully parking sensors make a welcome difference and, where fitted, the colour reversing camera should ensure no bumps or scrapes.
Spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (133bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.7-litre (114bhp, 134bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (diesel option). Trim levels: 1, 2, 3.
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