Space is increasingly at a premium on our ever-busier roads. Just try squeezing a traditionally sized MPV into a city centre multi-storey car park space then scrambling out without putting a dent or scratch into the adjacent vehicle.
But growing families need spacious interiors – which is why inventive packaging has become ever more important in modern car design.
That’s the core appeal of Kia’s clever Carens, now available in both five and seven-seat configurations but built on the same economical footprint platform.
Appealing to a wide range of buyers, especially with its famed seven-year warranty and affordable purchase and running costs, the Carens is commendably spacious, comfortable, refined, safe and built to exacting quality standards.
When extra load space is needed, the seats fold right down to provide a flat deck without the need to remove any of them.
Unusually for vehicles in its price range, the car’s fixtures and fittings ooze quality, with all the main surfaces having a soft to the touch finish while the controls and switches have a premium feel and action.
There’s an engine choice of 1.6 litre petrol model or a torquey and flexible 1.6 litre CRD turbodiesel powerplant but an auto gearbox is not yet available.
Based on the Kia Magentis platform and chassis but with a slightly shorter wheelbase, the Carens handles confidently and has been tuned to provide agility with no loss of comfort.
Standard specification levels are high and even the entry-level Carens 1 models come with 15-inch alloys, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, central locking, ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, stability control, tinted glass, auxiliary and USB sockets and an integrated six-speaker CD stereo that is compatible with MP3 players.
Carens 2 substitutes 16-inch alloys and adds stylish roof rails that can take an 80 kg load. This version also boasts heated door mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
At the top of the range, the desirable Carens 3 adds front tweeter speakers, air-conditioning, electronic folding door mirrors, automatic air-conditioning, privacy glass, reversing sensors, a trip computer and premium quality leather upholstery.
Fuel consumption is frugal, with the diesel-engined versions able to return 49.6 mpg in the combined cycle. The CRDI 2 version I drove had respectable performance, with a 0-62 mph time of 12.1 seconds and a potential 111.23 mph top speed. It proved as much at home out on the open road as it did around town.
Prices for this well sorted car kick in at a competitive £14,695 for the five-seater Carens 1, with £17,495 asked for the car I tested and a £18,995 tag for the top-end Carens 3 seven-seater.