From £17,400
New seven-seat Carens gets the Peter Schreyer design touch and modern underpinnings

Our Verdict

Kia Carens

All-new seven-seat MPV completes the renewal of Kia's line-up, but can it claim to be a driver's car like the rival Ford S-Max?

Mark Tisshaw
11 March 2013

What is it?

The new Kia Carens is another significant moment in the Korean company's coming of age as a mainstream manufacturer.

While a new seven-seat Carens MPV may not seem to have the on-paper significance of a Rio or Cee'd, the arrival of this new model means that every single model in Kia's line-up has been given the magic Peter Schreyer design touch, competent underpinnings and modern, fuel-efficient engines.

The new Carens not only replaces the outgoing Carens, but also the larger Sedona as well – the last two remaining old-school Kias, in other words. It gives Kia's dealers a whole range of good-looking cars to be proud of without having to hide a couple of the more spacious offerings in the corner of the showroom.

What's it like?

As we've come to expect from these new-breed Kias, the new Carens is a world away from the old model. The previous Carens ranged somewhere between unexceptional and forgettable, and was notable only for its pricing and generous warranty. There's plenty more to this one than that.

Visually, it doesn't quite have the overall flair of a Cee'd or a Sportage, but then a slab-sided MPV was always going to be more of a challenge for Schreyer's team. Still, it's a distinct design with character, and you're unlikely to forget what it looks like in the Tesco car park – as you might have done with the previous Carens and a few other incumbents in the class. 

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The smart look is reflected inside. The gadget-laden trim of our admittedly high-spec test car gives the Carens a real quality feel, with super-comfy heated and cooled leather seats up front, eye-catching trim and switchgear and a touchscreen navigation system for the centre console. Look closer and the hard-touch surfaces are there, but that's fine when you consider the rough and ready life the average Carens will have.

The seven-seat interior (a five-seat version is offered elsewhere but not in the UK) includes a front passenger seat that folds down, three sliding and folding seats in the middle row and a pair of occasional-use seats that fold out of the boot floor.

The Carens is actually a slightly shorter, narrower and lower car than before, but a longer wheelbase has squeezed out a few extra millimetres of room in all the key departments, and there are enough cubby holes in which to lose a packed lunch or three.

In the UK, the Carens is offered with a 1.7-litre turbodiesel with either 114bhp or 134bhp, or a 1.6-litre petrol with 133bhp. The more potent diesel, connected to a standard six-speed manual gearbox, is a strong performer, its 243lb ft of torque being more than enough to adequately propel the 1516kg Carens. 

The gear ratios are well judged, and the shift itself is slick. Coupled to a refined engine, this diesel Carens has an excellent drivetrain. It only really lacks in torque at the very bottom end of the rev range, something that was exposed on the hilly roads of our test route in southern France.

We also got to try the 1.6 petrol engine. It's another smooth operator but it needs to be revved to get the most out of it and can feel a little breathless below its peak rev range. It doesn't give too much away to the diesel in refinement on the motorway, though, thanks to the appearance again of that six-speed manual gearbox. The 133bhp engine, incidentally, is the only Carens powerplant that can be hooked up to an automatic ’box.

Dynamically, the Carens ranges from average to good, but it could never be called involving to drive. The steering is the big problem here; it feels far too vague, particularly if you start playing around with the 'FlexSteer' settings that try – and fail – to give a bit more weighting and involvement, even in 'Sport' mode.

It handles keenly enough for something of it size; the predictable body roll is well controlled and the Carens doesn't have a habit of lurching all over the road. The ride is also generally good and settled at higher speeds, if a little bumpy around town.

It's never uncomfortable, though, and the Carens doesn't give away too much to the Cee'd on which it's loosely based despite swapping a multi-link rear suspension set-up for a simpler torsion beam.

Should I buy one?

There's no reason for Kia to hide this new Carens in the corner of the showroom. It looks good inside and out, is flexible and spacious enough inside, is decent to drive, should be cheap to run and of course has that seven-year warranty to boot.

Truth is, the Carens now ticks enough boxes in this sector's list of requirements that the average buyer won't care that it's not as (relatively) fun to drive as, say, a Ford Grand C-Max, even if we'd prefer a bigger smile on our face when stepping out of it.

Kia's next challenge, after ensuring the as yet unannounced prices of the Carens are competitive, will be to lift the levels of dynamic involvement of its future cars to a standard that matches the design.

The real work starts now, then, but you'd be a fool to dismiss quick-learning Kia's chances of succeeding.  

Kia Carens 134bhp 1.7 diesel 

Price £21,500 (est); 0-62mph 10.4sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 56.4mpg; CO2 emissions 132g/km; Kerb weight 1516kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1685cc, turbodiesel; Power 134bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 243lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual 

Join the debate


11 March 2013

but why use that name? Carens just sounds awful

11 March 2013

worse than x-Max? Sharan? I don't think so. MPVs don't tend to have imaginative names in general. 

11 March 2013

Peter Schreyer must have had a hard time making a 7-seat MPV look good. But it works.

This Carens looks better than offerings from Ford, VW and Vauxhall and stands comparison with the French MPVs in terms of looks.

In one area it beats every other MPV and that is Kia's class-leading 7-year warranty.

12 March 2013

fadyady wrote:

Peter Schreyer must have had a hard time making a 7-seat MPV look good. But it works.

This Carens looks better than offerings from Ford, VW and Vauxhall and stands comparison with the French MPVs in terms of looks.

Interesting, because when I first looked at the pictures, my first thought was how much of a hybrid CMAX/SMAX it was.... 

12 March 2013

Geetee40 wrote:

Interesting, because when I first looked at the pictures, my first thought was how much of a hybrid CMAX/SMAX it was.... 

Agreed. Does have elements of CMAX/SMAX in the side profile. But it looks better than both. That's my impression of the car purely based on these pictures.

Its a commendable effort considering it comes from a brand that is not widely seen of the same stature as more established rivals like Ford, Vauxhall and VW.

12 March 2013

i just think car names sound better when ending in a vowel, i think it makes it sound a bit girly, ok i know its a family car but i just think it was an opportunity to ditch a badge that has previously been on a mediocre car and trade for something a bit more 2013.


12 March 2013

Amazing how much design know how Schreyer took to Korea and how well they put in practice his ideas; think how big a corporation it is. I suspect there must be many more designers involved beecause everything from the door cards to the detailing on  the flanks is European influenced. 


12 March 2013

Not too big or small? Check. Decent engines? Diesel OK (petrol is probably ok for school run duties). Stylish? Check. Value? OK. Warranty? Excellent. 

So it will be interesting to see how this compares with the new Verso, as well as the white-collar Touran and blue-collar CMax.

12 March 2013

Why all this talk of design flair? It's just another MPV box with a Kia nose, whoopie doo.


I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

12 March 2013

Look at how good the load bay folds totally flat from boot lip to dashboard - Brilliant!  SO MANY other manufacturer seem to find this simple target impossible even in premium vehicles cost twice as much or more.

The reality for ordinary people is that sometimes you do want to take a chest of drawers or a mattress over to someones house or buy some 6 foot shelving from B&Q. Moan over.


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