How do people movers stay relevant? They adopt crossover styling cues, of course. Following in the footsteps of the Carnival, the Kia Carens now dreams of off-road holidays while taking the kids to school.
Gone is the heavily raked front windscreen and sloping bonnet of earlier models. The ride height has been increased significantly, and grey wheel arch protectors hint at off-pavement adventures.
The slab-sided crossover-people mover mix also has many many entries from Kia’s latest design handbook, including split headlights, an eye-catching frontal treatment, and Y-shaped tail-lights.
Kia says the new Carens offers the “sophistication of a family mover and the sportiness of an SUV”, and will still feature six or seven seats across three rows in a 4.5m long package.
Measuring 4540mm long, 1800mm wide, 1700mm tall, and riding on a 2780mm wheelbase, the fourth-generation Carens is basically the same size as the outgoing model, except the roof is now 90mm higher off the ground due to the improved ground clearance.
According to Indian outlets, the Carens will be offered with three four-cylinder engine choices. The two petrol options are the entry-level 85kW/144Nm 1.5-litre Smartstream motor, and a 103kW/242Nm turbocharged 1.4-litre mill.
Diesel buyers are restricted to a 85kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbo unit.
All but the base model are available with a six-speed manual, while the automatics offered span the gamut with the 1.5-litre using a CVT, 1.4-litre turbo sporting a dual-clutch unit, and the diesel employing a classic torque converter transmission.
While previous generations of the Carens were sold in both developing and developed markets, the new model has been designed with the needs of Indian buyers in mind.
As such, it’s probably no surprise to learn the standard safety list only includes four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags, stability control, hill start assist, brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring, and downhill braking assist. Front parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers are available on higher grades.
What it misses out in terms of high-tech safety features, the Carens partially makes up for in the cabin.
Top-spec models come with a 10.25-inch infotainment system with over-the-air updates, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, ventilated front seats, 64 colour choices for the ambient lighting setup, air purification, five USB-C ports, and a cooled wireless smartphone charging pad.
Given the car is aimed at families other available include one-touch electric folding second row seats, flush-fitting roof-mounted second- and third-row air conditioning vents, seat-back tables, under-seat storage trays, and sunshades for the second row.
According to Kia, the Carens will be sold in India and “selected markets” from the first quarter of 2022.
Most likely the new Carens will also roam the streets of south-east Asia, where affordable small people movers, such as the Toyota Avanza and Mitsubishi Xpander, are popular.
Under the skin, the new Carens probably shares a lot in common with the similarly-sized Hyundai Alcazar, which is also made in India.
The Carens was sold in Australia from 2008 to 2015 as the Rondo. While the Rondo lasted two generations here, Australians have never really warmed to small people movers, with the sales of the Rondo, Hyundai Elantra LaVita, Mazda Premacy and others never really bothering the scorers.