Kia Carens: A Different View

  • How does the Carens feel to a different driver?
  • Our man Keith’s wife escapes her 2002 Picasso
  • Seems our Kia long-termer has a new fan

It’s always good to get the opinion of someone else, especially when it’s a car you’ve become increasingly familiar with like Parkers’ long-term Kia Carens.

Despite me bringing home a different car almost every night, Mrs Jones, as she insists I call her, has driven the same car for the past nine years: a war-torn and baggy 52-plate Citroen Xsara Picasso. How would she rate the Carens?

Julie Jones on the Kia Carens 1.7 CRDi 3 Nav

For a family with three kids the Carens is ideal, with plenty of boot space for the weekly shop when the third row of seats are folded into the floor. They fold really easily too, with minimal effort.

Child number two has Bikeability at school and by changing the seat configuration, the bike easily fits inside the car, rather than faffing with a carrier on the back.

The only downside is getting into the third row of seats – the middle chairs could do with flipping further out of the way so you have somewhere to put your feet as you get in and out. As it is you’re climbing over the folded middle row seats to get in.

 

Most of the interior plastics and fittings feel durable, an absolute must in a family car where kids’ fingers probe and pull when they get bored. It’s not as futuristic inside as my Picasso was when new, but everything’s logically laid out.

Looks-wise, the Carens looks more like a conventional estate than an older MPV – there’s a distinct bonnet line rather than the single slope of the windscreen and bonnet. I prefer it but front parking sensors would make judging where the nose’s extremities are a bit easier.

Being on the petite side, all 5ft and half an inch, finding a comfortable driving position can be awkward but there’s plenty of adjustment on the electric driver’s seat and the steering wheel moves up and down as well as in and out.

Although it’s dark the interior feels airy, helped by the enormous glass roof. I always have the blind open, even on really sunny days.

I can’t even remember if Euro NCAP was on the go when my Picasso was new but compared to the Carens it doesn’t feel very substantial. The Kia’s five-star rating and airbags aplenty are reassuring.

It’s easy to see why Kias have become really popular in recent years. Not only do the cars look and feel good, that seven-year warranty is brilliant. It would be good to know that in times when money is a little tight, there’re not going to be any surprise garage bills.

Regular maintenance isn’t my forte but changing the headlight bulbs in the Picasso has been literally painful over the years with umpteen scraped knuckles. No such bother with the Carens. I’m secretly hoping a bulb blows so I can replace it!

While the heated seats and steering wheel aren’t essential, they were very welcome features over the winter and safer than driving the car with gloves on. Similarly the reversing camera’s not vital (especially with the large door mirrors) but it’s reassuring and clear – providing the roads aren’t too muddy as the lens seems to be a muck magnet.

Modern infotainment is still novel to me as I’m used to a choice of radio or CDs. The touchscreen menus are intuitive and it’s easy to hook up your phone to the Bluetooth connection too. Streaming audio from my iTunes while driving has become my favourite thing.

While I’m assured the Carens is a competently-handling car, I’m still amazed by the levels of grip it has through corners. Whereas on some bends I’d need to brake the Picasso, the Kia seems to want to increase its speed.

Press the throttle and the response of the car is much more immediate than I’m used to, too and even though it’s a smaller engine than my 2.0-litre, it’s significantly more powerful, economical and quieter too.

Overall I’ve been very taken by the Carens – just wish I got to spend longer with it.

Total mileage: 3,699

Average mpg: 48.3mpg