MOTORS: Tiger economy thanks to the Kia

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There have been a number of cars in Kia’s range that have impressed us in recent years, but until recently, the Carens MPV had never made that list.

This third generation version is a belter, with stylish exterior lines, a practical interior, great build quality and solid engineering. It’s an easy recommendation.

People don’t tend to buy compact MPVs for the way they drive but if Kia can differentiate the Carens in that regard as well, it has to be good for sales, right?

So instead of just offering one or two engine choices, the Carens was unveiled with three available powerplants.

Kia’s MDPS electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering features a combined torque/angle sensor to protect against side wind gusts.

The steering wheel is adjustable for both height and reach.

Kia’s FlexSteer system, offering three levels of weight and assistance to match customer preference, is standard.

The suspension is nothing too radical, MacPherson struts at the front and a coupled torsion beam with trailing-arms at the rear, but the brakes are up to the mark, with discs all round, anti-lock, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency Brake Assist as well.

Most potential customers we spoke to seemed to think this Carens was one of the best-looking small MPVs on the market.

Many also detected a slight influence of Ford styling in the rear three-quarter view which is no bad thing. The front end, however, is instantly recognisable as a Kia with that distinctive ‘tiger nose’ grille.

There are LED front running lights, an all-LED tail light cluster and chrome accents around the glasshouse.

The rear of the car looks dynamic thanks to a sloping roof line which allows better views from the back than the alternative design strategy of a rising belt line, but does come at a slight penalty in terms of rear headroom.

Prior to the arrival of this third generation version, the Kia Carens had long been one of the Korean company’s lesser lights. In fact, at times it seemed desperate for a bushel to hide it under, such was the glitziness of its other models and the dourness of its compact MPV.

That’s no longer the case. The Carens now deserves its moment in the limelight.

With smart styling, a practical interior, great build quality and a range of clean, modern engines, it deserves your full attention.

Overall, Kia’s rivals are going to have their work cut out.

The South Korean brand’s buyers have high expectations these days but we suspect the Carens isn’t going to disappoint.