Kia Carens MPV 2016 Review
The Carens will be appealing to MPV buyers because it looks good, has a nice interior, is very affordable to buy and run, and you still get a lot of standard equipment for your money. It has a very flexible seating arrangement, too, but unfortunately, it simply isn’t as spacious as many rival MPVs, and for many buyers with big families, that’ll be a deal-breaker. It’s not as polished to drive as many of its rivals, either. MPVs aren’t often bought for their style – that’s why seven-seat SUVs are proving so popular these days – but when judged against its direct rivals, the Carens is a fairly sharp-looking thing. The edges and corners have been softened off to give it a less boxy appearance, and there are plenty of interesting details and features to keep things interesting. The entry-level car doesn’t look quite as sharp as every other Carens in the range, despite having alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a chrome grille surround, and body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors. From second-rung trim onwards, though, all Carens models look pretty much the same, with a gloss mesh grille, front foglamps, roof rails, and chrome-coloured door handles and window trim.If you’re unfamiliar with Kia’s latest products and you’re expecting the Carens to have a cheap-feeling interior, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. The materials on display are mostly very impressive, with a nice mixture of finishes and textures. There are one or two panels that aren’t of quite such a high quality, but most of them are well hidden and still feel pretty sturdy. The driving position is very high – which will be a godsend for some drivers and a nightmare for others – but other than that, there’s lots of adjustment for your seat and steering wheel. Your visibility is also pretty good in every direction.
The layout of the dashboard is fairly simple, with the various controls being presented in logical clusters. Most of the buttons are large and well-marked, too, so they’re easy to hit at a glance. The exception to all that is the group of buttons positioned below the right-hand side of the steering wheel: they’re hard to see, hard to get at, and they perform all sorts of different, unrelated functions. The touch-screen infotainment system is pretty easy to use, though, with logical menus and brisk responses, even if the graphics look a little dated and the functionality is rather limited compared with the most clever systems on offer.Physically, the Carens isn’t the biggest of seven-seat MPVs, and that can be felt inside the cabin. If you’re only using the first two rows, it’s excellent. The middle row of seats has lots of head- and leg-room, and because the three seats are individual chairs that can be slid and reclined independently of one another, five people will travel really comfortably. The perfectly flat rear footwell helps on that score, too, and you still have a large (if not brilliantly shaped) boot to put everyone’s stuff in.
However, pull those two extra seats up out of the boot floor, and your cargo space reduces to a degree where only a couple of lightly stuffed grocery bags will fit. Getting in and out of these chairs can be tricky, too, due to the small aperture you need to climb through, but more of a problem is the restricted space around the seats once you’re in. Head-room is too tight for anyone even approaching adulthood, and even though the middle chairs can be slid forward to give more leg-room to those in the rearmost seats, there isn’t enough space to go around and everyone is left feeling rather uncomfortable. In short, the third-row seats only have enough room for children, and only on rare occasions. With that in mind, it’s also worth noting the rearmost chairs don’t have Isofix child seat mounting points (only the outer chairs in the middle row and the front passenger seat do). However, the news is better if you’re using your car as a cargo-carrier. All the rear seats fold down quickly and easily, and the load area you get in two-seat mode is both massive and perfectly flat.