Final report: The Kia Carens is leaving the ACI fleet and we will remember it for its genuine practicality and ease of use.
I rarely have use for the second row of a car’s seats. Something with three rows? That’s overkill for my typical requirements. However, my use case for one comes about once every year when my parents come visiting from Delhi. The fortnight includes airport runs, drives across the length and breadth of Mumbai, a bit of sightseeing and at least one late night outing for strawberries and cream… it’s a bit of a tradition for us! The catch is, as much as we’d like to travel together (six adults with parents, wife, brother and sister-in-law counted for), past experiments with three-row SUVs haven’t gone down too well with the family. Pain points have largely been centred around comforts such as a high step up into the cabin or claustrophobic seating in the third row. More often than not, a second car is politely worked into the plans. This time around I was better equipped. My car of choice was the Kia Carens that’s with us in a 6-seat avatar.
Carens doesn’t feel its size and makes for an easy vehicle to upgrade to.
It had been a while since I’d driven the Carens, so the rush hour slog to the airport was a journey of reacquaintance. The very first thing that endears me to the Kia is how it doesn’t feel its size. It’s a relatively large vehicle yet one that proves easy to wiggle through traffic in. I only sense its size when I look in the mirror to realise there’s a whole lot of car behind me. It doesn’t warrant any extra effort or planning at the airport parking and the well-weighted steering helps here.
My parents aren’t really into cars so them voicing their observations on their ride usually means something’s really good or really bad. The Carens, I’m happy to report, passes the test with flying colours. The Kia’s luggage-carrying ability finds praise first, especially how the third-row seats can be folded flat to make room for big suitcases. Personally, I’d wish the floor was lower… and my parents packed lighter.
Ventilated front seats are one among many wow features on the Carens.
It’s once we’re inside that the Carens adds quickly to its points tally. Things like ambient lighting, front seat ventilation and even the crispness of the rear view camera are wow features to my folks. From a driver’s perspective, I have much to like too. In the slow crawl home, I don’t have any use for all 140 horses the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine can offer, but the engine’s refinement and general quiet sure makes a mark. The dual-clutch gearbox our car comes with works well, with seamless shifts for the most part. Pay attention and there’s some shift shock at very low speeds.
Over the next few days, there’s more the senior Bhatias take to. The middle row seats’ adjustability (backrest recline and seat slide) is really appreciated and they’re happy to find an onboard air purifier is part of the package. (They’ve just escaped Delhi’s toxic winter air, so it’s a big deal.) However, Kia should find a way to make the air purifier quieter. It’s audible when in action, particularly so to the driver, behind whose seat the hardware is mounted.
Wide aperture makes getting to the third row relatively easy.
The Kia’s flexibility is put to the test when we travel with a full house. I won’t go as far as saying the last row was anyone’s seat of choice but the Carens sure made it an easier sell. The brilliantly done one-touch seat fold for the middle row is not only convenient but also opens up a sizeable aperture; entry is easy and not like an obstacle course as on other three-row vehicles. Over conversations and laughter, there was no mention of discomfort from the occupants at the very back – I’ll take that as a win. Suffice to say, a second car wasn’t summoned over my parents’ stay with us. Performance-wise, the Carens didn’t struggle with a full load of passengers.
Onboard air purifier is a boon but it’s noisy; front seatback position is unusual too.
Plans for a day trip to Karjat didn’t pan out, meaning all of my driving was within city limits. This reflected in the fuel economy, which hovered in the 8.5-10.2kpl band. Not the best of numbers, but sure cheaper than taking two cars.
The Carens didn’t give any trouble in its time with us, though it did have an out-of-turn visit to the workshop for an airbag control module check as part of a voluntary recall.
Everyone who used the Carens at the office was content with their experience and I too would rate it as a very pleasant family car. My biggest takeaway? How well it fit into my life. An MPV isn’t my form factor of choice, but the Carens’ ease of use and genuine practicality get my vote. On a side note, I didn’t feel out of place and, dare I say, uncool piloting the MPV.
It’s a pity that the Carens will be going back to Kia soon. The wife and I will be bringing home a pet dog in the coming days, and I think I’d have much use for the Carens’ space and flexibility. Did you see what just happened? An MPV is in my consideration set. Who’d have thunk?