- Published: Wednesday, 25 May 2016 03:32
Parenting is stressful, but here’s a tip: If you’re driving seven-up, it helps to have an engine with some pep, see?
SINGAPORE — The Kia Carens was launched here last year, and what’s new this year is that you can buy it with a diesel engine. That might not sound like a big deal, but it’s done a lot to transform the driving experience.
Some of that is because the new 1.7 CRDi engine is paired with a twin-clutch, seven-speed transmission, the likes of which you normally find in a Volkswagen or Audi, only it seems a bit smoother than the one in those cars.
Put the two together, and you have a car that feels completely different to drive from the 2.0-litre petrol version.
For one thing, the diesel has a great deal of mid-range wallop. The stopwatch doesn’t say the Carens is fast, but in the real world it has the sort of perky acceleration that boring family MPVs (Multi Purpose Vehicles) aren’t supposed to have.
You can treat the accelerator like it’s made of eggshells, and the Kia still keeps up nicely with most traffic. If you’re in a hurry, it picks up speed with considerable vim, and generally feels like a car that’s had a shot of Red Bull.
That’s more than relevant to a car that is meant to sometimes carry seven people, of course.
The operative word here, though, is “sometimes”. It’s probably more meaningful to describe the Carens as a 5+2 seater, because the third row isn’t suited to long drives for adults. For one thing, there are no air-con vents beyond the second row, and for another, the small amount of headroom demands a chin-on-chest posture of any full-grown person relegated back there.
Still, at least folding the seats or raising them from the boot floor are simple operations that you can do with one hand. And the luggage cover has its own compartment — you’d be surprised how few cars offer that convenient feature.
There’s plenty of built-in versatility, too. With the second and third rows folded, the cargo capacity goes from 492 to 1650 litres, and the middle row chairs slide and recline individually.
There’s probably no such thing as a badly-equipped Kia here, and sure enough the Carens comes with useful frills like keyless entry and engine starting, a Bluetooth sound system, auto headlights and wipers, and automatic climate control.
If you like the panoramic glass roof you see on our test car, you’ll have to option the $5,000 SX pack. It also comes with snazzy LED tail lamps, 17-inch wheels (instead of the EX versions’ 16-inchers) and, most important of all, six airbags instead of two.
The bigger wheels don’t ruin the ride quality, and if you’re any sort of family man, you’ll consider the extra airbags worth the money.
Besides, why not splurge a little, given the fact that the Carens should be cheap to run? The fuel economy claim is 5.2 litres of diesel per 100km, and you’ll probably end up using something like 6.2 litres in our traffic conditions if you’re careful, but even that is frugal enough to turn make refueling a fortnightly affair in the Kia for most people.
Factor in the cheapness of diesel (it costs 56 percent of what oil companies sell petrol for), and it’s not hard to imagine saving yourself five figures in fuel bills within half a decade.
That leaves more money for diapers and violin lessons and whatever else tends to loosen the parental pursestrings, of course, which is probably what you really want above all in an MPV.
There will be little disguising the secret of the Carens’ frugality, however, because it has a diesel’s voice. Don’t let that put you off, though. It’s actually quite hushed, and is certainly quieter than most small children I know, so if you can put up with them you can tolerate the Kia’s engine noises.
Besides, the extra dash of speed from the diesel engine actually helps to take away some stress from driving. Having kids is frenzied enough, but driving them around doesn’t have to be.
NEED TO KNOW Kia Carens SX Diesel 1.7CRDi
Engine: 1,685cc turbodiesel in-line four
Power: 141bhp at 4000rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 2500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed double-clutch transmission
Top speed: 189km/h (est.)
0-100km/h: 12.0 secs (est.)
Fuel consumption: 5.2L/100km
Price: $113,999 with COE