Well, it could have been the shortest review if we just said ‘Prices start at Rs.8.99 for this big, spacious, comfortable, well equipped seven-seater car. The end’. That’s enough information for most people to queue up at their nearest Kia showroom to book one. And that’s what most have already done. The Carens gathered about 7700 bookings on the day of its launch and as of writing this, there is an eleven-month waiting list on certain models. So instead of penning down the shortest review, let’s dig deeper into how they have done it.
The Carens is a stretched version of the Seltos with a third-row seat, much like the Alcazar is a blown-up version of the Creta. While Hyundai went on the SUV route giving it a massive presence, more equipment, bigger 18-inch wheels, etc making it costlier in the process, Kia went the other direction to make it look more like an MPV and crucially, more affordable. How they made it longer, fitted two extra seats, and still managed to make it cheaper than the Seltos they started with, is beyond us. The headlamps are connected by a knurled finish trim in gloss black that also becomes the applique for the headlamps. The side and rear profile are much more tame in comparison but the 16-inch wheels and the SUV-like cladding look neat. The Carens is a fairly big vehicle at 4540mm long and has a wheelbase of 2780mm. It is 225mm longer than a Seltos, 80mm taller, and has a wheelbase that’s 160mm longer. You can have it in 6/7 seater configurations where the middle row is two individual bucket seats or a bench.
Get inside and you will love the cream and dark blue interiors which is a combo we recently saw in the Mercedes E350d facelift. The general cabin quality is great with good textures and a tight fit and finish. The upper part of the dashboard is crescent in shape with a gloss black trim that runs the full width. The Carens come with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Bose sound system, connected features, 64-colour ambient lighting, LCD instruments, a sunroof, auto climate control, onboard air purifier, cruise control, rear camera, tyre pressure monitoring, etc. It also has six airbags, rear disc brakes, and an electronic stability program as standard.
The front seats are great, the driver has good visibility out and while the seats aren’t electrically adjustable, they are ventilated. The middle row seats are good too with ample legroom and plenty of adjustabilities. You get a fold-out table on the left seatback while an air purifier rests behind the driver seat and that’s a bit noisy in its operation. Access to the third row is easy thanks to a one-touch electric tumble-down button for the middle row and wide-opening doors. The third-row seats are reasonably comfortable and spacious even for medium-sized adults and you don’t have to sit in an awkward knees-up position as you would in most three-row people carriers. Kia has opted for suitably large AC vents on the roof instead of a panoramic sunroof. The choice of colors and fairly large windows make for a cabin that’s quite airy. Even the seven-seater version has a flat floor for a comfortable middle-row experience. The boot isn’t enough to take on everyone’s vacation bags, but it’s still a respectable 216 liters.
In typical Hyundai/Kia fashion, there are three engine options each with a choice of its own automatic transmission. The base 1.5L naturally aspirated 115bhp petrol engine is adequate for most people and has the option of a CVT transmission. The 1.4L turbo petrol with 140bhp and 240Nm gives more driving thrills and is the one to have. Mated to an optional dual-clutch automatic this one takes 10.1 sec to do 0-100kmph and feels a lot more flexible. The gearbox is a bit sedate by DCT standards but does manage to keep the engine in the powerband most of the time. The efficient 1.5L diesel is the most sensible of the lot if you do long distances and has 115bhp and 250Nm. However, it does struggle a bit on inclines with a full complement of passengers. It comes with the option of a 6-speed torque converter automatic.
The Carens drives well with good ride quality. Bumps are filtered without too much suspension noise or body movement. This is very much appreciated in the last row where you don’t get thrown around much if you hit a bad patch or bump all of a sudden. The handling is quite predictable with decent grip from the front. There is a hint of body roll but that’s to be expected of the soft suspension setup. The diesel has a firmer setup but its slow-speed ride isn’t as good as that of the petrol. Despite the extra size, the Carens is as easy to drive as a Seltos.
To sum up, it’s a comfortable, cleverly designed seven-seater with loads of space, a lengthy equipment list, decent engines, friendly road manners, and good ride quality. With prices starting from Rs.8.99 lakhs, it is fantastic value for money. However, these are introductory prices to get your attention and Kia might be making losses with every base model they sell and would limit their numbers or take them away altogether soon. But right now, we think if you are in the market for a people carrier, this one should be on top of your list.
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