Kia Carens Review: First Drive

By Ishan Raghava | on February 23, 2022

Ever since its inception, Kia India has been raising the bar with its products, not just for its competition but also for itself. Ishan thinks that its latest product – the Carens – is likely to be another winner. Read on to find out why.

To say that Kia really understands the Indian market and consumer psyche to the T would be an understatement. Sure, detailed experience of a group company always helps, but to achieve success – and with massive sales numbers – in the Indian market is no mean feat. A quick consideration of the waiting times for both the Seltos and Sonet will give you an idea of what I am talking about. And now, the Carens – the strange name notwithstanding – I believe has the potential for being another highly successful product for Kia India.

Three-Row Madness

One of the reasons for the Carens’ immense potential is that it taps into the current trend of massive interest in vehicles with three rows of seating in the Indian market. With air travel still posing risks, customers now prefer to travel by road, thus the increasing interest in three-row vehicles, especially for those travelling with young kids. Now, another aspect that’s becoming increasingly important is safety – something that Kia is also focusing on with the Carens.

Kia Carens Front Quarter Static1

Let’s talk about the platform first. While it does feature a pretty long wheelbase – 2,780mm – it is essentially a lengthened version of the Seltos platform. And it’s not a bad thing, as we always thought the rigidity and structural strength of the platform work very well for the Seltos. At under 4.6 metres, the Carens also has quite a manageable size, even for our packed urban centres. 

In terms of design, the Carens’ front end reminds me of the Kia Soul, which features similar styling. In profile, though, it incorporates some family design cues from the Seltos, particularly around the rear fender. Interestingly, the traditional tiger-nose grille is missing in the Carens. At the rear, the full-width taillight is also a nice design touch. The definite highlight in terms of passenger experience, however, would have to be the rear doors and windows. Cleverly, Kia engineers have lengthened the door quite a bit, not only making access to the third row easier but also, and more importantly, adding to the feeling of a very spacious interior, given that the door now houses a much larger window. 

Well-Appointed

Once inside, you can’t help but admire the overall finish of the interior. And I must say that the dark blue leather and plastics in the Carens look fantastic. The deep blue not only makes it unique but also gives it a very luxurious appearance. And while I’m not a big fan of the pushed back dashboard, I do have to admit that it does add to the space inside the cabin. The overall tri-tone theme in the Carens also makes the interior look spacious. Thankfully, Kia engineers have chosen to go for air vents in the roof – for better air-conditioning to the two rows of seats at the rear – rather than a massive panoramic roof, which would have only heated up the interior. 

Kia Carens Interior

The Carens also comes loaded with features – headlined by the six airbags, which will be standard across all variants of the car – including all-wheel disc brakes, ABS, and a host of other active and passive safety features. The list also includes ventilated front seats, changeable mood lighting with 64 colour options, a Bose sound system, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system. The instrument cluster is also digital now. One particularly nifty touch is the way the air purifier is mounted on the backrest of the driver’s seat – it looks perfectly integrated and functions well, although it’s a bit noisy when used.

The real question, however, is how spacious and practical the Carens’ all three rows of seating are. While the first and second rows are perfectly fine, with the second row being adjustable for legroom as well as backrest angle, it’s the third row that really surprises you. Getting into the third row is dead easy, as the left-side second-row seat folds with the touch of a button. And the lengthened door further makes things easier by giving you a pretty large passage to access the third row. More importantly, the low floor of the Carens also adds to this end, making ingress a breeze, unlike some other SUVs. Plus, the third row allows you to position your legs in a comfortable manner, almost at the same height as the second row, which means that you are spared that awkward seating position where your knees are just about to touch your ears.

Kia Carens Middle Row Seats

During our ride, the first and second rows were adjusted to my height, allowing me to fit in very comfortably in the third row, which also has dedicated air vents, charging ports, and cup holders for added comfort. Even on long journeys, full-size adults can fit in here, with the C-pillar window offering good visibility. In short, this third row is so practical and comfortable that I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of hours here.

Additionally, even with all three rows being used, the Carens still offers a decent amount of boot space, good enough to fit in a few soft bags. This is certainly a car designed to carry six or seven adults in comfort, not to mention that you also get the option of speccing it in six and seven-seat variants. 

Plethora of Choices 

While we are beginning to see the decline of diesel engine offerings across the market, Kia, thankfully, is offering the Carens in both diesel and petrol options. Now, the Carens shares its engine and gearbox options with the Seltos, which means that on the diesel side of the ring, it comes with the 1.5-litre, with 113bhp and 250Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed manual or an automatic gearbox. While the petrol side has two engine options – the 113bhp 1.5-litre naturally aspirated unit, available only with a 6-speed manual, and the 138bhp 1.4-litre turbo unit, with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. 

Kia Carens Engine Shot

We tested the diesel and turbo petrol variants, and both engines feel quite up to the job; however, do remember the fact that we were testing the MPV with a very light load. In both cases, the NVH levels are well controlled, and the power delivery was smooth. Now, it would interesting to see how these engines cope with a full load. I must add, though, that I don’t anticipate any major issues in terms of performance. For reference, the Carens under full load will be quite a bit slower than a similar Seltos, but that’s just basic physics at work. As far as the suspension setup goes, Kia engineers by now have figured out the reality of Indian roads, which means that the Carens deals with our bad roads quite efficiently, offering good ride comfort and isolation from bumps and potholes. 

In terms of handling, the Carens remains stable at high speeds. Now, there is considerable body roll if you throw it around, but that’s a given when you dynamically test a people mover. I don’t think your passengers will appreciate you driving an MPV enthusiastically, especially after a large tasty meal.

Kia Carens Rear Motion Shot

In a nutshell, the Carens offers a rather compelling package. In a manageable size, it offers comfortable seating for 6 – 7 adults and the comfort, quality and engineering levels are very good. The focus on safety and the premium feel inside the cabin also helps its case. Plus, there are more features than you can count.

In all respects, it has the potential of being a success in India, but only if it gets the pricing right. You see, since the XUV700’s pricing, the basic definition of value-for-money has changed significantly. Essentially, the pricing of the Carens could be the make-or-break scenario for Kia, but given the track record of Kia India, I anticipate that the Carens will be another smash hit in the Indian market.

  • Kia Carens 1.4 TGDi

Engine: 1,353cc / Inline-Four / Turbocharged

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 138bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 242Nm @ 1,500 – 3,200rpm

X-Factor: With the Carens, Kia offers an extremely practical three-row vehicle. If priced well, it could be another smash hit!

Pros           
• Very spacious
• Drives quite well

Cons
• Dashboard design could be better

Read more:

Kia Sonet Long Term Reports

Kia EV6 name trademarked in India

Tags: Kia Kia Carens

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