Why would I buy it?
- Good performance
- Versatile interior
Why would I avoid it?
- Automatic and six-seater option only in top-spec trims
- No manual gearbox
What is it?
The 2023 Kia Carens has been updated with engines that comply with Real Driving Emissions (RDE) and E20 (20 per cent ethanol mixed in petrol) fuel standards. The ex-showroom prices range between Rs. 10.45 lakh to Rs. 18.95 lakh. This MPV now gets a new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine instead of the older 1.4-litre unit. Then, Kia has also replaced the six-speed manual gearbox with a six-speed iMT on the turbo-petrol and diesel variants. Although there are minor updates to the equipment list, the Carens remains unchanged cosmetically.
How’s the Kia Carens on the inside?
8 / 10
On the inside, the Carens retains the same colours, texture and feel of the upholstery, seating layout, good quality materials, and overall comfort and luxury. It was always a spacious three-row vehicle and this six-seater version continues to offer the same feel-good factor. However, there are some minor changes to the equipment list. For instance, the 12.5-inch digital instrument cluster with the 4.2-inch colour MID is now standard across the range. It was previously offered from the Prestige trim onwards only. And like before, the top-spec Luxury Plus is the only trim available in both six- and seven-seater guise. All other trims, namely Premium, Prestige, Prestige Plus, and Luxury are seven-seaters only.
Even the feature highlights of the Carens continue to be a 10.25-inch touchscreen with connected car tech, ambient lighting, automatic climate control, ventilated front seats, keyless-entry, cruise control, rear-view camera, and wireless phone charging. It would have been a welcome change if it had ADAS and 360 camera. However, it looks like we'll have to wait for the facelifted model for these additions. As for safety features, the Carens boasts six airbags, ABS, ESC, hill start and descent control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system as standard.
Is the Kia Carens any good to drive?
7.5 / 10
The most significant update to the Carens line-up is a new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine belting out 158bhp and 253Nm of torque that complies with the new emission norms. This mill replaces the older 1.4-litre turbo-petrol unit that gave out 138bhp. Interestingly, the new powerplant marks a 20bhp and 11Nm bump in power output. On the other hand, the seven-speed DCT has been retained, but the six-speed manual has been replaced by a new six-speed iMT unit. We're sampling the DCT automatic version in this review. This one continues to get the drive modes with the throttle response still as nice and responsive as before.
The older 1.4-litre engine was known for its power and performance, and the new 1.5-litre delivers a similar experience. While it’s not the quickest, it feels punchy and responsive, with ample torque available for overtakes. It’s silent and refined as well. The tested 0-100kmph sprint time of 10.4 seconds is slightly slower for the latest iteration as the older 1.4 achieved the same feat in 9.7 seconds. This might be owing to the fact that the new Carens is 60kg heavier. Notwithstanding, the transmission is smooth and the gearshifts are barely noticeable.
Even the 20-80kmph sprint in kick-down was completed in 6.2 seconds, while for the 1.4-litre version, it was 5.8 seconds. Similarly, the 40-100kmph run was achieved in 7.6 seconds whereas the 1.4 version recorded 7 seconds. These roll-on acceleration figures are similar, suggesting that the new engine is just as capable as the old one in everyday driving situations. It is a good fit for a 1.5-ton car that is a people-mover with luggage-hauling capabilities. It doesn't disappoint in terms of its mileage too. It returned 10.81kmpl in the city and 17.1kmpl on the highway.
Another thing that hasn't changed and buyers will appreciate is its ride quality and how easy it is to drive. The suspension is well-tuned to cushion passengers from bad roads, bumps, potholes, etc. Even the 16-inch wheels help in providing an impressive ride quality, both at slow and high speeds. I was hoping for better feedback from the steering this time, but there are no major changes here. Move the vehicle into a corner and its body roll reminds you it's an MPV. But otherwise, the steering is light, weighs up adequately, and more importantly, adds to the ease of driving this big car. It feels planted on the highway and is quite assuring on the braking front too, thanks to all-disc brakes.
Should you buy the Kia Carens?
7.5 / 10
Ours is a price-sensitive market and cars have become expensive in 2023. The Carens has not been spared either and prices for the new turbo-petrol variants have gone up by up to Rs. 50,000. It still is a reasonable price for the proposition it puts forward in terms of comfort, convenience, and feature list. It's also a step up from the traditional MPVs like the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, XL6, or even the older Mahindra Marazzo. In fact, the Carens is the only MPV offering turbo power. Though enthusiasts would have preferred the stick shift, the three-row Carens offers potential buyers a practical cabin with premium equipment, strong engine performance, automatic convenience, and remarkable ride quality. Thus, it is hard to not recommend it.
Pictures by Kapil Angane