2022 Kia Carens 1.4 turbo-petrol road test review
With every new Kia model that we've seen in India since the brand launched here in 2019, a fresh take on an existing segment has been a given. The Kia Carens seems to take this thought to a higher degree, positioned to offer attributes of both an MPV and an SUV in what has suddenly become quite a crowded space to play in.
The Carens is essentially the three-row derivative of the Seltos, meant to compete with three-row SUVs and to fill in as a choice for MPV buyers who so far haven't had any options in this price range. A smart tactic, but how does it play out in the real world?
2022 Kia Carens styling and dimensions
The Kia Carens is the first of the brand's cars in India to be designed around its newer, more organic design philosophy that first debuted globally with the EV6. The Carens is a distinctive looking car and will polarize opinion. Those looking to make a statement may not find much fodder from the sheer presence of the Carens, a bit surprising considering the Carens is 40mm longer, 10mm wider and 33mm taller than even the Alcazar. This is largely down to the MPV shape, optimized for interior space with its high roof, large glasshouse and generally flat panels.
Instead, the Kia catches your eye with its detailing. The fascia with its blanked-out top-section is done up with even more distinct materials and finishes than in the Seltos or Sonet, like the gloss black housing for the angular DRLs and the LED headlamps or the chamfered band that runs across. The lower half is also striking with the gaping grille and the layered LED foglamps. Things are much calmer in profile, where the focus has been on practicality. So the glasshouse is fairly simple with aggressive creases limited to each end of Carens. Even the body cladding is minimal, although the 16-inch wheels could have done better to fill up the wheel arches.
At the rear, there's again a typically Kia-like pair of distinctive LED taillamps and with the large, flat boot lid leaving only the bumper, Kia has spruced this up with slightly over-the-top chamfered chrome detailing and bulged styling. This mix of aggression and practically is probably here to attract both, the more outgoing SUV buyer and the more thoughtful MPV one, but we think Kia India could have tackled this with a touch more cohesion, possibly modelling the Carens around the new-gen Carnival available internationally.
2022 Kia Carens interiors, features, practicality
Interestingly, the Kia Carens sits on a 20mm longer wheelbase than the Hyundai Alcazar. This, combined with the longer rear overhang, has brought with it a greater sense of space inside the new MPV even though it is no wider than the Seltos. Much of this is down to the clever design choices made here. Kia has ditched the now common layered dash look for a slanted dash design, done up with a smart mix of materials and colours. We especially liked the etched motifs on the gloss black panels of the dash and the deep blue upholstery on the seats. The 64-colour ambient lighting should help to amp up this feeling further. Another unique touch is the seamlessly integrated airvents and the practical compartments integrated into this like the bootle cooler on the passenger side, the perfume holder and the coin tray on the driver's side.
Quality and fit feel up to the high standards we've come to expect of Kia, with a reassuring damped action to all the controls and switchgear. Soft surfaces are, however, limited to the doors and centre armrest. The 10.25-inch infotainment is the same as in other Hyundai-Kia offerings but has been updated here with a fresher set of graphics. But the absence of a fully-digital instrument cluster is a miss. The LCD display around a colour MID is functional but we would have liked a clearer set of dials to supplement the numeric readouts.
The open centre console design is another thoughtful touch, this not just brings many controls you would regularly use within proximity but also maximizes practicality with its well-placed wireless charger, the neat cooling vent for the centre cup-holders and the layered storage space beneath the armrest.
The large doors and SUV-like seat heights mean entering the Kia Carens is straightforward. You sit quite high up in the front two rows, which complemented by the large glass area and low window line makes for a bright space to space to spend time in. These traits, combined with the low scuttle, mean drivers have a great view out and the front seats are reasonably comfortable too. The lack of powered controls is a miss but the seats are ventilated, the cushioning is reasonably supple and there's enough under-thigh support for short to average built adults. But the dash design has also placed the steering wheel at an upward angle, which means finding your best driving position isn't as easy as in other Kias and Hyundais.
A good chunk of Kia Carens owners will spend most of their time in the back seat, so, unsurprisingly, these are the best seats in the house whether you choose the six or seven-seater layout. The six-seater with its two captain's chairs has a slight edge, these seats are a touch more generous with their under-thigh and come with separate armrests. This configuration also works well with the narrower width of this K2 platform than rivals like the Tata Safari and MG Hector Plus. The seven-seater will be a better choice for wider adults but loses some under-thigh support. A third passenger here will be a tight fit too despite the flat floor. Quite ingeniously, Kia has slimmed down these seats to free up third-row space, which means that the armrest is now built into the through-loading space in the bench version.
But with either configuration, there's great legroom with the seats pushed back fully and a generous angle of recline too. The strong focus on practicality continues here with the separate blower controls and the roof-mounted vents, at the cost of a panoramic sunroof, which can switch between a direct or diffused airflow. Like in the front, storage spaces are plenty with the large door bins and floating door handles that double as another shelf. There's no wireless charger but the USB-C ports provide are a more practical choice. We only wish Kia had integrated the air purifier into the cabin better, with its current placement one of the rear passengers loses out on the fold-out tray.
Kia India has also done a fairly convincing job of the third row, given the smaller dimensions of this architecture. Getting in is especially hassle-free with the one-touch tumble seats that offer a wide step-through to this space. There's just enough room for two here and as is expected, you sit in a knees-up position. But with the second-row sliding function and good support from the reclining backrest, shorter journeys shouldn't be a problem. It also helps that there are separate blowers, charging ports and a large quarter-glass to continue with the sense of space from the rows ahead.
The longer length of the Carens means that boot space is fairly usable with all three rows up(216l), with the under-floor tray maximizing this further. This improves significantly(645l) with a flat-folding third-row. Then with the second row also folding flat in both seating configurations, the Carens becomes immensely capable when you need to move larger objects(1164l). The square boot opening also boosts the usefulness of this space.
2022 Kia Carens turbo-petrol DCT driving impressions
The Carens offers a wide selection of powertrain options. There is a naturally aspirated petrol, a diesel and this 1.4-turbo-petrol, all shared with the Seltos. The turbo is offered across the widest trims, as it should be given that it suits the objectives of the Kia Carens the best in our books.
The 1.4-litre turbo petrol makes the same 140PS and 242 Nm as in the Seltos, but the motor immediately makes a positive impression in the Carens with how quietly it functions. There's barely any noise or untoward vibrations at idle and only a slight drone is all you hear in regular use. This engine was always impressive in the way it delivered power over a wide and linear band, and that remains with the Carens. So, the MPV responds well to inputs in all situations thanks further to the precise throttle response. The big slug of torque that's also easily available means that the turbo-petrol Carens is also quite adept at closing gaps in traffic or building speeds on the highway.
The seven-speed DCT is again quite intuitive and decisive with its shifts, keeping the motor spinning at speeds that allow for a sizeable amount of performance on tap. Although it can sometimes be a bit hesitant with downshifts at crawling speeds or under heavy throttle inputs. There are three drive modes to choose from, altering shift maps and steering feel, which offer enough differentiation depending on your priorities. Comfort feels the most natural for the Carens but the more conservative Eco mode does bring with it a sizeable efficiency advantage. In fact, in this mode the turbo Carens almost matches the diesel in city efficiency. Similarly, Sport mode seems best suited for covering open ground quickly with its more eager responses.
But we think the Carens will fully endear itself to buyers with its ride and handling package, a traditionally strong suite for Kia in India. The Carens is a marked improvement over other models on this platform in the way it keeps broken patches and cracks from filtering into the cabin. The 16-inch wheels with their 65-profile tyres enhance this pliancy as well. Only the largest potholes and sharper speed bumps filter into the cabin but the experience is never harsh.
Similarly with the handling, the Carens changes direction precisely and keeps body movements well in check in regular operation for what is quite a tall and long car. The well-weighted steering helps but there isn't a significant amount of pitch or dive either. The MPV also feels confident at speed and stays poised over undulations too. Braking is another strong suit with the all-around disc brakes offering up great stopping power through a well-judged pedal. Know how the diesel Kia Carens is to drive here.
2022 Kia Carens safety
The Kia Carens doesn't offer ADAS and has been NCAP-tested, now expected in this price range, but is notably the first mainstream vehicle in India to offer six airbags as standard. The 360-degree cameras with the blind view monitors from the Seltos would have been useful here but the Carens does offer hill descent control, tyre-pressure monitoring and stability control, among other such aids.
2022 Kia Carens verdict, expected price
The Kia Carens seems to be another successful addition to the brand's line-up. Although we would have liked to have seen a less polarizing design and a bit more of the top-line features from the Seltos carried over, the Carens still comes across as a convincing package. The cabin and driving experience brings with it all the practicality and comfort you expect from an MPV but with just enough of an SUV's outwardness. This should make the Carens a great choice for those looking to upgrade from their smaller MPVs or SUVs. We're hoping for a great price too, given the thoughtful selection of features and packaging that has gone into the Carens.
2022 Kia Carens turbo-petrol DCT real-world mileage, performance
City - 10.85 kmpl
Highway - 14.85 kmpl
Overall - 11.85 kmpl
0 to 100 kmph - 9.6s
30 to 50 kmph - 1.5s
50 to 70 kmph - 2.1s
60 to 80 kmph - 2.1s
100 to 0 kmph - 39.4m, 3.1s
Images by Anis Shaikh
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