Considering two out of the five models Kia sells in India are MPVs, it’s safe to assume they know a thing or two about them. The Carnival has made a niche for itself as a plush and premium people mover with no direct rival; the Carens, on the other hand, doesn’t have things quite so easy. It lives in the Rs 9 lakh-16 lakh zone, alongside the likes of the Ertiga, XL6 and Marazzo, so just what does it do to stand out? After spending some time in our long-term 1.4 T-GDi DCT variant, the short answer is – some very Kia things. By that I mean it’s almost aggressively well equipped, gives you a variety of powertrains to choose from, the interior quality is very good and the exterior and interior designs are striking, almost to the point of being over the top. Yes, on that last point, I can’t say I’m particularly a fan of the way it looks, but I can’t deny it gives some much-needed character to a car that is inherently boxy for a reason.
And on to the function that defines that form – this is meant to be a people mover, first and foremost. I don’t generally have a lot of people to move, but I do have a relatively large dog, and this posed an unexpected complication. He’s usually quite happy on a bench seat in the second row, but this car has captain’s chairs, which are a bit too narrow for him.
GOOD(S) CARRIER: Without the third row, the loading area is massive.
The solution, it turns out, was even better, thanks to a third row that, with just a light lever-pull, folds flat into the floor. This meant he had a much larger space to laze around in, and could even wiggle through between the middle-row chairs if he wanted to come say hi to me up front. I did have to lift him up into the boot, though, as the boot floor is surprisingly high for a monocoque MPV.
GO, GADGET, GO: More features than you would ever want or expect in an MPV.
Meanwhile, I can report that from the driver’s seat, the Carens again feels very familiar. That’s no surprise as it is a Seltos under the skin, after all, but there are a few differences. For one, the tall SUV seating position has made way for a new, slightly more awkward MPV one, which, with its tall dashboard and short bonnet, encourages you to sit upright and closer than usual.
ERRORIST MID: Regularly throws up a ‘wrong way’ error at random.
Then there’s the powertrain – the most potent in the line-up on paper – but somehow not as thrilling as it was in the Seltos. The 150hp engine doesn’t feel quite as gutsy, and the DCT gearbox is particularly slow to respond, which I suppose does suit this more relaxed sort of vehicle better, but it can get frustrating.
SWAP DIGITS: Numeric tachometer feels non-intuitive.
I promise to fill all six seats with people soon, but until then, with a little adjustment, the Carens is proving to be a friendly commute companion.