2022 Kia Carens First Drive: What Is It?

  • Jan 29, 2022
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And what is this three-row vehicle good for? And for whom? We find answers in this first drive

Curiosity almost killed the cat writing these words; because while other vehicles are rushing to be called SUVs, Kia’s Carens has taken a hard right to dodge the packed SUV street. The three-row vehicle then cleverly dodged MPV lane by dubbing itself an RV. But what is an RV? And more importantly, what is the Carens? Just a Seltos with more seats? A conveniently rehashed Hyundai Alcazar? Or is there more to it? And what should this RV be priced at?

Meek, not weak 

If you cover the badge, it would be hard to connect the Carens to its siblings. Firstly, the Kia signature “tiger nose” grille, as we know it, is gone. Instead, the tiger nose is transformed into a motif that is used on the piano black grille and the chrome finish on the bumper. The only obvious connection to any of Kia’s SUVs is the DRLs; in specific the Sonet’s, albeit with an extra wriggle thrown in at the outer edges. Other than that this flourish, the Carens has carefully avoided drama. No deep creases or racy lines slice the bodywork here. So, unlike the Sonet, it doesn’t look muscular. And unlike the Seltos, it doesn't look flashy either. Instead, it has been designed to be smart and attractive, but not bold. If you look at the Carens head on, the narrow brow gives it an air of submissiveness.  

Dimensions: Carens vs Alcazar vs XL6





Overall Length (mm)




Overall Width (mm)




Overall Height (mm)




Wheelbase (mm)




The surprising bit is that the Carens is larger than its cousin, the Hyundai Alcazar, in every dimension. The wheelbase is longer by 20mm, much of which has been added after the B-pillar as is made obvious by the long rear doors. This, along with a taller roofline, change the proportions subtly but surely, resulting in an MPV-like look. The 16” wheels, when compared to the 18” on the Alcazar, temper the stance too.  Interestingly, Kia seems to have benchmarked the Carens against the Maruti Suzuki XL6, which is very suggestive in terms of the prices. 

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The rear could be considered the most memorable angle of the Carens. It is neatly broken up with horizontal lines, the most prominent of these formed by the reflector connecting the tail lamps. These “Starmap” tail lamps make this angle especially eye-catching. The thick chrome strip snaking around on the bumper also gives this Kia a bit of showiness from this angle. 

Kia Max

Calling it the Max would do justice to the Carens’ cabin experience. The modest, but not insignificant, alterations in dimensions and proportions has maximised the space on offer, resulting in a wow experience. The boot space, for instance, even with all three rows in use offers room for an overnighter, a couple of soft bags and underfloor storage for smaller bags. In each seat configuration, the Carens is delivering just a bit more practicality. 

Boot Space




3rd Row Up

216 Litres

180 Litres

3rd Row Down

645 Litres

579 Litres

2nd Row down

1164 Litres

1051 Litres

While luggage space may not be a game-changer, the third row experience is. Adults, even six-footers, can be accommodated there in comfort as the under-thigh support and headroom,  by third row standards, is excellent! Knee room for my 5’6” frame went from adequate to plenty once the middle row was pushed forward, while leaving decent room for a six-footer there too. 

The second row’s stadium-like configuration gives a good view out, so children won’t feel claustrophobic here either. There are two USB-C charging ports, cupholders, and slots to stow devices too. Adjustable headrests and three-point seatbelts complete the thoughtfulness quotient. 

The roof-mounted aircon vents are a special touch, as the downwash promises to cool more than just the knees or faces of the occupants, as is often the case with low or side-mounted vents. A secondary cooling system with blower controls is shared with the second row. Also, the large doors provide a big opening to access the third row. On top of that, the electro-mechanical release for the second row sends the middle row seat tumbling forward at the press of one button - a standard feature on the Carens. However, if you opt for the captain seat version, walking down the middle will offer another convenience.

In the second row, the Carens cements itself as a great pick for the chauffeur-driven. The captain's seats offer a bit of additional pampering, with more contouring and individual armrests. However, even the bench seat is plenty comfortable, with the middle seat doubling up as a chunky armrest when needed.   

Irrespective of whether you choose bench or captains seats the Carens cleverly adds extra comfort.The seat base is angled to provide support, which coupled with the lengthened wheelbase maximises the knee room, and thanks to the scooped out roof liner there’s lots of headroom (also thanks to the absence of a panoramic sunroof) for taller occupants too. The low window line, the large glass area and the well-positioned seats amplify the sense of airiness further. Thankfully, there are sunshades to block out the light when needed. 

In the front seats the Carens provides a high seating position and a great view of the road ahead, which feels very SUV. However, the sloping hood makes it feel more like an MPV. The higher variants get a tilt and telescopic steering wheel to further fine-tune the ergonomics. 

Wow max?

The thoughtfulness and focus of the Carens extends to the equipment list and design too. The headline here is the safety kit on offer as standard - like six airbags!

Standard Safety Features 

  • Six airbags

  • Highline TPMS

  • Pretensioners + load limiters - Front

  • Rear Parking Sensors

  • ABS, BAS

  • Adjustable headrests for all 


  • ISOFIX Mounts,

Similarly, there’s a focus on utility in the cabin too. The highlight? A popout cup holder over the passenger air con vents to keep your drinks cool on a long drive, yes erstwhile WagonR-esque; the driver side has a tray for change or toll tickets. There’s a tray under the passenger seat to stow larger objects. The cupholders are cooled and the space under the armrest is very flexible too. Clearly, the Karens is prepared to welcome occupants for the long haul. 

In the second row, the occupant on the left gets a picnic tray; it has nifty cable holders on the side to hold charging cables neatly in place. On the driver’s seat back is the air purifier. Thankfully neither of these units foul with the passenger’s knees or eat into the sense of space too much. The floor console houses cooled cupholders and charging ports too. Charging options for the front seat occupants include a wireless charger, a USB-A, USB-C and a 12v socket!  It also packs an automatic air-conditioning system, with a mix of touch and physical controls for ease of use while driving.

Modern day pleasures include a 10.25” HD infotainment system, with an eight-speaker Bose sound system on the top end variants. The front seats are ventilated too. In terms of the good-to-have tech there is connected car technology with voice commands and hot buttons for a concierge or emergency services. 

There’s ambient lighting too, giving the cabin a chic feel. The cabin design, though, is nothing like any other Kia we have seen. The dash cuts an arc across the cabin and is pushed close to the windscreen to maximise the sense of space. It is finished largely in piano black with cream colours for the lower portion. However, the dash top and the steering wheel are finished in a lavish blue, which is sure to polarise opinions. 

But the Carens isn’t lavish in some ways; the fit and finish and the equipment list could have been better. The stitching for the seats and armrests on the captain’s seats weren’t up to the usual Kia standard. The popout cupholders didn’t pop out all the way on both the cars that we tested and the aircon controls for the roof-mounted vents felt flimsy too. In terms of features, the Carens has pared the equipment list carefully: it skips a 360-degree camera, lacks wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity on the top-end variants, albeit the lower variant with the 8” screen get the feature. The instrument cluster has a digital MID, but the speedo and rev counter are separate units. While these misses may seem glaring to some, it seems Kia is trying to unlock more value with the Carens which should be seen in the pricing when it is launched. 

Drives like…

In one aspect the Carens is very SUV-like and that's the rough road ability.  The Carens’ 195mm of ground clearance (on 16” wheels, unladen) provides a nice cushion when battering potholes and trenches. The confidence to carry on battering is provided by the tall sidewalls of the 16” tyres. The tyres soak up shocks without a whimper; which in turn has allowed the suspension to be tuned for better body control. As a result, despite its height and length, the Carens feels well mannered even at higher speeds. 

Engine & G’box Options 



Gearbox Options


1.4 Litre, 4-Cyl, Turbo



1.5 Litre, 4-Cyl, Naturally Aspirated

  • / 6MT


1.5 Litre, 4-Cyl, Turbo

6AT / 6 MT

But, the Sport part of “SUV” doesn’t shine here. The steering is slow, so chucking it into corners will require a lot of steering lock. Then there is the “take-it-easy calibration” of the drivetrains; we sampled the 1.4 turbo-petrol and the 1.5 CRDI engines which were paired to the seven-speed DCT and the six-speed torque converter, respectively. While they felt familiar, having had sampled them on the Creta and Seltos earlier, there was a distinct sense of a laidback response to throttle inputs. But, from an MPV perspective this could also be considered just right to settle into a leisurely and relaxed drive. 

Engine Specs


1.4 T-GDI

1.5 CRDI





140PS @ 6000rpm

115PS @ 4000rpm


242PS @ 1500 - 3200rpm

250Nm @ 1500 - 2750rpm



10.0s (MT), 10.2s (DCT)

12.4s (MT), 13.4s(AT)

Fuel efficiency: 


16.2kmpl (MT), 16.5kmpl (AT)

21.3kmpl (MT), 18.4kmpl (AT)

Mechanical changes to the drivetrains weren’t confirmed by Kia, but they confirmed that there is a change in tune keeping the Carens’ size and weight in mind. Don’t worry about usability though, as the engines offer good drivability even with a full load; and a shot of acceleration, say for an overtake, is just a prod away. Alternatively you could switch to Sport mode, which makes it more apt for zooming down the highway. The all-wheel disc brakes also provide good stopping power, however the brake pedal feel took some learning as the initial feel is quite wooden. 

In the city, despite being longer, taller and wider than the ALcazar or the XL6, the Carens feels at home in the urban environment as it is light to steer and feels manoeuvrable too. All occupants will also appreciate how the sound insulation helps cut down fatigue. So the Carens, in ways leaves you with a sense of how car-like it is to drive. 


So, the curiosity surrounding the Carens has finally been quenched. To acquit itself as an SUV the Carens would have need different proportions and more butchness. But the way it tackles poor roads shows that it has the right traits where it matters. But the proportions gives it an edge in the way it treats its occupants; the generous third-row experience sums this up aptly. So it has genuine MPV genes too. So, the Carens is a welcoming car for occupants, easy and versatile to drive and thus soundly acquits itself as a practical all-rounder for the family. Sure there are some feature misses and in some areas the quality isn’t up to Kia standard. However, it seems Kia plans to negate this with the pricing, which we estimate to be in the Rs 12 lakh - 18 lakh range. In which case, whether it's an SUV, MPV or RV is irrelevant, because it will be a disruptor, maybe a big one. 

Kia Carens Video Review

Kia Carens
Kia Carens
Rs. 10.44 Lakh
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