Kia Carens Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the Kia Carens.
Car Tested: Kia Carens; Road Test No. 1378; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs 12.50 – 22.50 lakhs (est.)
Bold, feature-loaded and practical, the Kia Carens aims to be the ideal family vehicle
The kind of success that Kia Motors has received in the Indian market in the last two years could become a case study of sorts for many other automakers. The company seems to have nailed their strategy with vehicles like the Seltos, Sonet and Carnival. It was a long-known fact that the Korean automaker was working on a 6/7-seater vehicle and the Carens made its world debut in India last month. We have now driven the Turbo DCT and Diesel AT versions of this vehicle and here’s why we think the automaker has another winner in their kitty.
Exteriors – The Kia Carens looks very different from the Sonet and Seltos. In fact, the vehicle carries some really bold styling elements but not everyone will like its design because there are quite a few polarising bits, especially the design of the fascia. The vehicle looks better in darker colours than lighter ones but the good thing is that the Carens is actually bigger than the Maruti XL6 and Hyundai Alcazar even though it doesn’t look as big. Compared to the Alcazar, the Carens is 40 mm longer, 10 mm wider and 32 mm taller and it also boasts the longest-in-segment wheelbase of 2780 mm.
In terms of size, the Carens is bigger than the XL6 and the Alcazar, fitting in halfway between a typical SUV and a practical MPV
That aside, the Kia Carens gets 16-inch tyres with the 1.4 petrol and 1.5 diesel variants and 15-inch tyres with the 1.5 petrol variants. The vehicle looks less SUV and more MPV but Kia says that this is a Recreational Vehicle which means it slots somewhere between an SUV and MPV. The Carens gets some splashes of chrome on the outside, bright LED lights, Kia’s tiger face design and some inlays that come with a knurled finish like we have seen on the Seltos too.
Interiors – The vehicle gets a completely new design for the dashboard though some bits like the steering wheel look familiar. The plastic quality in the cabin is decent, the fit & finish levels are also good but there are lots of hard touch materials all around. Kia seems to have nailed it when it comes to features because the Carens gets front & rear parking sensors, front ventilated seats, wireless charger, connected car tech, keyless-go, puddle lamps, ambient lighting, cooled cupholders in the first and second row, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming IRVM.
While fit and finish is good in general, Kia could have incorporated some soft-touch materials
For entertainment, you get a nice 10.25-inch touchscreen with 8 Bose speakers. The screen has a familiar UI and packs in all the functions very neatly. You can connect your phone to the car in a jiffy and the speakers also throw out good quality sound. Moreover, the vehicle also gets a 12.5-inch fully digital instrument cluster with three different themes based on the driving modes. However, I personally like the instrument cluster of the Alcazar which has a more premium look. The Carens doesn’t get a panoramic sunroof and makes do with a regular one.
The Kia Carens gets both 7-seater and 6-seater configurations but the latter will be offered only on the top variants, at least at launch. We had the 6-seater variant with us and the very first thing I did was jump into the third row. You can tumble down the captain seats very easily with the push of a button and there’s ample space to get to the third row. For tall people (I’m 6-feet), headroom at the back seems enough and the cabin’s width also doesn’t pose an issue as such but knee room is strictly limited and with the second-row seats pushed back, your knees will constantly brush against the backrest. You can slide the captain seats ahead but then that will result in limited knee room for the second-row passengers. The third-row passengers get roof-mounted AC vents, a large cupholder on both sides and even USB Type-C ports on both sides. Second-row passengers also get roof-mounted vents while the blower controls are placed at the bottom, between the front seats.
With features like a sunshade, AC vents in all rows, large windows and a sunroof, the cabin feels airy and premium
Ingress and egress for the second row is also very convenient and the door opens wide. The second row also gets large windows so that really adds to the airiness in the cabin and you get sunshades too. Space is fine, it is not too abundant but it is not cramped either. The captain seats come with an armrest each, while on the Alcazar you get a proper console between the captain seats. The left passenger gets a tray to keep a laptop while on the right side there’s a pretty big air purifier/virus filter that’s mounted behind the driver’s seat. One thing that I noticed is that the seats are a bit on the smaller side, especially the backrest, which is visibly shorter than what we have generally seen in other vehicles like the XL6 and Alcazar.
Coming to the front seats, they are decent with the comfort and support that they offer. The seats aren’t very high set so you don’t get an SUVish driving position but the overall visibility from the Carens seems fine. The ORVMs offer a good view and are electrically adjustable and folding. The door pads of the vehicle are very nicely carved out and even the dashboard has some cool elements like a small tray below the AC vents on either side to keep small stuff, and the number of bottle-holders in the vehicle is more than enough too. With the third row folded, you get 492-litres of cargo space.
Performance – The Kia Carens comes with three engine options – two petrol and one diesel, and here’s where there’s a massive differentiation with the Alcazar. The first petrol engine is a 1.5-litre NA unit making 115 PS and 144 Nm and this can be had with a 6-speed MT only. We didn’t get a chance to sample this variant at the drive. The second petrol engine is again the familiar 1.4-litre turbo unit delivering 140 PS and 242 Nm, with either a 6-speed MT or 7-speed DCT and we drove the latter. The mill delivers very good performance and is quite punchy. Sure, some lag is felt lower down but the engine more than makes up for it in the mid-range as the Carens delivers all the power with a good sense of urgency. The AT also gets Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes which alter the engine’s performance but there wasn’t a world of a difference when we did our VBOX tests. The Turbo DCT did 0-100 km/hr in 10.81 seconds in Eco mode, 10.26 seconds in Normal mode and 10.24 seconds in Sport mode.
The Turbo DCT excels in terms of performance, but the diesel offers better fuel economy
The diesel engine is the same one that we have previously sampled on the Sonet, Seltos, i20, Verna, Creta and Alcazar. Churning out 115 PS and 250 Nm, this 1.5-litre unit is offered with a 6-speed MT or a torque convertor. The oil-burner can’t really be called exciting enough in big cars like the Carens and Alcazar but it does offer decent driveability and never feels underpowered as such. The diesel AT also gets the same driving modes as the Turbo DCT variant but the Carens doesn’t get traction modes that are offered on the Alcazar. Refinement levels are pretty decent with the diesel engine and while you get a nice blend of driveability and fuel economy, it is the turbo petrol that offers more eager performance. With the diesel, you can expect 13-14 km/l in the city and the number can go up to 18-19 km/l on the highway while with the turbo petrol you will get 8-10 km/l in the city and around 14-15 km/l on the highway. On our VBOX tests, the diesel AT did 0-100 km/hr in 14.21 secs in Eco mode, 13.67 secs in Normal mode and 13.65 secs in Sport mode.
Driving Dynamics – The Kia Carens is a sorted car to drive around for the most part. The suspension is well-tuned and offers a comfy ride over bad roads. There’s not a lot of sideways movement over bad patches either but because of the soft setup, the vehicle does tend to move around a bit when pushed hard on turns. The tyres are much smaller than that of the Alcazar (the latter grips much better). The steering, though not very communicative, feels easy to use and is light enough in Normal mode while in Sport mode it weighs up a wee bit more. Overall, the Carens is a neutral car to drive around. It won’t excite you as much but won’t disappoint as well.
Safety & Service – Kia is offering the standard safety kit on every variant of the Carens which is a very good thing. Right from the base variant, you get 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, VSM, Brake Assist, Hillstart Assist Control, Downhill Brake Control, TPMS and all four disc brakes. In terms of dealership reach too, the automaker has set up base in almost every important part of the country and while most customers have good things to say, there have been some mixed experiences too. The Kia Carens hasn’t been crash-tested yet.
Verdict – The Kia Carens gets the formula right on most parts. Features? Yes. Space? Decent. Practicality? Good. Performance? Good. Pricing? Expected to be aggressive. We are expecting the Carens to be priced lower than the Hyundai Alcazar by at least a couple of lakhs and that could mean that the vehicle will actually feel VFM for what it offers and should satisfy the needs of most families.
What’s Not So Cool
Alternatives – Maruti XL6, Hyundai Alcazar, MG Hector Plus, Tata Safari, Mahindra XUV700