My youngest aunt stays in the US and every year she makes a pilgrimage to India to meet the entire family. Now ferrying her around has always been my responsibility as my love for automobiles makes me the designated ‘driver’ in the family. At the time she was about to arrive, Kia also wanted to send over the updated Carens so that we could review it, and what better way to review an MPV than giving it the full family treatment. So with that settled, I headed off to the airport to pick them up.
Kia Carens 1.5 T-GDi: Smooth Operator
The Carens’ 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine is new, so let’s start there. One of my biggest reservations with a turbo-petrol engine in the Carens has been its ability to get a move on, and with just me in the car, the Carens felt light on its feet as it danced about in the afternoon traffic. The engine was quick to respond to my fairly mild throttle inputs and I say mild because I had one eye on the fuel efficiency figure of the Carens. Turbo-petrol engines love to slurp fuel and one sloppy movement with my foot would be enough to send that number down a slippery slope into the realms of single-digit numerals. But the good part is that the Carens’ T-GDi motor makes a boat load of torque low down in its rev range – I am talking just above a 1,000 rpm and that means you never really have to wake up the engine to get a move on. But the real test would begin once all the seats were occupied. I am happy to report I was not at all disappointed. The Carens continued to impress me with how easily it managed to get a move on with all seats occupied. The most insane part was that the Eco mode didn’t feel like a cop-out with a full load of passengers, and in fact whenever I drove by myself I preferred the sedateness it brought along with it.
The DCT too left me feeling impressed. It has a knack of shifting up, or down, at the right time. So whether it is effortlessly cruising on the highway or making a quick overtake in the city, the dual clutch transmission could do no wrong. Its response to the minutest of movements of the throttle pedal made it feel super-intuitive and I hardly ever needed to make use of the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. In fact, I only turned to them to introduce a bit of drama to whenever things got a little too calm. And why wouldn’t they? The 1.5-litre turbo-petrol is quite smooth in its operation and is barely audible inside the cabin, which is unless you start revving it like a mad man.
Kia Carens 1.5 T-GDi: Who Sat Where?
One of the places my aunt wanted to visit was Haridwar and it is a 200km drive from my hometown of Bulandshahr. My uncle occupied the front passenger seat, while my aunt occupied one of the seats in the middle row. Strangely, both her kids preferred the last row where they could watch their favourite movies on a tablet! Strange, as I thought I would have to bribe one of them to sit in the last row of seats. Throughout our time in the Carens, they never once moved out of the last row.
That’s because they had their own AC vents, charging ports, cup holders and reading lights. And whenever they wanted snacks, they’d just stick their head out from between the captain seats. It was quite convenient for them and I was just happy I didn’t have to convince them to get in the last row. As for music, the elders in the front didn’t really want the music to be that loud while the kids couldn’t stop raving to the beats. I was caught in a fix and it was then that the positioning feature of the Bose sound system came to my rescue. It allowed me to visually position on the touchscreen exactly where I wanted the music to be the loudest. Now, it’s a feature that is found in most cars but the audio clarity even after I shifted the position indicator all the way to the back of the cabin remained sublime.
Kia Carens 1.5 T-GDi: People-pleaser
Now as is the case with most road trips, everyone expects something different from a car. My aunt was just happy that the broken roads we encountered along the way did not filter all the way to her back. In fact, I must add, the Carens’ ride quality is one of the best for Indian roads. Yes, it rolls a bit around the corners but who cares when it has the capability to make potholes feel almost non-existent. In fact, the little bit of driving I did in the twisties between Haridwar and Rishikesh; it felt capable enough to take on them, just not engaging. My uncle wanted to check out the Beatles ashram in Rishikesh and the road leading up to it isn’t actually paved. In fact, who am I kidding? You have to pass through a semi-stream to get to it. And that too after the sun had set. The Ashram had closed by the time we got there, but the Kia Carens left impressed with how it tackled the road less taken. There were a few water crossings too along the way because of the explosive monsoon the hills have witnessed, and the Carens managed to wade through them without making a fuss.
Kia Carens 1.5 T-GDi: Could do better?
Things were pretty pleasant in the Carens for the week that I got to spend in it and the 1000+ kilometers I clocked in it, but there is room for improvement. Let’s start with the fuel efficiency. This is actually one thing that the T-GDi engine doesn’t have much scope for, but a slightly higher fuel efficiency number would go a long way in convincing prospective customers. With my best efforts, the best I could manage is 14 km/l, and that too on a flowing stretch of the Meerut-Haridwar highway. In all my time with the car, the average number was 10.2 km/l, barely above the single digit mark and that could prove to be a deterrent for some. The alternative is that you pick the diesel version, which is extremely fuel efficiency, but then you would have to take a hit in the refinement area. Another area where I found the Carens lacking a bit is in braking feel. Don’t get me wrong as the Carens is not an enthusiast’s car, but the brake pedal is pretty much devoid of feel and so ever so often you end up stopping with a jerk. It takes a lot of time getting used to, and even then, ever so often, your mom will complain of how you are not a smooth driver!
Kia Carens 1.5 T-GDi: Did the family reach a consensus?
Small problems aside, the Kia Carens with its turbo-petrol engine and DCT managed to impress every single member of my family. If your running isn’t much and you are looking for a capable highway commuter that can ferry the entire family, the Carens does that job in its sleep.
PS: The Carens can transport furniture quite readily as well, as I found when I tried transporting some DIY furniture from my home town in Bulandshahr to Noida.