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Steering, suspension and comfort

The Carens is a little firm compared with the average MPV. It's much firmer than a Renault Scenic or a Citroën Picasso, for example.

It’s a deliberate tactic, designed partly, we suspect, to imbue the Carens with the kind of athletic European handling that the Korean firm covets, but mainly to actually increase occupant comfort. Firmer springs and softer suspension bushes, claims Kia, prevent the unwanted lateral body movements that can unsettle passengers in the back. 

There is body roll in corners, but it's well controlled

Our testers commented more positively about the car’s handling than its ride. The steering seems well judged, and, with the electromechanical system’s Sport mode selected, assistance descends to a level that allows some feedback. 

Kia’s system continues its tendency to add ‘stiction’ around the straight-ahead and to corrupt directional stability a little. In a nutshell, you have to continually steer the Carens straight – only minutely, but enough to notice. There’s better precision and consistency off centre, as well as respectable grip and agility.

Over a choppy surface, you can’t help but feel that a more softly sprung car would ultimately be more comfortable. The dynamic tune may dial out body movement over longer-wave lumps and bumps, but it doesn’t allow the car to absorb typical B-road disturbances with as much grace as some.

There’s a fidget to the ride that, at times, you could do without. But there’s no harshness to it – quite the opposite, in fact, with those softer bushes seemingly able to keep sharp crashes and bangs pleasingly distant.

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The impression the Carens gives is of a ‘nearly’ car; one in touch with the best-sorted models of its type but not quite their equal. It’s as good to drive as a Kia Rio is next to a Ford Fiesta, or as a Cee’d is relative to a Volkswagen Golf. But it’s no breakthrough.