From £17,4007
Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The Kia Carens is sold with a choice of three engines – a 133bhp 1.6 GDi petrol, and 114bhp and 139bhp 1.7 CRDi diesels.

All engines are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, although the higher-powered diesel can be linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The Kia Caren's 'U2' diesel was engineered in Europe

If you’re expecting your low-emissions seven-seater to be even remotely quick, you’re going to be disappointed. At this end of the market, good performers are separated from bad by driveability, refinement, economy and enough poke to see you through.

Fortunately, the Carens puts in a competitive showing. All three engine options deliver competent performance, although the higher-powered diesel is inevitably the most versatile.

The 1.6 petrol is perhaps the least obvious option, struggling slightly up steep inclines and when the Carens is fully laden. For parents on the school run, however, it would be more than sufficient.

That said, the lower-powered diesel is both reasonably refined and offers efficiency benefits that make the Carens a far more compelling proposition. Only a slight shortage of low-end torque stands against it.

Kia's higher-powered diesel unit, meanwhile, is a must-have for people planning to drive long distances while fully laden on a regular basis. All units are relatively frugal for the class, aided by a stop-start system that’s standard on all manual models.

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The six-speed manual gearbox is a reasonable performer, although the unit in a petrol car we tested was a touch notchy. It is a point to note and consider, rather than being anything remotely like a deal breaker, however.