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Kia moves closer to the mainstream. Image by Kia.

Kia moves closer to the mainstream
The Kia Carens is a new compact MPV that offers decent performance and practicality for a low price.

   



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#02#Kia continues to sell its full-size Sedona MPV in decent numbers. Though lagging behind rivals in terms of refinement and cachet, the Sedona offers a huge space in which to carry people and luggage for a very reasonable sum of money. In a way, though, it represents the way Kia used to be. The new Carens, however, signifies the direction the Korean company is moving in. We spent a week with the mid-range 2.0 CRDi GS seven-seat version.

We got our first glimpse of the new Carens at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show in the guise of the Multi-S concept, which we didn't think would be made, but the showroom version is not all that different. The result is a neatly-styled car that is part-estate and part-MPV and is quite distinctive, especially from the rear. Though not fitted to our test car, the addition of the optional five-spoke 16-inch alloys really enhances the look and I wouldn't choose the wishy-washy 'Spring Mist' green paintwork shown here either.

Inside the Carens remains remarkably true to the concept car's in terms of layout if not execution and finish. Not that there is anything wrong with the real thing's interior. It seems well put together and most of the switchgear is actually quite nice to use, which is a major step forward for the company. My only gripe is the overuse of hard plastic where a slightly softer version would have improved the tactility. Still, it's a well thought out design, with loads of oddments space in the front in particular. This is thanks in part to the movement of the gearshift up into the centre console and the use of a foot-operated parking brake. I personally detest the things, but there is no arguing with the space between the seats it frees up. No doubt electrically-operated parking brakes are still too expensive to use in most cars.

Despite the compact shape, Kia has crammed in seven seats, though the third row is intended for occasional use only, as its use wipes out any luggage space. Legroom in all rear seats is actually quite good for this layout, though long-legged adults may complain about the low seat cushions. Still, for a young family, it is ideal. #p##04# As you'd expect, the Carens handles like a traditional family car too, erring very much on the side of ride comfort over driving enjoyment. The steering and brakes are vague, though the latter have plenty of power. It struck us that the gearshift is notably pleasant to use.

The 2-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine has all the latest technology that enables output figures of 138bhp, 225lb.ft of torque and 45.6mpg on the Combined Cycle. Up to about 100mph it feels quite fast - more than capable of keeping up with fast traffic, even when laden down with passengers. At a cruise, the engine is quite hushed, as is road and wind noise, though the over-sized door mirrors seem to cause an unnecessary roar at motorway speeds. Our only criticism of the engine is its gruff nature at idle and low speed. Saying that, its performance and impressive economy are ample compensation for this harshness.

In summary, your neighbours' curtains won't be twitching with envy, but they won't be turning their noses up either at a Kia Carens on your drive, and it will have cost you a lot less than anyone would have expected.
2006 Kia Carens UK range overview

- Kia Carens 2.0 S (5 Seat): £11,995
- Kia Carens 2.0 GS (5 Seat): £12,995
- Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi GS (5 Seat): £13,995
- Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi GS (7 Seat): £14,495
- Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi GS Auto (7 Seat): £15,495
- Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi LS (7 Seat): £15,995
- Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi LS Auto (7 Seat): £16,995

Shane O' Donoghue - 28 Jan 2007



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2007 Kia Carens specifications: (2.0 CRDi GS (7-seat))
Price: £14,495 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
Top speed: 116mph
Combined economy: 45.6mpg
Emissions: 165g/km
Kerb weight: 1657kg

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Kia.
 

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Kia.
 

2006 Kia Carens. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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