Kia insists that spaciousness and versatility are a given in this category, and that what really differentiates the Carens from its competitors are the distinctive lines of Schreyer’s ‘tiger nose’ design language.

Elsewhere, this approach has met with success – the Sportage, Optima and Cee’d are notably handsome – but here the efforts are handicapped by the fixed MPV template and the presence of frankly better-looking machines such as the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, Ford S-Max and Volkswagen Touran.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Roof rails aren't standard fitment on the entry-level model

Given its newfound pride in its appearance, Kia would do well to note that being easier on the eye than your predecessor does not automatically make you the segment sweetheart. 

At any rate, MPV desirability is better expressed through packaging rather than aesthetics. Here the news is better. The Carens is slightly smaller than before (being 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 45mm lower than it was), while still gaining a useful 50mm increase in wheelbase.

Torsional rigidity is up by 31 percent, thanks to three times more high-tensile steel in the body, along with some 40 metres of structural adhesives that were absent from the previous model.

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The platform is still suspended on MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion bar at the back, but both have been reworked for ride and handling gains. Kia’s electrically driven, three-mode Flex Steer system, meanwhile, is responsible for direction changes. 

There are three engines to choose from: a 133bhp 1.6-litre petrol and two diesels. The diesels are both versions of Kia’s European-designed four-cylinder 1.7 CRDi, offered in 114bhp and 139bhp outputs.

Each come mated as standard to a six-speed manual gearbox. Kia's optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox is endowed with the seven ratios, but is offered only with the beefier oil-burner.

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