Kia Carens: In-house rival

  • Our long-term Carens is up against Kia’s big Sorento
  • Can a small people carrier square up to the large 4x4?
  • It seems size isn’t everything - it's what you do with it

When you’ve become very familiar with a company’s product, as I have with Kia’s Carens since last November, there’s an inevitability about comparing it to anything else that comes in on short-term test from that brand.

Spotting the larger Kia Sorento in one of the test car parking bays provided an ample opportunity to pit the Carens against the marque’s only other seven-seater, since the demise of the Sedona.

They’re altogether very different propositions – the Carens is your familiar smaller people-carrier while the Sorento looks like a more traditional 4x4. Its larger body and chunkier tyres suggest a more spacious, cossetting - dare I say luxurious - way for seven people to travel.

The reality? Well, it’s more than a little different, most obviously because inside the Sorento doesn’t feel appreciably larger than the Carens, despite the additional metalwork, and in terms of flexibility it’s not on the same league as its smaller sibling.

Access to the Sorento’s rearmost row of seats requires the agility of a champion gymnast (so I was fine, obviously) due to the middle row being a simple 60:40 split arrangement, rather than the Carens’ trio of individually sliding and reclining chairs.

Once there taller adults will lament the lack of space in both, as they will the view out; the third-row side windows on both Kias are disappointingly small. Experience unfortunately tells me this can lead to offspring feeling (and ultimately being) travel sick, in part due to a sense of claustrophobia back there.

From the driver’s seat rearward visibility in the Sorento trumps the Carens’ due to the former’s smaller headrests on seats six and seven, while larger rear view mirrors aid things further. That said, both have pitifully small boots in seven-seat guise, meaning in the most part it’s people or their kit – not both.

Drive the Sorento for a short while and it quickly reveals its softer, wallowy nature. There’s no doubting the ride quality but corner with much enthusiasm and the tyres chirp in protest. Get immediately behind the wheel of the Carens and it’s almost sporty in comparison! Tauter, more controlled and inevitably stiffer, but rarely is the ride so firm as to generate passenger complaints.

There’s no doubting the Sorento’s greater road presence – the Carens almost looks toy-like next to the big 4x4, but as a practical, flexible seven-seater wearing a Kia badge, our long-termer’s the one I’d stick with.

Which makes the next update all the more poignant, as my time with the Carens draws to a close.

Total mileage: 6,325 miles 

Average mpg: 48.3mpg