Kia ups the people-mover ante with its uniquely styled and futuristic Carens. But just how practical and comfortable is it, and what’s it like to use on an everyday basis?
Published on Apr 24, 2022 08:00:00 AM
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The classy dashboard design and standout fit and finish feel great.
Every once in a while, when you’re not really paying attention, the car industry has the ability to deliver the perfect yorker... a ball that sneaks in past your guard and ‘castles’ your stumps. Case in point, the new Kia Carens, a car with an interior so good, it just makes me go WOW the first time I get to spend some time in it.
So enamoured am I, the first few minutes with our long termer are spent with me sitting in the parking lot, ogling at the interior... drinking in the details. The fit, finish, quality and sheer craftsmanship. Nothing in this class is as well made. Everything catches my eye. The multi-colour LED mood lighting imparts just the right glow, the wide-brushed aluminium strip that runs across the cabin fits perfectly, the textured piano black on the dash catches the light nicely, and even the aircon paddles function in a slick manner.
I love how Kia has used light coloured faux leather to wrap even the base of the central console. And don’t those high quality buttons hit the spot? Then I notice the 3D maps that come with accurate representations of buildings, that mushrooming from the ground as you zoom in. Some of the heritage buildings in the vicinity look just stunning. The last time I used this was on the S-Class. As I leave the parking lot, now late, I appreciate the good visibility, and that the driver’s seat is both reasonably large and very supportive. And then, when I look back, there’s a huge amount of space in the rear.
Something that bugs me over the next couple of days is the loud sound of rushing air. Eventually I stop to investigate. Initially, I think it’s the cooled seats, the fans whirring inside the seats making a din. While switching them off reduces the sound of rushing air, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. Then I roll back the rear air con, with its beautifully made dial. But the sound of rushing air persists. Finally I find it; it’s the air purifier placed behind the driver’s seat, blowing away madly, in my ears. The placement is odd. And the driver can never see what the air quality is without stopping, and unlike the cylinder-shaped, pencil box-sized device in other cars, this one is huge.
The next morning I set off on a longish drive across town. I want to use Google Maps off the main screen, but I can’t seem to find how wireless Apple CarPlay connects. This version doesn’t have it as it transpires, and that’s despite the feature being present on the cheaper and smaller screen equipped version. Ouch!
What I appreciate on the drive is that the Carens is light to drive, the controls are weighted for comfort and the 1.4-turbo engine pulls well once you are past 1,800rpm. There’s enough performance here to keep even someone who’s in a hurry satisfied. The engine, however, is throaty when extended, and at low speed, the Carens takes a bit to get going, especially if the engine falls below 1,600rpm. This is especially true when you want to make up a gap in traffic or overtake at short notice.
While the twin-clutch gearbox is quick and works well for the most part, you sometimes have to press down hard on the accelerator to get it to downshift. So, often, I find it easier to use the left paddle; and this works well because you go straight into the powerband, but without having to depress the throttle fully.
On the way back, I sample the third row, which although not comfortable per say, is very usable for short stretches. I absolutely love how the electrically actuated seat flips forward and makes room. It’s cool. Needless to say, the captain’s seats on the second row – with the big windows and the limo-like legroom – are the preferred seats on the Carens. And what’s nice is that the good build quality lends plenty of feel-good here too. Even the large blinds and the roof-mounted vents are nicely put together. And while the cabin isn’t built as tough as, say, a Volkswagen, Skoda, or a Jeep, there are no creaks audible inside the cabin as on some rivals.
Love the individualistic styling too, both the minimalist nose and the bold rear, the latter with its large curved surfaces, splashes of chrome and the flamboyant tail-lights really stands out. Can’t wait to see just how good it is on a long drive, how well it copes with our highways when loaded.
2022 Kia Carens review, test drive
|Fact File||Petrol AT|
|Price when new||Rs 16.99 lakh (ex-showroom)|
|Test economy||10.9kpl (overall, this month)|
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