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Kia Carens

£17,995£27,095
6/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Cheap, good looking, lots of space, and, err, cheap

Against: 

S-Max is the better drive, interior is drab, meek petrol version
It’s handsome, well-built and pleasant, with Kia’s monster warranty an added draw.

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Our choice

Kia

1.7 CRDi 3 5dr

£24,115
6/10
56mpg
10.00s
134bhp
132g/km

What we say: 

The new Carens completes Kia's range renewal. Like the rest of them, it's a very capable machine

What is it?

It’s an important milestone for Kia, that’s what. Yes, it’s a seven-seat MPV, but it’s also the last of the company’s range to benefit from Peter Schreyer’s now famous ‘Tiger-nose’ design philosophy. And as a result, doesn’t it look like a handsome thing? Sure, it’s no Ferrari 458, but it’s certainly better looking than before, making it less likely to be used as a projectile for bored millionaires.

Naturally, it’s grown in stature, but in a pleasing way: it’s lower, longer and narrower than before with lots of room to spare on the inside. Space in an MPV is considered a good trait, we think.

Driving

It’s like a big, friendly hug, albeit a soft one. The whole car feels settled, quiet and calm, and the ride is cosseting. So for ferrying you and yours around, it’s spot on. Avid apex botherers should probably look elsewhere, mind, because the steering is vague, and you don’t get the same kind of interaction as you would in a Ford S-Max. Body roll is kept nicely in check for something of this size, though, so that’s a plus point. And the top line is simple – you don’t buy an MPV to set fastest laps at Silverstone.

The 134bhp 1.7-litre diesel is sufficient to transport you to day care in time, nothing more: 0-62mph takes 10.4 seconds (a smidge slower than an S-Max) and it’s preferable over the lower-powered version of this engine and the 1.6-litre petrol.

On the inside

The dashboard is nicely laid out, if a little bland, there’s a funky touchscreen display, it feels rigid enough to deal with demon offspring and feels commodious enough to store many items made out of plastic. UK models get a seven-seat only setup, but you can fold the rear-most seats away under the boot floor in a jiffy to create more luggage space. Unless you have kids that need to sit there. In which case don’t.

Owning

The 114bhp diesel returns a claimed 60.1mpg, while emitting 124g/km of CO2. That’s class-competitive fuel economy and the 134bhp version isn’t far behind it on 56.4mpg (blame the penalty on its bigger wheels). At the other end of the range, the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol starts at just under £18k, so it’s not horrendously expensive. In fact, that starter Carens is just under £5k less than an entry-level S-Max. Think what you could do with five grand. That’s a lot of cash.

It’s particularly impressive when you consider that a long-held Kia strength of strong equipment levels remains intact here. The firm clearly listens to TopGear, too: last time round we grumbled about the lack of sat nav. What’s just been launched? A 3 Sat Nav variant. The invoice is in the post, guys…

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
1.7 CRDi [139] 3 5dr
10.0s 118g/km 62.8 139 £24,245
The cheapest
1.6 GDi 1 5dr
10.9s 143g/km 45.6 133 £17,995
The greenest
1.7 CRDi 2 5dr
13.2s 117g/km 62.8 114 £20,940

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

8/10

Nissan X-Trail

£21,795£32,220
Some people will still prefer an MPV that looks a bit like an SUV. For them, Nissan has the X-Trail. With, like the Carens, seven seats.