Kia Carens: To the power of seven

  • Seven seats in a compact body
  • Flexible and practical interior
  • Not as roomy as some rivals

People carriers, seven seaters, MPVs – call them what you will – the Kia Carens is one.

It’s worth noting that the Carens is now Kia’s only people carrier in the range now that the larger Sedona is no more (we’ll ignore that the big Sorento 4x4 seats seven too, as that’s an altogether different proposition).

The Sedona was not the only victim of the market generally finding family wagons of that size too large – even Renault’s once dominant Espace is no more on these shores and it’s no certainty the Ford Galaxy replacement will come to Britain either.

Today’s on-trend seven seaters, if that’s not a contradiction of terms, are typically based on the underpinnings of smaller family cars. Peel back the Carens’ bodywork and underneath is something resembling the Ceed’s undersides.

So how does the Carens perform as a seven-seater family car?

Firstly, Kia’s made sure all seven chairs are individual, maximising both versatility and practicality, and permitting all kinds of seating permutations. Not only that but there’s no hauling and storing the unused seats in your garage or hallway – the middle and rear rows fold quickly and easily into the floor.

All three seats in the middle row slide fore and aft individually, and all can be reclined using the handle on the top corner of the seat back.

The outer middle seats can be folded flat by pulling a lever on the side of the seat base, whereas the middle one, with its plastic reverse side including recessed cupholders, folds over by using the reclining handle.

Three-point seatbelts are provided for all middle-row passengers although the centre one extends down from the roof. A more practical solution would have been to mount the middle belt on the seat itself as when it’s in use it can impinge on access to the third row.

It has to be said that while getting into the third row is significantly easier than a Krypton Factor assault course, Gordon Burns - and anyone else for that matter - would find the rearmost seats of Citroen’s Grand C4 Picasso easier to access than those of the Kia Carens.

To make the most of the Carens’ arrangement, you first slide the seat forward and then flip the seatback down, creating a space to step into and spin backwards into the seat. On the Picasso, pulling a single lever concertinas the seat base upwards and the narrower arrangement slides towards the seat in front, providing much more space for third row ingress and egress.

That rearmost pair of seats look flatter and less comfortable than the others and are best suited to kids, particularly with the middle row slid backwards. The seatbacks aren’t very tall either meaning most passengers will require the headrests to be fully extended for comfort and safety.

Although children will fit easiest into the third row of seats, only the outer positions of the middle row are equipped with ISOFIX mounting points. There’s no function to move the position of the third row of seats either.

Boot space in seven-seater mode isn’t great – there’s enough room to squeeze a couple of small suitcases in there but not much else. Turning it into a five-seater liberates 492 litres of space but with all of the rear seats lowered its 1,650-litre tally falls short of Ford’s Grand C-MAX (1,742 litres) and Vauxhall Zafira Tourer (1,860 litres). It’s positively trounced by the adaptable Grand C4 Picasso’s 2,181-litre capacity.

Most will find the Carens adequately spacious but bear in mind it’s smaller than its main competitors

Tipping the front passenger seat forwards increases load bay length, perfect for those trips to DIY stores when purchasing longer goods like pipework and timber.

One cleverly thought-out feature is the rear luggage cover, which neatly stows away under the boot floor by the tailgate opening. It’s a bit tight manoeuvring it in there but once you have it means, like unused seats, it’s not cluttering up your home.

So far then the Kia’s proving practical enough but there’s still scope to make the replacement of this car even more flexible and spacious.

Total mileage: 584 miles Average mpg: 51.4 mpg