Kia Carens - an affordable MPV
It's no secret that Jamaica is heavily populated with vehicles as persons commute from all distances to get to work. Hence, motor companies like Kia believe that they can score a hit with multipurpose vehicles (MPV) like the Carens. Though it is not popular here, the third-generation Carens is a big hit in some Asian markets, where it is referred to as Rondo.
The concept of an MPV is that it is a 'people mover', usually carrying up to seven persons, with a retractable third row of seats that can be pulled from the floor. It's like a smaller version of the minivan, which makes it easier to manoeuvre in congested areas.
The front has the distinctive tiger nose grille that is customary across all Kia brands, along with 17" rims that give a bulky overall appearance. The light housing consists of three light sources with different functionalities. There are the daytime-running lights, which help upcoming vehicles to better identify the Carens; the HID headlights for night vision; and a cornering light that is only activated when turning. This is a most ingenious technology that comes in very useful when you are on a sinuous road or turning into a parking spot. This, paired with the fog lights located in the front bumper, gives good visibility, especially when you have to be on the lookout for potholes.
At a modest price range of $4.4 million, Kia does its best to keep a balance between functionality and creature comforts to ensure that the driver isn't making too much of a compromise. There are soft plastics in key areas along the door and dashboard along with carbon fibre-type finishes, which I guess is to keep it looking current.
There is also a multitude of convenient features throughout the vehicle to ensure that the passengers are comfortable. First, there is the dual-climate control for the AC, which is controlled by two knobs along with a screen that shows the temperature of both sides in addition to the wind speed. Above this are two slots for card holders and the infotainment system.
As for the infotainment system, the functionality is pretty straightforward as it pertains to accessing the radio or setting the clock. However, things do get a bit non-intuitive when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity. For this reason, to avoid a cumbersome set-up, simply press the call button on the steering-mounted control and follow the instructions on the screen.
Even though it downloads all your contacts, when there is an incoming call, the person's name is not shown. The vehicle also does not reconnect automatically with the phone when it leaves and enters the vehicle, and finally, there is no voice dialling.
All about space, convenience
Where it shines, though, is the flexibility of creating space, where both the second and third row of seats can fold down flat to expand the cargo space to 1,650 litres for large items. There is also a retractable parcel shelf buried discreetly in the trunk that can be attached to the panels behind the third-row seats for privacy.
At the back of the front seat, there is a pull-down tray with a cup holder, which is ideal for kids who may have to eat breakfast while on their way to school. In addition, to ensure that they are being monitored, there is a retractable conversational mirror, that is located in the roof above the rear-view mirror. It's a concave mirror that allows the driver to see persons sitting in the back and it is a feature that has been popular in Honda models like Ridgeline and Odyssey.
To top it off, there is a cooler in the glove compartment, very similar to the ones found in some Toyota models. The coldness of the air can be regulated with the turning of a knob. However, the space is a bit tight, so to put anything bigger than a 500ml water bottle, things like the manual would have to come out.
This vehicle's chassis reminds me of a Honda in terms of the firmness, which makes it feel properly planted on the road. This is also very noticeable when going over potholes as it is able to absorb bumps without causing the vehicle to jump about.
The two-litre engine provides sufficient power and torque that will help it to travel without much lag, especially when going up steep inclines like Spur Tree Hill in Manchester. There is a tiptronic mode, which can be activated when the gear lever is in drive and it is shifted to the left. This is an excellent option when overtaking as the vehicle is given instantaneous power, and the gear is held for as long as possible without much interference from the computer.
To the bottom far right of the dashboard there is an Eco button, which allows the vehicle to conserve on gas. This must definitely be activated when driving around town, especially if the vehicle is loaded. Nonetheless, it does give good fuel economy, which will fluctuate based on the number of people in it.
One of the steering-mounted buttons controls the firmness of the steering from a choice of three options: sport, normal, and comfort. If you are driving at a fast speed, like on the highway, sport is a good option as it firms up the steering. However, if you are carrying many passengers and have to be doing a lot of manoeuvring around town, then comfort is the option to make.
At this favourable price tag, the vehicle does offer a lot of bang for the buck. The only thing to see is how the consumer will respond.
Test drive provided courtesy of Kia Jamaica. Telephone: 754-0013-5, 979-0020.