The Kia Carens comes with seven seats, a choice of petrol and diesel engines and Kia’s seven-year warranty. But is it a smarter way to move a family than the Ford Grand C-Max or Toyota Verso? We’ve tried the entry-level version (not pictured) to see if it can cut the mustard.
So what’s the spec of this test car?
The Carens – now in its third generation – is based on a modified version of the Ceed hatchback’s platform and also uses the same engines. It’s slightly narrower, shorter and sits lower than the previous model, but all trim levels have seven seats – even in this ‘1’ we’re driving, which is the cheapest you can buy.
That means it’s running a 1.6-litre petrol four-cylinder making 133bhp and comes with a six-speed manual transmission, with claimed economy of 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2.
There’s a set of hubcaps on 16-inch steel wheels and LED headlamps on the outside, while standard cabin equipment includes Bluetooth with music streaming and voice recognition, as well as a USB port, air-conditioning, cruise control and steering-wheel buttons as well. Carens '2' models, like the one in the gallery, right, get alloy wheels as standard.
What about the space?
Here’s the Carens’ strongpoint: it has up to 1650 litres of space to cart dogs, head to the hardware store or move house in. There’s not much space behind the third row of seats, and while most adults will fit in the final row, the second row offers excellent leg-, elbow- and headroom. Every seat in the Carens can be manually adjusted and positioned, which also makes the load area more flexible than rivals – like the Toyota Verso – that run a bench seat as standard.
With both rows folded, you’ll get the full capacity and there’s no silly styling to make access tricky: it’s a good old-fashioned box, really. And, the front passenger seat also folds flat easily, again allowing optimal use of the Caren’s carrying capacity.
What’s the Carens like to drive, though?
If you’ve ordered a Carens for its dynamic prowess, you’ve mis-read the menu. It’s as far from a driving experience as a 911 is from seating seven, but that doesn’t mean it’s a mess to drive. The cabin’s dark grey plastic is reasonable and doesn’t look too cheap or nasty, with modest, neat chrome touches on the switches. The driving position is high, as you might expect, but the seats are surprisingly supportive and well bolstered for a small school bus.
The petrol engine is reasonably smooth and quiet while the six-speed manual has a light action and is easy to use, but the Carens lacks any sort of punch. You need to exercise caution when approaching long hills or roundabouts; quite what it’s like with seven adults in is something we’d rather not experience.
Same goes for the brakes, which don’t inspire confidence, and while it rides comfortably, there’s simply too much travel in the suspension, so it takes forever to settle after a speed hump and dives massively under brakes. In the supermarket car park, you’ll need to plan carefully where to dock the Carens, as the massive turning circle makes slow-speed manoeuvring needlessly tricky.
Why would you pick a Carens? Because it has loads of space that’s flexible to access, has great seats, is affordable to own a run. Kia’s seven-year warranty means you can turn the key and go with minimal worry, too. It’s not as accomplished as the C-Max, but it’s a reasonable kiddie hauler.