Kia Carens EX 2013 Review

Kia Carens EX 2013 Review

Given the hypothetical situation that I had six children I could drive a Mazda Bongo Friendee, or I could give a child away and plump for the Kia Carens with only seven seats. I realise that the Bongo Friendee, which was produced from 1995 to 2005 would be a lot cheaper to buy than a brand new Carens, but the Carens does sit at the bottom of the price range for new seven-seat vehicles and as it’s not a minimum of eight years old like the Mazda, it comes with a raft of safety features like vehicle stability control and better crash protection (5-star EuroNCAP) that will be much more preferable for my remaining five children.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-rqPlus, if I was out at a dinner party and someone asked me what I drove I would have to make my excuses and leave immediately if the phrase I had to mumble was ‘a Bongo Friendee’. How embarrassing!

So, people with prodigious loins, stop producing when you get to five children and you can own the quite astoundingly adorned Kia Carens for the sensible price of a smidge under thirty-eight grand. Sounds great, right? Well, it is and it isn’t.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-sBecause it’s so cheap you will have to accept slightly less engine refinement and fuel economy than you might expect from its 2-litre, 122kW petrol engine. 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle sounds alright, but in reality it’ll be in the 9s. However, when you do the calculations compared to other seven seaters, like the Toyota Prius V, even if they’re a litre or two  per 100km more efficient, you’ll have to do a lot of driving for them to be better in the long run.

The engine can sounds a little strained when you’re trying to wring some overtaking performance out of it when loaded (but then it would, with only 213Nm of torque).

The (only) other problem with the Carens is

its floaty handling. You’re never going to be hustling, and you won’t want to as it doesn’t quite feel planted up the front end, particularly if it’s windy.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-front-interiorBut let’s get real: if you plus your significant other, and Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Emma and Sophia (yes, they are the most popular kids names for 2013 according to one website I looked at) are in a hurry around the bends you are going to have a motion sickness bonanza on your hands. So give a little gratitude for the softer ride.

The rest of the car is actually quite good. Take a look at the lines – it’s well-designed and well-proportioned. Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ grille, the extended headlights and the strong shoulder crease are appealing. It’s a little boring from the rear, but you won’t spend much time looking at that.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-rear-interiorThe curvaceous box design means a lot of room on the inside. With the third row of seats up there is still a small boot space. These seats are for small-to-mid-sized kids only. Fold them flat, which is easy to achieve by pulling a strap and you get a substantial 492 litres of space. There’s space to store the cargo blind in a cavity in the floor so you don’t need to worry that your belongings will be on display to potential thieves, even though the Carens does come with tinted rear windows. There are also two sneaky hidden compartments under the second row floor in which you can put high-value items.

The second row of seats can slide forwards for easy access to the third row. There are fold up tray tables on the back of the front two seats that feature a cup holder each. Both seat rows are split folding for added versatility when loading your gear.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-3rd-rowThe small dot matrix screen in the instrument cluster gives you the trip computer and other details in user-customisable menus. In the dashboard there’s a slightly larger screen (4.3-inch) for the media functions and reversing camera. The Bluetooth compatibility was occasionally unreliable, sometimes taking quite a while to connect to my iPhone 5, or not connecting at all.

kia-carens-gdi-2013-dashboardBelow this screen are the controls for the dual air conditioning which comes with clean air technology to ionise the cabin air. Other cabin features include automatic rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. There are LED daytime running lights on the front, and smart cornering lights which illuminate to the side as you turn – useful for turning into dark driveways.

Ergonomically there’s nothing wrong with the Carens as far as driving goes. The seats are well bolstered, if a little hard. Instrument stalks fall easy to hand. The glovebox is cooled, and there are several cubbyholes for things like your phone.

As I mentioned before, it gets the full safety rating and vehicle stability control, and comes with six airbags, front and rear parking sensors, and hill-start assist (HAC).

So, let’s have a recap: you’ve been reproducing prolifically, you need to move your progeny around the countryside, and you want a new, safe seven-seater because the thought of saying you drive a Mazda Bongo Friendee fills you with dread. Well, you could quite easily spend another $20-30,000 on a seven-seater by moving up in size to an SUV (Holden Colorado 7, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento R, Mazda CX-9, Ford Territory Titanium or Mitsubishi Outlander VRX), or another $15,000 on something like a Toyota Prius V.

If you look at what you get for your money, though, the Carens stacks up well. It’ll be your new best Friend(ee).

Price: $37,990


  • Lots of capability for the price – sensible use of space
  • Good crash protection


  • Handling is average
  • Bluetooth connection problems


Engine type 2.0L DOHC GDI ‘CVVT’ petrol
Displacement (cc) 1999cc
Compression ratio 11.5
Maximum power 122kW @ 6500rpm
Maximum torque 213Nm @ 4700rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle)* 7.9
CO2 emissions (g/km) 184
Gearbox 6 speed automatic with sequential sportshift
Drivetrain Front wheel drive
Hill start assist control (HAC)
Front suspension MacPherson struts with coil springs and gas shock absorbers
Rear suspension Coupled torsion beam axle (CTBA)
Tyres 225/45 R17
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs with ABS, BAS, EBD and ESP
Wheel size and type 17” Alloy
Compact spare wheel and tyre
Steering system Motor driven power assisted rack and pinion (MDPS)
Minimum turning radius (m) 5.5
Flex Steering (Normal/Comfort/Sport modes)
Steering wheel adjustment Tilt and Telescopic
ABS brakes with EBD and BAS
Electronic stability programme (ESP)
Dual front airbags
Dual side airbags
Dual (front to rear) curtain airbags
Child safety rear door locks with key activation
Remote keyless entry
Engine immobiliser
Front seatbelt pre-tensioners/load limiters
5 x rear ELR diagonal belts
Low washer fluid warning lamp
Rear parking sensors with indash display
Reversing camera
LED daytime running lamps
LED rear tail lights
Smart cornering lights
Electrically adjustable heated mirrors with automatic folding function
LED indicators mounted in side mirrors
Front fog lights
Front and rear mudguards
Chrome door handles belt line
Rear spoiler
Privacy glass (rear windows and tailgate)
Interior trim Woven Cloth + Clean Tex
Leather steering wheel and gearshift
Height adjustable drivers seat
2nd row air vents
5 x individually adjustable rear seats
2nd row seatback trays
Rear cargo cover
Stereo system 4.3″ touchscreen radio/CD/MP3 with 6 speakers
AUX input with USB capability
Bluetooth hands-free **>
Dual zone climate air conditioning
Auto windscreen defog system
Steering wheel mounted cruise and audio controls
Power windows with drivers auto down
Remote central locking
Dot matrix LCD type instrument cluster
Multifunction trip computer
Auto light control with welcome/escort function
Rain sensing wipers
Active eco function
Electrochromic rear view mirror
Dual map lamps with sunglasses case
Front cup holders
Cooling glovebox
Illuminated vanity mirrors in front sunvisors
Overall length 4525mm
Overall width 1805mm
Overall height 1610mm
Wheelbase 2750mm
Kerb weight minimum/maximum 1469/1589 kg
Luggage capacity, 3rd row down (VDA) 492 litres
Maximum roof weight 100 kg
Fuel tank capacity 58 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked 750 kg
Towing capacity – braked 1500 kg

Specifications, equipment and colours shown in this brochure are subject to change without notice or obligation.

* Fuel consumption figures shown are from standard Australia Design Rules tests and are stated for the purpose of comparison. Actual results achieved will differ according to operating conditions and driving style.

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