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The Top Gear car review:Kia Carens
For:Cheap, good looking, lots of space, and, err, cheap
Against:S-Max is the better drive, interior is drab, meek petrol version
1.7 CRDi  3 5dr
A good-looking, well-built and overall pleasant car. Doesn’t handle with the best of them, but should be cheap. Surely that’s key for a car like this?
Can a seven-seat MPV really make you cool? Does this question really need an answer?
What we say:
Like the rest of the Kia range, the Carens is 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 488, 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.
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. That may be cheap but boy, do you have to work it hard, especially seven-up.
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.
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 over £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 now been launched? A 3 Sat Nav variant. The invoice is in the post, guys…