Kia Carens Road Test Review – Game Changer This?

While the current trend of SUV’s is growing with time the SUV’s too are growing from 5 seater options to 6/7 seater options with all the car makers getting their models it’s time for Kia India to get theirs. The Korean car maker had globally unveiled the Kia Carens which they term as an RV (Recreational Vehicle) recently and now it is all set for launch. We get behind the wheels of the Kia Carens to find out if it actually could be the game changer as Kia claims, here is our detailed road test review that gets you all the dope on the latest 6/7 seater vehicle in town.

Food for Thought

What India gets is the latest 4th generation of the Carens that Kia initially launched in 1999. Code named as KY the Kia Carens is developed for India and uses the underpinnings of the Seltos which includes the platform and power plants along with the Hyundai Creta and Alcazar. The Kia Carens becomes the 1st car model in India to come with 6 air bags, all wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD as standard right from the entry level base trim.

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Exteriors

The Carens has a very different looking exterior styling. Love it or hate it but one thing is for sure you can’t ignore it. The car grabs attention and gets loads of it. What is commendable in its styling is that though the Carens is based on the Seltos the designers at Kia have managed to keep the similarities near to Nil. Upfront you get a very unique and different looking face that comes with the Kia signature tiger face with a textured insert finished in glossy black with chrome strip infused in it that runs across the width of the front end that connects the very different designed star map LED DRL’s that also doubles up as turn indicators. Placed below this are the large sized signature Crown Jewel LED head lamps with all white glow.

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The front bumper comes in dual tone shade with chrome surrounds defining it along with the large air dam. Placed here are the tri design LED fog lamps with white glow on them. The bonnet smartly flaunts the new Kia brand logo along with soft character lines that flow back. The bumper also gets a faux skid plate neatly infused in it.

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The side profile is left pretty clean with the key highlight here being the sharp waistline that kind of phases out in the middle and then re-appears around the rear door area. The rear door is of XXL size and its large dimension is clearly visible. Rounded wheel arches come with fiber cladding and so does the bottom area of thee doors to give you that SUV kind of look.

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Carens drives on 16 inch dual tone crystal cut alloys mounted on 205/65 R16 spec MRF Wanderer tyres. The sides are further enhanced with chrome window lines, chrome door handles, metal insert on the door fiber inserts and the metal finished roof rails. We kind of like the chrome insert around the glass area that reminds of the BMW vehicles. The roof also gets a shark fin antenna and an electric sun roof.

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Like the front the rear profile of the Carens looks very different with the star map design LED tail lamps being the highlight along with a insert that runs across the width of the tail gate kind of making both the tail lights look unified though this strip does not glow with the tail lamps but never the less looks very neat. The rear profiles other key highlight is the thick chrome insert that flows in a unique pattern on the rear bumper infused with stop reflectors giving the tail a very catchy visual appeal. You also get a large integrated spoiler with LED stop lamp here.

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Interiors

First things first the Carens comes with class best wheelbase that of 2780mm which is more than its cousin the Hyundai Alcazar that stands at 20mm lesser. Tata Safari stands at 2741mm while the MG Hector plus gets 2750mm and the Mahindra XUV700 comes with 2750mm. More wheel base interprets for much more cabin space and that’s what the Carens is all about. The dashboard comes in dualtone shade in dark blue and beige with piano black inserts that has this unique pattern design on it placed on the crash pad. Faux metal inserts and the single design AC vent that runs across the dash give the dash a sporty feel. The passenger side of the dash comes with a sliding bottle holder that neatly can be pushed back in.

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The Carens gets a 10.25 inch widescreen touch screen AVN system which comes with all the connectivity features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, radio, Bluetooth, GPS navigation etc. This is the latest generation system that also comes loaded with the Kia Connect app which has now more than 66 connected car features that runs via the mobile app. The sound system on the Carens is an Bose sourced 8-speaker system like the other Kia vehicles.

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The climate control is a single zone unit with digital read out and faux metal control buttons. The instrument cluster is the LCD screen that comes with digital speedo, RPM ad a 4.2 inch TFT MFD display infused in it. The outline color of the display changes as per drive modes. The steering is a three spoke flat bottom design with leather wrapping and metal inserts along with glossy black MFD buttons on it. The steering also gets a special Carens badge on it reminding you of the model you driving. The door panels also get the piano black with faux metal insert treatment on them along with generous storage space for water bottles and also a cleverly designed mobile holding space just below the door armrest. You also get a 64 color ambient light on the Carens cabin.

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The centre dash gets this unique upward facing placement for seat ventilation, parktronics, hill assist and drive modes very neat to the eye. You get both USB and USB C type mobile charge ports along with the wireless mobile charge pad. The gear shifter is sourced from the Seltos and comes with metal with leather inserts. Just behind the shifter are two can holders that have cooling feature on it. The centre arm rest is openable with good deep storage space under it. The seats get dualtone faux leather upholstery with the driver’s seat getting manual height adjust while the front passenger seat getting a neat little storage bin that slides into the under seat area. Front seats offer good comfort and loads of leg, knee and head room. You get seat ventilation for the front seats too.

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The middle row seats are the best ones in the package. We drove the 6 seater version of the Carens which comes with captain seats. These individual seats can be adjusted for the back angle and also can be slide back and forth to enhance space which is already good. You get manual headrests on these seats along with foldable arm rests.

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Enhancing the comfort and convenience here is the foldable tray placed behind the front passenger seat while fitted behind the driver’s seat is the air purifier and bacteria protection unit with LCD display and control buttons. Middle row passengers get roof mounted AC vents with diffuse flow option and also two mobile charge ports. You can set the middle row and third row blower speed using the control dial provided between the front two seats.

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Getting into the third row seats is pretty easy and unique. You just need to press the seat tumble button and the seat electrically folds down making space for you to get in. Once seated in the last row you have surprisingly good amount of leg and knee room thanks to the best in class wheelbase, this seat size is also pretty decent with good padding, two headrests and the biggest positive here is that you don’t feel claustrophobic here due to the large glass area that gets in good amount of light. You get AC vents for the 3rd row mounted in the roof again with the diffuse option and USB mobile charge ports.

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Coming to the boot space the Carens offers 216 litres with all the seats up, 645 litres with the third row folded down and a mammoth 1164 litres with both the 3rd and 2nd row seats folded down.

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Engine – Transmission – Drive

Kia is offering three engine and three transmission options on the Carens. All these engines are the ones also powering the Seltos and the Creta. For Petrol you have the chart topper 1.4L turbo petrol option with 140PS of power and 242Nm of torque mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT automatic. The second petrol engine option is the 1.5L naturally aspirated one which makes 115PS of power and 144Nm of torque. This engine comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. For diesel lovers you have the tried and trusted 1.5L CRDI unit which makes 115PS of power and 250Nm of torque. Transmission options on here are either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic.

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We drove the Turbo Petrol DCT and the Diesel Automatic for our review which would also be the most preferred engine options we feel. Starting off with the Turbo Petrol, well this 1.4L unit is super silent and refined. You notice the super light steering and how easy it is to maneuver this three row vehicle. The ride quality is plush with overall an excellent positive feel behind the wheels. Comfort level is good and the cabin feels super silent. The dual clutch 7-speed transmission does its job pretty well and shifts through the gear ratios very nicely without any shift judder. You also can use the paddle shifters and the tiptronic shifter if you want more control on the shifts. The power delivery is quick with the turbo helping things big time.

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On the other hand the Diesel powered Carens is no less fun to drive. This one feels more tuned on the heavier side with the steering feeling more weighted and the overall drive tuned on the heavier side. The 6-speed torq convertor automatic shifts gears well with engine supporting the shifts pretty well offering excellent drivability at all speeds. The engine does feel a tad bit nisy if compared to the petrol unit and naturally so with the fun factor behind the wheels being more than good. You can also shift between the drive modes – Normal, Economy and Sport that alters the transmission shift ratios accordingly.

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Body roll on both the engine options of the Carens is pretty subdued and in control. The vehicle feels planted at all speeds and the biggest USP is its ease of driving in traffic and congested roads. The all wheel disc brake on all the trims and variants of the Carens feels secure and offers just the right back.

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Safety

Kia is offering standard safety features on all the variants and trims which include 6 airbags, ESC, VSM, BAS, HAC, DBC, all wheel disc brake, tyre pressure monitor, ABS, rear park sensors. Apart from this you also get ISO-Fix anchor points, speed sensing door locks, emergency stop signal front seat belts with pretensionor and load limiter etc. We missed the 360 degree camera on the Carens which should have been the the feature list for a car of this size.

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Competition

The Kia Carens goes up against its cousin the Hyundai Alcazar, Tata Safari, MG Hector Plus, Mahindra XUV700 in the 6/7 seater with 3-row seating segment.

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Verdict

Kia has surely tried something very different and out of the box with the Carens. The Carens looks different and does attract attention for sure and its exterior styling does grow on you rather quickly. The space inside is also on the generous side along with its equipment level and safety features which they offering as standard on all trims and variants. Engine options with transmissions choice are also wide to choose from making it tick the right boxes for the Carens. Would it appeal to us? Yes it would surely. Nothing much that we didn’t like about it making it a very practical option to go for in the segment if you looking out for a different looking spacious 3 row option vehicle.

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Words – Ritesh Madhok
Photography, Video & Edit – Govind Gadekar

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