Kia Carens

Kia has unveiled their fourth product in India, the Carens. Do you think it is late and also will it be able to stack well against the existing rivals?
Words by: Harshit Srinivas
Shot by: Sairaj Jadhav for Just Urbane

Kia India had plans of introducing their fourth product for India, but the details of the same were scarce, even though it was a seven-seater SUV. Manufacturers like Hyundai, Tata Motors, and MG already introduced their stretched iterations based on their midsize SUVs already. But, as always, Kia had different marketing strategies to make their cars stand out, and they addressed the Carens as an MPV instead of a stretched iteration. An MPV is the correct terminology to address a seven-seater car. Calling it a stretched iteration of the mid-size SUVs just confuses the prospective buyers not only by how it looks but also by what extra the car has to offer. Speaking of looks, we start with the way it is designed and then progress towards every other talking point about the Carens.

How does it look?
The Carens would not confuse you with its looks, even amid all the seven-seater SUVs like the Tata Safari, MG’s Hector Plus, or even its Korean cousin the Hyundai Alcazar as it is a different car altogether, except for its engine that it retains from the Seltos. Reminiscent of an MPV at a glance, the Carens has certain characteristics to add to its SUVish stance. Standing up front with the Carens you will notice the bonnet of an MPV with a piano black grille with hints of Kia Soul and almost confusing you of it being an EV, but it's not. This grille with a chrome strip running all through its length, extends to both ends, with neatly tucked in sleek DRLs and LED headlamps positioned below them. On the sides, it has a bit of an overhang on either end, which is why you might not mistake it for an MPV. Another set of reasons being, the 16-inch dual-tone alloys, the roof rails, and the black cladding on the doors and the wheel arches that add up to its SUV-like stance. At the back, the roof-mounted spoiler with an integrated stoplight makes the Carens look clean and simple. The LED tail lamps are neatly designed and are well connected with a reflector strip running through the Carens’ width. There is also plenty of chrome treatment on the rear bumpers, which does not seem to be overdone and we Indians would love it. Overall, the Kia Carens look well balanced with a modern-day design and look, and huge applause for the designers at Kia for such a good-looking product.

What’s inside?
Just like the outside, nothing inside the Carens will remind you of the Seltos. The Kia Carens get an all-new cabin layout, and I am most certainly sure that you will like it as much as we do. The dash of the Carens features a dual-tone leather finish in beige and black for the top-end 1.5-liter petrol and diesel variants, while the turbo-petrol variants arrive in a combination of navy blue and beige. Complementing the dash are the door panels, in a similar dual-tone shade with plenty of room for your coffee mugs and flasks, with a thin ambient lighting strip running across the length. The front row seats are comfortable with ventilated seat function; however, it misses out on the electronic adjustment feature. The second row comes with two choices, either a bench seat to accommodate three or two captain seats. And the variant that we tested was with the captain seats and mind you they were top-notch; however, an average size adult or more may feel a little cramped sitting on the one just behind the driver’s seat due to the air-purifier mount. This air-purifier housing on the driver’s seat backrest takes someplace, offering less knee room, which makes it a little less comfortable. 

Also, Kia has added features like roof-mounted AC vents, a working tray right behind the front row passenger seat, air-conditioning speed controller, and type -C ports for your convenience. For the third row, the second-row seats can be slid and adjusted to create room for the passengers there. But, what surprised me was the one-touch tumble function on the left side of the captain seat. This not only gives easy ingress and egress to third-row passengers but also helps you to ease out on those to and fro of seats to let the passengers access the third row. The third row in the Carens, unlike its rivals, is much more comfortable. With a sliding to and fro function, the seats allow the occupants to create sufficient legroom for themselves. Needless to say, it is comfortable seating for two with adequate lumbar and thigh support. And to my surprise was access to roof-mounted AC vents that are complemented by cup holders and type-C ports for a comfortable drive from the third row as well. Not only this, with the third row in place, the Carens offers a boot space of 216 liters, and with the seats down the figures change to a colossal 1164 liters, which is huge for you to carry all your stuff on the road trips.

Now, after all, the Carens being a Kia car, it couldn’t miss out on being loaded on features to the T. This is why the Carens comes equipped with a 10.25-inch infotainment system with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-speaker Bose surround system, 64-color ambient lighting, air quality purifier, wireless charging dock for the front row, and a sunroof. The instrument cluster is digital and throws out all sorts of information that you need during the drive, bold and clear. However, the Carens does miss out on the most in-demand feature, and that is a panoramic sunroof, for now. 

Overall, the build quality inside the cabin is top-notch, and the standard safety features like 6-airbags, ESC with ABS, Hill Assist Control, Brake Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, disc brakes for all wheels, and rear parking sensors will keep you safe. Mind you, these safety features are standard across all the variants, translating Carens to offer the best safety across all the variants. So if you are looking for a seven-seater for yourself, then you know which car to consider as an option on priority, as the Carens ticks one-or-two more boxes compared to the rivals on the features and safety front.

What’s under the hood?
The Kia Carens, as mentioned earlier, retains the same engine as in the Seltos, hence it is available with a 1.5-liter NA petrol, 1.5-liter diesel and a 1.4-turbo-petrol unit as an option. The naturally aspirated petrol unit in the Carens comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox only and makes a peak output of 115 hp and 144 Nm. The diesel unit comes mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, while the turbo-petrol unit can be had with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DCT auto box. While the former makes a peak output of 115 PS and 250 Nm, the latter has the claimed figures of 140 PS and 242 Nm. Mind you, these figures are identical to that of the Seltos. However, when we tested these engines in the Carens we noticed some evident changes in performance, as they did not performed as they do in the Seltos because of the added weight and dimensions. The models we tested were the 1.4-turbo-petrol and 1.5-liter diesel, both mated to their respective automatic transmissions. The first Carens variant I drove was with the turbo-petrol unit, and the engine felt effortless on highways and in the city traffic as well. The transmission was quick and smooth, although it felt a little out of sync in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Whereas, the 1.5-liter diesel wasn’t that sporty compared to the turbo-petrol, but was a proper workhorse in terms of getting the work done efficiently and delivered adequate power and was fuel-efficient too. The transmission wasn’t that quick to respond, and a little time was required for getting used to it. The refinement and NVH levels, in general, are good. Also, not to miss out on the Carens are three driving modes - Eco, Normal, and Sport. The Eco as the name suggests, softens the power delivery making it more fuel-efficient, while the Normal gives you adequate power making the Carens marginally less fuel-efficient. However, the Sport mode is the best mode for enthusiasts as it allows you to get that extra punch while holding on to the lower gears for a longer time.

How does it ride and handle?
Kia has crowned the Carens as an MPV, rather than a stretched iteration of Seltos, which meant that this car has comfort on priority. Surprisingly, it was there throughout, in fact, better than what I expected. With a perfect amalgamation of SUV and MPV characteristics, the Carens took all the broken paths, potholes, and rough patches with ease. Even at high speeds the Carens felt settled, and thanks to the disc brakes that backed me up with more confidence.

In case of handling, the Carens felt planted and can be a great mile muncher on highways. A fair bit of body roll is evident while pushing it through the corners, but surely it isn’t a car that you drive in such a manner. What I noticed from the start was the steering that had resembling feedback to that of the Seltos, was light in the city and slightly on the heavier side on highways.

Should you buy one?
The Kia Carens comes at a sticker price of Rs 8.99 lakh for the base variant that goes up to Rs 16.99 lakh for the top-end variant. At this price, it is much more affordable than its rivals, such as the Maruti XL6, the Hyundai Alcazar, MG’s Hector Plus, or even the Tata Safari considering the base variant prices of all. The Carens does miss out on one or two more features than the Alcazar but has plenty to offer at not competitive but aggressive pricing like this. The engine may not be as powerful as the Tata Safari, but surely has three options with combinations of different transmissions. So, if you are looking for a car for one big family that doesn’t cost you a bomb, and has plenty of options for you on offer, be it the engine or features, then you know the Carens is the one you should go for.