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First drive: Kia Carens – on sale October



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According to AM sister magazine Car, one alternative to buying the old Carens is “surrendering your driving licence”. The car is, it says, “for people who really don’t care”. Should you care about the new one?

Over the last three years the original Carens has held an average 1.2% market share for compact MPVs, placing it 17th most popular in class – ie not that popular. Kia hopes to climb to 11 with the new model by selling 6,400 vehicles in 2007, the majority of these diesel.

Built on the same platform as the Magentis, but with a slightly shorter wheelbase, the new Carens is taller, wider and longer than the outgoing model for a more spacious cabin.

Kia has engineered a shallow fuel tank that is mounted within the suspension. This allows for a fold-flat capability on middle and (where fitted) rear seats.

When all seven seats are being used, luggage space is relatively small at 74 litres, but with all seats down this increases to 2,106 litres.

As well as being more spacious, making it a comfortable ride for seven adults, the interior of the new model is also more sophisticated than its predecessor.

The stereo is now integrated into the dashboard and it’s clear that Kia has spent more on materials than in the outgoing model.

Many features have been incorporated to ensure the Carens appeals to the European market, including a twin chrome bar grille, lower centre air-intake and prominent fog lamps.

Though the steering feels slightly woolly, the car is responsive to drive. The 2.0-litre petrol is a little underpowered, but the 2.0-litre diesel really shines. A 0-62mph time of less than 11sec is good for this class of vehicle.

Finding a comfortable driving position is a slight challenge as the steering wheel’s reach cannot be adjusted. Kia is currently developing processes to change this, but is being hindered by safety issues.

To free up room in the centre console Kia has incorporated a foot-operated parking break to the driver’s left. This is slightly awkward to use and is the only feature that feels slightly budget.

The MPV sector is highly competitive but at the same time more customers are opting for lifestyle, adaptable vehicles. It may not be perfect, but dealers and customers should start caring about the new Carens.

Price: Tba
Engines: 2.0-litre petrol four cylinder, twin-cam ‘Theta’ 143bhp; 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder 138bhp.
Performance: 0-62mph 10.6-12.2sec; top speed 116mph
Transmission: Petrol – five-speed manual; diesel – six-speed manual or four-speed automatic
Efficiency: n/a
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £3,850-4,950 (28%-37%)
Rivals: Vauxhall Zafira, VW Touran, Renault Scenic, Toyota Corolla Verso
Strength: Spaciousness
Weakness: Awkward parking brake
Opportunities: Attract families to Kia
Threat: Plenty of rivals
USP: Fold-flat capability for seats

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