Kia Carens: is it now the best all-round MPV on the market?

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I recently got to drive the all-new Kia Carens on UK roads for the first time. Believe it or not, I’d been elbows out to do this event, given my experience of shipping a growing family in my long-term Kia cee’d Sportswagon.

Could the Carens thus be my next long-termer?

I liked my first five minutes with it, that’s for sure. More neat Germanic substance in the styling stakes from Schreyer, with an appreciably upmarket feel inside too. The steering wheel and dials are particularly neat, and there’s a quality feel beyond its price tag within.

I’ve for a while not been able to work out why Kia builds both 1.6-litre and 1.7-litre diesel engines. My (European-built) cee’d has the 1.6; this (South Korean-built) has the 1.7.

I still don’t know, but do know I prefer this. It’s smoother, more hushed and doesn’t have the top-end clitter-clatter that’s always just audible in the cee’d. This, along with the taut but plush ride quality, gave a luxurious feel when driving away.

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With excellent roll-free body control, decent steering and excellent refinement, it continued to impress on the move. After 50 miles, I was sold – for the money, I can’t think of a better MPV.

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Yes, the Ford C-Max is great, but it’s dearer and not as practical. The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is impressive too, but much dearer and not as green. The Touran is aged, The Renault Scenic is sadly far from the force it once was, the Toyota Verso is better but I can’t believe it’ll beat this overall.

The proof will be in the detail testing. On first taste, though, the Carens stacks up very strongly. My next long-termer? The lobbying may start soon.

There’s but one major flaw. Someone at Kia has, in their wisdom, decided to not fit sat nav as standard to the range-topper, but give leather seats instead. Even more bafflingly, it’s not available as a cost-option, either. On any model.

That’s right – you can’t get sat nav at all on a new Kia Carens.

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No, I don’t understand, either. There must be more to it than a simple planning decision, because for a company as smart as Kia, it just doesn’t stack up. Sat nav is standard on my ‘3’ cee’d, for example: trading over to a similarly-priced Carens may get you more space but, in this regard, certainly be a step down.

Families buy seven-seat MPVs to go places together in. We all know there’s nothing more likely to cause family disunity than getting lost and then arguing about it.

Come on then, Kia: everything else about the Carens is great. When are you going to fix this glaring chink?

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