Unveiled at the Chicago Motor Show comes an all-new eco-warrior
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You look like a man in search of a date.
Well, not really, but funny you should mention that. That rather neat looking box up there is the new Kia Carens, a seven-seat people carrier that Kia assures me will help me get a date.
Well, it has done some research that shows most people who buy an MPV are married and have children - debunking Top Gear’s theory that only club-hopping hipsters buy such cars - and traditional MPVs on offer scream: “don’t date me”. Those are actual Kia words from the presentation.
But if you’re married with two kids, why would you want a date?
We didn’t ask, but implicit adultery aside, this new Carens marks a very important milestone in Kia’s most recent history. It’s the last of the company’s model range to benefit from Peter Schreyer’s (a man surely earmarked for a place in South Korean royalty) new design philosophy.
Ah yes, I’ve heard about this - the ‘Tiger nose’ front, right?
Correct. He’s plastered it across every model making them a) less likely to be spontaneously attacked in the street, and b) part of a cohesive ‘family’. Think about this: over the past 22 months, Kia has rejuvenated its entire range, starting from the baby Picanto - TG’s Bargain Car of the Year 2011- right through the cee’d and pro_cee’d, up to this seven seater.
Give me some information, you adulterous fiend.
The dimensions sound better on paper, for starters: it’s 15mm narrower, 45mm lower and 50mm longer than the previous generation (if you remember what that was like). And Kia tells us that it’s 20mm shorter too, so the overall height is the same as the Kia Soul. Underneath there’s a MacPherson front suspension setup with a torsion beam rear axle, and inside, UK-spec cars get a strict seven-seat layout (other markets get five seats as an option). It’s nicely laid out, there’s tonnes of space, the optional TFT touchscreen display is good, it’s very safe, and you have to admit, it does look smart.
So, dare I ask what it’s like to drive?
You may dare. It’s much like you imagine. A bit wallowy, soft, friendly, and like a big warm blanket. The ride is nicely damped and feels settled, the steering is light, the seats are comfortable and the engine isn’t too intrusive. And, should the mood take you - or if the kids are being particularly annoying - you can even throw it around, just not very vigorously.
Great. Nürburgring here I come! And I can take the kids too!
Unpack those fireproofs, you scoundrel. The steering, while light, is just a little too vague, though the body roll isn’t too bad considering it’s got seven seats. The 1.7-litre diesel engine’s 133bhp is sufficient to get you to day care in time, nothing more; 0-62mph takes 10.4 seconds and it will top out at 119mph. There’s a lower-powered variant of this engine available (114bhp) along with a 1.6-litre 133bhp petrol unit, though our bet would be to plump for the higher power diesel. You even get a claimed 56.4mpg.
How much is it?
Prices haven’t been announced yet, but bear in mind it’s got stiff competition in the form of the Ford S-Max - a bit of a TG favourite. The Ford is the better drive, but the Kia feels very honest and likeable - it’s a decent car. And if it’s cheap, that may sway some of you.