We drive the Kia Carens MPV and here’s why it feels home to be in one…
Words: Neeraj Padmakumar Photography: Amal Ramdas
We had seen it under the camo multiple times, we had seen it in person last month, and now we are driving it- the Kia Carens. Carens is Kia’s pitch to the MPV space. It shares most of its mechanicals with the Seltos, but is evidently different from one in reality.
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Kia Carens is indeed large. It is 4,540mm long, 1,800mm wide, and 1,708 mm tall. At 2,780mm, the wheelbase is claimed to be the longest in segment. To give you a better picture, Carens is 225mm longer and 63mm taller than the Seltos. Strip it down and you will know that the Carens has a massive advantage of 170mm over the Seltos in wheelbase (2,610mm).
The Carens looks futuristic and radically styled. The overall shape looks fresh and differs decently from that of the familiar MPV stereotype.
2022 Kia Carens is based on Kia’s most modern ‘ Opposites United’ design philosophy. This design language owns much respect globally for its magnificent lines and striking surfaces. A notable example to cite would be the new Kia Niro that had recently debuted at Seoul.
In the Carens, these design ethos are contained with all their glory. The overall shape is catchy and appealing. Much attention has gone into the deep design details of the exterior. The front view is futuristic and would strike you with details like the low-set bonnet, good looking glossy grille design, bumpers that are neat and stylish, and the handsome ‘Star Map’ LED DRLs. The fog lamps get the signature ice cube designs (something that we have seen on all Kia models here, from the Seltos to the Carnival!), and are neatly integrated into the bumper. The Crown Jewel LED headlamps are magnificent and offer great visibility at night. These lights are claimed to have had their inspirations from constallations, and considering how beautiful they look, we can’t disagree! Similar design treatment can be seen on the tail lamps as well.
The profile is very loud about the vehicle’s size. Carens stands tall and with a majestic silhouette. The massive wheelbase and loud overhangs are evident from the sides. The cabin looks well-drawn and spaceous from the outside- thanks to the neat lines, well-set roofline, roof rails, and the 16 inch wheels with prominent wheel arches. A major design advantage here is the generous window area. Carens gets a large glasshouse, defined by stylish window lines that make judicious use of Chrome garnishing.
The rear design is neat and good-looking. Key highlights here are the stylish tail lamp cluster connected by a Red reflective strip running all along the vehicle’s width, good looking bumpers and the handsome tailgate design. The rear should specifically be noted for how well its design gels with the Kia logo. The surfaces here are smooth and highly appealing. Also if this rear makes someone draw connections to the Honda Mobilio, blame it on the tailgate’s overall shape and surfacing.
What we did not like about this design, however, are the Chrome bumper garnishes with diamond knurling patterns. Though an answer to the average Indian’s obsession with Chrome, these do not gel well with the rest of Carens’ design ethos! On a very personal note, i would have preferred Satin Silver inserts in place of these.
For a more detailed reading on the design and lineage of Kia Carens, check out our previous story below:
Now this is where I will have the most to talk about. During the media preview, Kia had denied us access to the cabin or any possible interaction with the interior trims and design, and now I know why! The Carens has a cabin that is neatly set, aesthetic, livable, and utmost practical!
The overall design and layout of the cabin have a sci-fi feel to them, courtesy of the shape, colours and the materials used. The dashboard gets a wraparound design and looks posh. The lines, creases and trims inside go easy on your eyes. The glossy dash garnish in my view, is the best bit inside!
Occupying the center stage is the familiar 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system that now gets neatly integrated into the dash, unlike the freestanding designs seen previously in the Kia SUV lineup. The UI and software of this have been reworked extensively. In line with its overall ‘from the future’ persona, the Carens uses a set of fancy ‘Neon-ish’ colour schemes for its infotainment UI. The overall look and feel of these are great and the screen seems to have improved on its overall responsiveness as well. The infotainment unit gets physical controls for volume and scroll and the rest of the functions are carried out through touch-controls. It gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrations along with the latest gen ‘Kia Connect’ system offering 66 connected car features. The 8 speaker premium audio from Bose is great in performance.
The most beautiful bit about the dashboard design could be the way the air-con vents are styled and integrated into it. This was something that had captured our eyes at the premiere too. The AC vents on the Carens are seamlessly integrated into the dash and the vent-tips form parts of a handsome slat that runs along the entire width of the dash- some seriously luxurious design bit there!
The MPV gets a single-zone climate control with neat, familiar-looking controls on the dash and a lot of vents spread across the cabin. The second and third rows get roof-mounted air vents. While the designs of these are good, the rear vents might give you doubts about being flimsy (which they are not!) with the looks of the materials used.
The rear rows get mere blowers that recirculate the air from the central unit, and hence there is no temperature adjustment available. However, a manual blower control is offered to control the rear air flows. The car gets cooling function for the cup holders on the central tunnel. Also, an air purification system is mounted at the back of the driver seat, which offers cleaner air with a pleasing fragrance. We have seen purifiers in other Kia models too, but mounting it the way it is in the Carens, has definitely raised the overall visual appeal. To add to this, the co-driver seat has a foldable tray-table at the back.
Instrumentation duties are carried out by a large 12.5-inch digital cluster, LCD displays for speedo and tacho, and a TFT unit for the MID, and with selectable colour schemes. The overall display quality is good but the competition might have better to offer.
Other major features and equipment on offer on the Carens are ventilated front seats, wireless charger, 64 colours ambient lighting, multiple USB C Ports, Downhill brake control, rear parking camera and front sensors ( there is no 360 camera offered!) , sun-curtains for the second row, normal-sized sunroof, under seat storage trays, smart cup/ penny holders integrated into the dashboard (things we have been used to find on but luxury cars), rear door spot lamp with Kia logo projection etc.
The overall material quality inside the Carens is great. All the places which would come in handy, are good-looking and offer pleasing tactile feels. There are, however, a few ‘off-beat’ spots, where the plastics feels a bit too hard and/or cheap. Considering the package as a whole, these are to be neglected…
Seating And Practicality
The Carens is available in both the 6 and 7 seater layouts, 6 seater available just on the top-spec Luxury Plus trim . We obviously had the 6 seater to drive. The best part about the seating is the focus on convenience. The ingress and egress to the third row have been made hassle-free. The second row gets a one-touch electric tumble function that lets you fold up the left seat with the press of a button, to facilitate access to the rear row. The six seater also has the convenience of getting to the third row through the passage between the second row seats, that is fairly wide.
The other side to this would be that the second row’s captain seats are not generous in their width! I won’t say they are narrow, but plus-sized adults might find them to be just adequate or even a bit small. For the average guy or someone petite, these are just fabulous! These come with recline and slide functions and are very comfortable to be on.
The space and comfort at the third row are remarkable for the segment. These seats can be slightly reclined as well. There is ample leg room and knee room. Kia reveals the legroom here to be a good 898mm! (If you might remember, the new Tata Safari, that is considered a benchmark for third row space in the sub-25 lakh segment, has just 889mm. The actual experience of the two might differ due to various other dimensional disparities. So, consider this a mere reference!) Also, there is decent headroom for a 6 footer. A notable thing however, could be the design of the rear quarter glass and the D pillar. These might intervene with the vision of the third-row occupants who are tall.
With all three rows in use, the boot capacity is slightly compromised. However, the second and third rows can be folded flat to optimize storage with varying needs.
Kia Carens borrows the powertrains and most of its mechanicals of the Seltos. It thus has the familiar 1.5L petrol, 1.5 L diesel and 1.4L turbo petrol units as the powerplants and 6AT, 6MT and 7DCT as transmissions. We drove the 1.4 L T-GDi turbocharged petrol. This engine comes mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, and delivers 140 hp and 242 Nm. The vehicle also offers selectable drive modes- Eco, comfort and Sport, offering significantly different engine behaviours.
How Is It To Drive?
The Carens feels nice to drive. The four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine is peppy and responds warmly to driver inputs. There is no major turbo lag that would make you uncomfortable on the roads. The driver enjoys ample delivery almost everytime he/she wants to have it. The vehicle would pull you to enjoyable speeds and would let you maintain them as well. Overall NVH levels are decent. The engine as such is not the most silent compared to NA petrols, but the cabin is well insulated from this noise.
The 7 speed DCT is quick and feels improved from what we had seen previously on the Seltos. 6th and 7th gears here are quite tall and the lower gears ensure hassle-free driving at low speeds. Downshifts are timely and enjoyable.
The drive modes have to do with the throttle response and shift points and are quite skilful at what they do. The Eco guarantees high fuel efficiency- we managed to score 13.5 kpl when on ECO. Sport would provide you with all the performance, fun and ‘almost aggressive’ shifts, at the expense of fuel economy. Comfort is the sweet spot, and where you would wanna stay the most in. Expect around 12-13 kpl in Comfort with moderate driver behaviour.
Ride And Handling
Kia Carens strikes a balance between ride and handling. Even while being peppy and active with its turbo petrol powerhouse, it remains comfortable at most speeds and in most road conditions. The suspension setup offers good damping but is still on the slightly stiffer side. Carens feels mature at speeds and stays under control around most corners.
Courtesy of its size, Carens has some body roll on offer, but the same is never big enough to eat into occupant comfort or damage the overall body control or dynamics.
Kia has put immense focus on the safety front and has packed the Carens with a long set of safety features and technologies. The vehicle gets 6 airbags, ESC, VSM, HAC, DBC, ABS, BAS, four disc brakes, TPMS, front parking sensors and more. The manufacturer is highly confident about the safety offered by their newest offering.