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Kia Carens 7 seats 2.0 CRDi GS manual

Date: 13 September 2006

Category: Mini-MPV
Prices: £11,995-£15,995
Key rival: Renault Grand Scenic

In the past seven years mini-MPVs have been transformed from an intriguing alternative into a major fleet player. Today, the sector accounts for 12.5% of the total new car market, with annual sales in excess of 300,000.

The latest addition to a burgeoning market comes from Kia. Carens might be a familiar name to some fleet users, but the new car is a very different tool to its lacklustre predecessor. It will be available with both five and seven seats, and we expect the five-seater to start from around £12,000 with the seven-seater about £1500 more.

The Carens has been styled with the European market in mind and while it is indistinctive, it is neat, attractive and singularly inoffensive. The cabin also deserves comparison with Europe's best. Although some of the plastics feel a little hard, the fascia is neat, functional and ergonomically sensible.


Occupant space is generous. In five-seater mode, there's ample room for two burly six-footers to sit in tandem and headroom is similarly generous. The rearmost row of seats are really for children or occasional adult use, but it's a useful feature to have and the seats fold flat into the boot floor when they're not required.

With all seven seats in place, boot space is minimal, but with them folded down, there's a useful 414 litres of room, which extends to 2106 litres when the second row of seats are folded. The five-seat only car has an extra 16 litres of boot capacity.

The equipment list is on the entry-level GS is generous, while the upmarket LS adds climate control, an electric sunroof, a trip computer, reversing sensors, cruise control and electrically folding mirrors.

The 2.0-litre 145PS petrol engine will only be available in the base trim, five-seater model. Attention will focus instead on seven-seater models fitted with Kia's 2.0 CRDi, which will be available with either a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic gearbox. Delivering 140PS, it combines smooth operation with adequate performance.

The Carens could never be described as sporty, but it's a compe-tent drive. The cosseting ride quality should appeal to family users and it is also impressively refined on the motorway.

Kia has come a long way in a short time and the Carens' residual values are likely to match or better its mainstream rivals. At the right price, the Carens is well worth considering.