Kia Carens (2016 - 2019) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

With smarter looks, an upgraded interior and more sophisticated media connectivity, the revised version of Kia's third generation Carens we saw in 2016 was a much improved 7-seat mid-sized MPV. Though a little smaller than some rivals, it offered as much versatility as most likely buyers needed and potentially, diesel efficiency could better match the class standard too. In other words, you get pretty much everything families are looking for from a compact 7-seat MPV in this segment from the 2016-2019 era. At pricing to undercut most rivals.

Models

5DR ESTATE (1.6 GDI, 1.7 CRDI [1,2,3])

History

In many ways, the Kia brand has been built on MPV motoring: for years, its large Sedona model was its best seller here. By the turn of the century though, it was clear that People Carrying segment growth lay in slightly smaller designs, a market targeted with the original Carens model of 1999. This was the kind of car Kia used to make, cheap, practical and very dull. Signs that the brand could do better arrived with its 2006 replacement, but that was still an MPV you bought on sticker price, not necessarily because you really wanted one.

By the 21st century's second decade though, Kia had no room for such cars in its line-up any more and accordingly, in 2013, the original version of this third generation Carens model was launched, far more up to date and better packaged than its predecessor. This design, though a little more compact than the MK2 version, managed to be a little larger inside thanks to a longer wheelbase. Which was just as well, given that by this time, Kia was no longer offering its big Sedona MPV in our market, deciding that going forward, the Carens would be the only family-sized people carrier it would offer.

Sales in the first three years of MK3 Carens production were steady but unspectacular, possibly because this People Carrier was one of the smaller seven-seat options in the mid-sized MPV sector, but more likely because most buyers didn't really know it existed and signed up instead for better-recognised segment contenders like Vauxhall's Zafira Tourer, Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso, Volkswagen's Touran, Ford's Grand C-MAX and Renault's Grand Scenic. All of these rivals though, were significantly more expensive than this Kia, dealers often justifying that premium with smartly-finished cabins, advanced media connectivity and strong engine efficiency. All of which this Carens claimed to be able to offer too, in the facelifted version of the MK3 model which was launched in 2016 - that's the version of this car we're going to look at here. It sold until 2019, MPV motoring then abandoned by Kia in favour of a tidal wave of different SUVs.

What You Get

As with the original version of the MK3 Carens, this Kia only came in a one single body style; unlike Ford, Citroen and Renault, the Korean maker didn't see the need to offer separate five and seven-seat body shapes in this segment. It never did previously either, but older generation Carens models offered the choice of either five or seven seats. Here, you've a seven-seat-only package. Fortunately, that's what most buyers in this sector want.

To reassure these people that this MPV is a credible choice, Kia made a few updates to the exterior styling as part of the mid-term package of updates introduced in 2016. Most of the alterations feature at the front, where an updated version of the 'tiger-nose' grille was complemented by revised bumpers and restyled front foglamps.

And behind the wheel? Well it was at this point, with the original version of this third generation model, that some potential customers lost interest and went to look at something else. There wasn't really anything wrong with the basic ergonomic design; it just wasn't very interesting. Which is something that Kia's designers did quite a lot to fix with this mid-term facelift and provided you opt for a plusher model, you'll notice quite a lot of difference. Freshly-added metallic and gloss-black accents lift the cabin, as did smart carbon-effect dashboard trim.

A more significant change though, lay in the updates Kia made to infotainment provision, this Carens in this updated form fitted with a proper colour touchscreen, a display that was 7-inches in size on standard models, or 8-inches on a top-spec variant. Via this, you can duplicate the functionality of your smartphone on this centre-dash monitor thanks to compatibility with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' systems.

And the second row? Well if you happen to be one of those people who owned the pre-2013 second generation version of this car, you'll notice that things are much more flexible here, the old bench replaced in this case by three separate reclining and sliding chairs. That makes it much easier to properly accommodate three adults but if you are only transporting two people, then the middle seat can be folded forward to create a useful table.

All well and good, but in the eyes of its detractors, the issue the Carens always had lay in its lack of third row seating space. So, how does this car fare in reality? Well, the effective middle row tilting and sliding mechanism makes access to the very rear a lot easier than you might expect it to be. Once you get seated in the very back though, it becomes clear that, for adults at least, things are going to be very restricted indeed unless particularly accommodating fellow passengers seated in front of you are prepared to push their sliding seats right forward. This issue is of course relative. If you're the kind of owner likely to buy a Carens, you'll be the sort of person who won't be likely to use these fold-out chairs very often anyway. If when you do, they're only going to be occupied by young children, then what's provided here will probably be quite sufficient.

And luggage space? Well, as you would probably expect, with all three rows raised, there isn't much - just 103-litres, though a small compensation in this regard is provided by a neat underfloor compartment that can be used to stow away the removable load cover. Of course as we mentioned previously, the majority of the time, most owners won't be using the third seating row and with those two chairs folded into the floor, there's 492-litres of space on offer below the window line. Push forward the second row too and you get a usefully flat floor and up 1,650-litres of total fresh air.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Top tips here are to ensure that the second row seats slide on their runners cleanly. And make certain that the parcel shelf is still in its compartment beneath the boot floor; some original owners will have taken this out, put it in the garage, then forgotten to put it back into the car. Look for damage from child seats in the second row. You may be looking at a car with the balance of Kia's seven year warranty intact, but bear in mind that this cover was only of the unlimited mileage kind for the first three years from new; for years 4-7, there's a 100,000 mile limit - and items like the battery and the infotainment system aren't covered at all.

Very little goes wrong with typical third generation Carens models; in fact, our ownerships survey almost completely failed to find anyone at all who was dis-satisfied. The closest we came to that was with an owner who felt that the diesel engine didn't pull cleanly and evenly, a glitch that was quickly cured by their local dealer.

Otherwise, just look out for the usual things; kerbed alloys and damage caused to interior plastics by unruly children. Make sure that the service book is fully stamped up by a franchised dealer too. And if you're looking at the CRDi diesel, make sure the DPF Diesel Particular Filter hasn't clogged up with too much suburban and town driving. Careful questioning of the seller's driving habits should help here.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2018 Carens 1.7 CRDi ex VAT) An air filter will be priced at around £10, an oil filter will sit in the £5 bracket and a fuel filter costs in the £14 bracket. For a pair of front brake discs, you're looking at paying in the £58 to £106 bracket, with a pair of rear discs costing up to around £80. A pair of front brake pads are around £24, while a pair of rear pads sit in the £17-£35 bracket for a set. A wiper blade can cost anything between £3-£14. A starter motor is around £262 and an alternator around £250.

On the Road

The changes made to his revised third generation Carens model didn't include any significant alterations to the engines on offer, or to the ride and handling package provided. There wasn't much point since likely buyers weren't people particularly prioritising driving dynamics. They cared about efficiency though. Which is why the Korean brand tweaked the gear ratios of the volume 114bhp diesel model to make it cleaner and more economical. And gave buyers wanting auto transmission a far more frugal 'DCT' dual-clutch gearbox option on the 139bhp diesel variant, this self-shifter replacing the old-tech torque converter auto previously used.

Otherwise, things were unchanged from the original pre-facelift version of this MK3 model. Almost all Carens buyers choose the diesel units we've just mentioned, both 1.7-litre CRDi powerplants from the Kia conglomerate's back catalogue. Expect 109g/km of CO2 and 67.2mpg on the combined cycle from the 114bhp unit (both NEDC figures). The only other engine on offer was a 133bhp 1.6-litre GDI petrol unit that struggles a little in terms of both pulling power and overall efficiency. Through the bends, a firm-ish set-up means that body roll is well controlled but there's not really enough feedback through the steering for any real degree of driving enjoyment, despite a 'FlexSteer' system that allows you to vary steering weight.

Overall

Rival mid-sized 7-seat People Carriers from the 2016-2019 period offer more fashionable looks and extra space for third row folk than this improved version of the MK3 Kia Carens. The question is though, whether those attributes are really needed by typical buyers in this segment. You might take the view that an MPV is a sensible, functional thing that doesn't really have to look trendy. And that third row seating in a mid-sized model like this one doesn't really need to be very spacious because it's only ever used by small children. If you did, we'd understand. And suggest that this improved Carens probably needs to prominently feature on the list of affordable models from this period you should try.

In summary, this remains a very credible choice from its period in a family world that'll usually see a multitude of expenses take precedence over a plush People Carrier - food, clothing, heating, iPods, XBoxes, cutting-edge Nike trainers, full suspension mountain bikes and so on. Once these essentials have been provided for your brood, there are often scant funds remaining for a vehicle to transport them between their football matches, dance classes, swimming lessons and youth clubs. What is a parent to do? Buy one of these? You can certainly make a case for it.

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