2006 Kia Carens

Bigger, bolder and more stylish. That’s the new Kia Carens, which makes its UK premiere at this year’s British International Motor Show. Designed and built with British and European drivers in mind, the new Carens has thrown off its previously conservative appearance and is now new, fresh, exciting – and bursting with brilliant ideas.

Taller, wider and longer than the outgoing model, the new Kia Carens will reach UK showrooms in the autumn. Kia’s design teams in Korea were assisted by colleagues from the US and Germany to come up with unique new styling that will further appeal to Kia’s growing legion of British fans and bring to the market a worthy successor to its popular fore-runner. Now bigger and better, the new compact MPV will help to further boost the appeal of the Kia brand in the UK – a brand that has seen a complete transformation in style, technology and attraction over the last five years and turned it into a major player in this country.

The all-new Carens uses the same platform – but with a slightly shorter wheelbase – as the new Kia Magentis saloon. With its bold, clean ‘outdoors’ look, the new Kia Carens brings an exciting option to the highly-competitive mid-size MPV market. The Carens’ striking profile, which now hints at a more rugged vehicle style, sets it apart from competitors and comes courtesy of a smooth windscreen sweep to a higher roof, integral roof rails and larger diameter wheels that fill the subtly flared wheel arches more completely.

The simple, clean and visually stunning exterior characterises the new Carens’ image. And this styling is carried on into the interior design which treats occupants to high quality and stylish materials while adding the option of accommodating up to seven people in comfort.

The new Kia Carens will come to the UK in two versions – a five seater and a seven seater. Space, convenience and versatility are the buzzwords inside the car with ample seating and a ‘fold-flat’ capability on the middle and (where fitted) rear rows of seats. With five seats occupied luggage space is more than 400 litres and with just the driver and front passenger on board and the seating folded flat to the floor the new Carens can carry up to 2,106 litres of luggage.

This space is enhanced thanks to clever engineering that has resulted in much of the rear suspension being incorporated into the interior space of the wheels or very closely packaged alongside them. This reduced suspension intrusion into the cars’ interior means there’s a lower floor, better headroom, maximised rear seat room and more usable carrying space behind the passengers. The fuel tank is also mounted integrally within the suspension to help create more rear foot space. For good measure the suspension set-up also offers improved ride quality, optimal body control and superb damping performance.

The seven-seat car has the added capability of sliding middle seats to allow more legroom for the rearmost passengers. The five-seaters’ middle seats don’t slide back and forth but, like the seven-seater, the seat cushions tip forward to allow the backrest to fold flat for a clutter-free interior load area.

While the interior gets space and versatility, it’s outside that the new changes to the car are instantly obvious. A ‘European-specific’ treatment has been given to the front end with unique twin chrome bar grille, lower centre air-intake and front bumper with inset air intakes and fog lamps all featuring prominently.

In the UK two equipment levels will be offered – GS and LS – as well as a choice of 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines powering five- and six-speed manual gearboxes respectively. A range of optional equipment is also on offer including a smooth four-speed automatic transmission that gives the driver the Sport Mode option of full automatic or driver controlled sequential selection.

Both GS and LS specifications of the car can be ordered with either engine choice. The strong petrol unit is a 1998cc, four cylinder, twin-cam ‘Theta’ version producing 143bhp and 189 Nm of torque @ 4250rpm. This gives the car a 0-60 mph time of 10.6 seconds and a top speed of 118 mph. The rugged 1991cc, four-cylinder diesel engine produces 138bhp and an impressive 305Nm @ 1,800 – 2,500rpm giving a 0-60 mph time of 10.6 seconds (12.2 automatic) and a top speed of 116 mph for both manual and automatic versions.

On the road a wider track, longer wheelbase and stiffened suspension all further enhance the new arrival’s ride, handing, agility and safety. Fully independent suspension systems are adapted from those already successfully fitted to the Magentis saloon which is designed to give a sure-footed and highly comfortable ride over British roads. Improved braking backed up by anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) means even more powerful and secure stopping ability has been added to the new larger Carens.

To boost fuel economy a weight-loss programme was conducted to create stronger but lighter engine, transmission and suspension systems. The front sub-frame, for example, weighs 2.5 kg less than a pressed steel version.

Prices for the new Carens have not yet been finalised but will be competitive against its rivals.

With so many big changes happening for the new Carens, Kia expects a lot of interest in the range. But that’s no problem for the company’s recently refurbished Gwang-Ju assembly plant in South Korea which has the capacity to produce 150,000 examples a year. The car will be a bold new challenger for honours among MPVs and Kia expects an even split in interest between five and seven seat examples, with 65 per cent favouring diesel and 35 per cent petrol. World wide sales of Carens are expected to almost triple from last year’s 17,000 to 50,000 by 2009.

The Carens will be on sale in the UK in autumn.