Kia Carens MPV (2006-2012)
"The Carens offers good value for money and is spacious, but it looks and feels dated."
- Cabin space and large boot
- Inexpensive compared to rivals
- Seven-year warranty
- Body roll in corners
- Bland styling and cheap plastics
- Tall drivers won't like driving position
In many ways the Kia Carens people carrier, which is available in five and seven seat versions, feels like a Kia from the pre-Cee’d era - before the Korean maker really began to compete with Europe and Japan’s best. It has some admirable qualities - a spacious cabin, a good level of equipment and keen pricing - but in many ways it seems too much like a budget people carrier. The cabin plastics are hard and grey, both engines are quite noisy, comfort could be better and taller drivers will struggle with the lack of steering wheel adjustment. It’s keenly priced, however, and Kia’s seven-year warranty should add peace of mind.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Neither of the two engines offer particularly impressive fuel economy or emissions, but as usual the diesel fares much better. The 1.6-litre petrol engine officially returns 39.2mpg, but expect nearer to 30mpg if you’re mostly driving around town, and its 174g/km emissions put it in the £250 per year Road Tax bracket. The diesel’s 49.6mpg and £125 Road Tax bill are much easier to swallow.
Engines, drive & performance
On the road the Kia Carens suffers from lots of body roll, both when turning the wheel and applying the brakes, and bumpy roads send shakes through the cabin. Rear visibility isn’t very good through the narrow rear window, while the steering wheel adjusts for height only, so longer-legged drivers will find their arms stretched to reach the wheel, which becomes uncomfortable after a while. The gearlever is placed high on the centre console, though, while the controls are light and the seats are comfortable. Of the two 1.6-litre engines - a 130bhp petrol and a 126bhp diesel - it’s the diesel that feels stronger with a full load of people in the car, but both units get noisy when pushed.
Interior & comfort
At motorway speeds the cabin is more settled than it is around town, but then it also suffers from quite a lot of wind noise around the window pillars. The 130bhp petrol engine comes with a five-speed gearbox, but it could do with a sixth gear for motorway use - the engine is slightly noisy at 70mph in fifth. The sixth and seventh seats are only really suitable for small children, and are difficult to access. The middle row of seats, which slide backwards and forwards, provide plenty of head and legroom.
Practicality & boot space
Some might find the foot-operated parking brake tricky to use, but it frees up cabin space for a large storage box between the front seats. The boot is impressively large and square, although it shrinks considerably on seven-seat versions with the rearmost seats in place. The glove compartment is large, and there's a pair of extra cup holders for middle row occupants, but the best people carriers offer more storage than this.
Reliability & safety
Side, head and curtain airbags are standard issue in the Carens, as is electronic stability control and anti-whiplash head restraints. Its three-star child occupant Euro NCAP rating is disappointing, although its four-star adult occupant rating is acceptable for a car of the Carens’ age. Reliability shouldn’t be an issue because, despite the plastics being hard and unappealing to the touch, owners have reported no significant issues - the Carens is built to last.
Price, value for money & options
Compared to rivals, the Carens is very keenly priced and equipped. The entry-level Carens 1 only has five seats, but it also boasts alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electric mirrors and windows. Higher spec cars get cruise and climate control, parking sensors and leather seats.