Kia Carens MPV (2013-2019)
"The Kia Carens is emblematic of the great leap forward Kia has made recently: it’s well built, well equipped, cheap to run and better-looking than many other MPVs"
- Generous seven-year warranty
- Practical, versatile interior
- Well equipped
- There are cheaper rivals
- Other MPVs are better to drive
- Third-row seats only suitable for kids
The Kia Carens is a mid-sized, mid-priced MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) that competes with the Volkswagen Touran, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, Ford S-MAX and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. While the Carens has seven seats, the two in the third row are best thought of as emergency or occasional options. They’re cramped and take up most of the boot when in place, although this is a common problem with cars like this. If you want to carry seven people regularly, it may be worth considering a full-size people-carrier like the Ford Galaxy instead.
Kia offers the Carens with a 133bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 1.7-litre diesel, available with 114 or 139bhp. The petrol returns 45.6mpg and emits 143g/km of CO2. If you cover a lot of miles, one of the diesels makes more sense, as they both return 62.8mpg.
Whichever engine you go for, be under no illusions: the Carens is built for comfort, not speed. 0-62mph takes 10.9 seconds with the petrol engine, while you may wish for more oomph if you choose the 114bhp diesel: its 0-62mph time of 13.2 seconds means acceleration is relaxed, to say the least. The 139bhp diesel has far more useable performance, with 0-62mph taking 10 seconds dead. Do note that specifying an automatic gearbox (only available with the 139bhp diesel engine) sees fuel economy drop to 58.9mpg and the 0-62mph time rise to 11.6 seconds.
In keeping with the relaxed theme, the Carens’ soft suspension makes it a very comfortable car, insulating you and your passengers from potholes and poor road surfaces. You don’t want to take corners too quickly, though, as the pronounced body lean that ensues is likely to provoke complaints from your passengers. Keen drivers who need a practical seven-seater should consider the Ford S-MAX, which is far more involving to drive.
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Inside, the Carens’ large windows and high seating position give you a great view out and it feels pleasantly spacious. The front five seats can all slide back and forth independently, so configuring the layout to suit your needs is simple. Cubbyholes and storage spaces abound, while there’s even a refrigerated glovebox to chill your drinks.
Kia’s approach to naming its trim levels is refreshingly simple: pick a number between one and four, and the higher it is, the more equipment you get. Entry-level 1 has air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, LED running lights, cruise control and all-round electric windows – but if you choose this model, your only engine option is the 1.6-litre petrol.
We recommend moving up to 2 trim, as this allows you to choose from any of the Carens’ three engines and also adds alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers and front foglights for about £1,200. If you’re happy with either the 1.6-litre petrol or the 114bhp diesel, it’s worth checking out the special SR7 trim, which – while a departure from Kia’s normal naming strategy – costs just £300 more than 1, but includes alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, as well as rear parking sensors.
The Kia Carens is seriously well equipped in 3 and 4 form, with the Carens 3 getting leather seats and sat nav and the Carens 4 benefitting from a panoramic sunroof and a self-parking system. Both of these come with the 139bhp diesel engine as standard. They push the Carens’ price well past the £20,000 mark, though, which is hard to justify.
A forthcoming facelift is set to bring new bumpers, rear lights, alloy wheel designs and interior trim options to the Carens at the end of the year. Tech upgrades will include a seven or eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the option of a premium JBL stereo. If you're in the market for a Carens, it's worth either waiting for these improvements to arrive, or trying to negotiate a discount on the original model.
Reliability and safety are both equally reassuring: Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is the best in the business (and fully transferrable to subsequent owners), while a five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP provides reassurance for families after a safe MPV.