Kia Carens: Meeting its Nemesis

  • Comparing the Carens against the Grand C4 Picasso
  • Citroen wows with its futuristic looks and interior space
  • Kia is cheaper and with a much longer warranty

Things rarely stand still in the motor industry, with new cars entering the market on a weekly basis. Some newcomers are average, others good while the occasional one jumps straight to the top of the class.

When we had Citroen’s latest Grand C4 Picasso in for testing recently I took the opportunity to compare it side by side with the long-term Kia Carens. So what did I discover?

First, there’s no doubting the Citroen’s much more distinctive in every aspect of its exterior and interior styling than the Kia. That’s not to say the Carens is an unattractive car by any stretch, but if it’s vanilla, the Picasso’s definitely Caramel Chew Chew.

More obvious when the pair are parked side by side is how there’s very little difference between their lengths – just 7.2cm – despite the Kia looking considerably smaller.

But it’s interior space where it counts most and Citroen’s played an ace card maximising the cabin volume for passengers and their luggage. In all three rows of seats the Picasso offers more space – even adults are more likely to find longer journeys more tolerable in the back two seats. Again, the Kia isn't cramped, it’s just that the Citroen’s tangibly roomier.

Similarly, when you need to turn your people carrier into a van, the Citroen offers more. You can cram 1,650 litres of stuff into the Carens in two-seat mode while the Picasso will swallow a further 531 litres.

Further touches make the Picasso’s interior a more interesting place to be. There’s an enormous wrap-over windscreen to allow light to flood in while the pillars supporting it are exceptionally slender promoting excellent visibility.

Those enormous LCD screens which dominate the dashboard are visible from every seat position too – personal experience suggests that they’re even entertaining enough to significantly distract kids from their 3DSes and iPads on long journeys too.

The Kia’s interior might lack wow-factor but its honest simplicity makes it easier to fumble for the right button or knob in the dark. Trying to navigate the Citroen’s slick touchscreen without taking your eyes off the road is a harder challenge than one Philip Schofield might set as an entry exam for The Cube.

On the road there’s not a huge amount separating the two in terms of performance, but again the Citroen feels the more satisfying of the two. There’s significantly more feel communicated through the steering wheel and, again, while the Kia’s ride quality is decent, the Citroen’s is on another far higher level.

So the new Grand C4 Picasso trounces the humble Carens then? Well, no, not exactly.

Yes as something to own, the Citroen feels more special and it’s appreciably roomier for people and their stuff. On the Kia’s side it’s £2,010 cheaper to buy the top-spec 3 Nav than Citroen’s equivalent Exclusive+ trim and it comes with that much vaunted seven year, 100,000 mile warranty.

Okay, the Picasso is more fuel efficient than the Carens at a claimed 65.7mpg versus 56.4mpg but you’ll have to drive over 128,000 miles in the Citroen to recoup that diesel saving. Countering that, the Picasso will cost you £30 over two years for VED car tax while the Carens sets you back £250 as its CO2 emissions are higher.

Spending some time with Citroen’s latest people-carrier highlighted the Kia’s comparative ordinariness but arguably what was more apparent was if the Picasso really is the class leader, the Carens isn’t very far behind at all.

It’s like that moment of realisation that your vanilla ice cream has a Flake in it.

Total mileage: 2,738

Average mpg: 49.2mpg