Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

There are three engine options: a 1.6-litre petrol and two versions of the same 1.7-litre diesel.

Diesel power

Starting with the diesel choices, Kia’s turbocharged 1.7-litre diesel engine is available with either 114bhp or 134bhp. A stop/start system is standard, which cuts the engine when the car is stationary and in neutral.

On the road, both versions of the diesel engine sounds a little grumbly but pull smoothly and have enough performance for normal urban and motorway driving. They’re louder than you might expect at higher revs, when driving uphill in a lower gear for example, but aren’t too intrusive in the course of normal driving.

Petrol power

The petrol engine is the same 1.6-litre unit available for the Kia Sportage and cee’d, generating 133bhp. Like the diesel versions, it’s equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. A six-speed automatic version is available too, although the lower-powered diesel Carens is manual-only.

Naturally you wouldn’t expect a sparkling driving experience from a seven-seat people carrier but the Carens does its job well enough, tackling corners with no real issues apart from rather lifeless steering.

This is a criticism which has been levied at Kias in the past, and the company has attempted to address the issue with its ‘FlexSteer’ system, which offers a choice between three levels of power steering assistance – Normal, Sport and Comfort.

Comfort is the lightest setting and is well-suited to urban driving, while Sport is the heaviest setting and aims to provide a little more feel. Sadly, the system doesn’t really add a great deal to the driving experience and most of the time you’re best off leaving the Carens in Comfort mode.

The electric power steering even includes a torque and angle sensor which aims to mitigate cross winds, which are often a problem for slab-sided cars like the Carens. We couldn’t really notice the system at work during the calm conditions of our test, however.