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New wheels for the Family Man

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Dec 17, 2021
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Kia Carens to focus on comfort, safety and practicality to woo the extended Indian nuclear family

Multi-Purpose Vehicles get a bad rap in the Indian market. Of course, there are exceptions; usually ones that customers decided are acceptable. But, the 3-row SUV (sports utility vehicle) segment is growing and looks set to continue the good run it has had over the last few years. The SUV body style’s appeal and the Indian nuclear family’s continued preference to travel together means that the 3-row version is going to find more takers. The extra space in the boot, the two additional seats at the rear and the comfort of a long wheelbase SUV are big reasons why there’ll be converts who may have otherwise considered a 5-seater.

Into that fast growing space comes the Kia Carens - the Korean brand’s own version of a 3-row SUV. Unlike some of the competitors, Kia is choosing to call the Carens a Recreational Vehicle or RV. And like it did with the Seltos, the company believes that the Carens too will expand the market with its design and build quality as its USPs. Of course, uniquely for a family-focused vehicle, Kia has also chosen to introduce the Carens will safety as an additional focus; offering six airbags as part of standard fitment across all variants.

 

Design

The Carens is a fairly large vehicle and is said to have the longest wheelbase in its class and will be offered in six and seven seat configurations. Kia hasn’t officially revealed the dimensions of the new vehicle, but at 2,780mm the wheelbase is longer than that of the Hyundai Alcazar and the Toyota Innova too. There are a number of design elements that remind me of the similar bits seen in the Seltos and the Sonet. The kinks in the headlamps, the connected tail-lamps, and even the surfacing and creases on the body of the Carens are familiar. The DRL in the headlamps is designed based on Kia’s new signature lighting concept – ‘The Star Map’.

 

The horizontal chrome strip in the upper grille runs across the front fascia and the frame-type chrome garnish in the lower bumper creates a tiger face, though the famous Tiger nose grille is gone. The high frontend with a pushed back A-pillar, and a straight roofline with high ground clearance gives it a SUV-like side profile. At the rear, the connected tail-lamps with an intricate LED combination and the sporty, aggressive chrome garnish on the fender stand out. More SUV stance comes from the contrast black side cladding that nicely highlights the wheel arches.

At the official unveiling earlier this week, the Carens’ doors were locked and so the cabin was inaccessible. But company officials reeled off a long list of features that the vehicle will be offered with. A number of these are said to have been incorporated based on customer feedback.

Cabin

The dashboard has a wide high-gloss black panel, while the door trims look both stylish and designed for offering lots of storage space. Said to have been inspired by airplane seats, all three-seat rows in the Carens are meant to combine comfort with aesthetics by matching materials, patterns and colours. The top trim is likely to be offered with ventilated front seats. The trim strategy for the Carens is yet to be confirmed. The second-row is also packed with functionality, featuring retractable seat-back tables with an integrated cup-holder and space to put gadgets like tablets. While I didn’t have access to the cabin, Kia officials say that a large cabin space offers generous third-row legroom that is made possible by the best-in-class wheelbase of the car. The Carens also gets a one-touch electric tumble and fold for the second-row, to allow for easy ingress and egress for third row occupants.

The second row also features recline and slide functions. Kia officials also claim that the vehicle offers generous third-row legroom. Many features will be variant dependent, but a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a 8-speaker BOSE music system and an air purifier are all part of the package. Other cabin features include sunroof, ambient lighting, sliding-type under-seat tray, retractable cup holder and sliding coin tray, and a dedicated air freshener mounting system, steering paddle shifters (maybe for DCT variant), flush with roof second and third row aircon vents, wireless charger with cooling function etc.

 

Powertrains

The Carens will be offered with the same petrol and Diesel engine powertrains as is offered with the Seltos. They include the 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol and the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines. While the former will be offered with a 6-speed manual, the latter will be offered with both the manual and the 7-speed DCT (dual-clutch) transmissions.

Kia is still holding on to diesel and the engine option is the 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo diesel that will be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. Output levels for these engines are likely to either match that of the Seltos or may be slightly tweaked to handle the increase in gross vehicle weight of the Carens.

The focus on active safety is extensive and some of the other standard safety features include electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, hill-assist control, downhill brake control, brake assist, Highline TPMS and disc brakes for all wheels.

Pricing and launch

The new Kia Carens is likely to be launched by February or March next year. The vehicle is likely to compete with a range of 3-row SUVs and MPVs across a fairly wide price spectrum. I expect the Carens to be priced in the ₹11 lakh to ₹20 lakh range. It could be one of the most interesting launches of 2022.

Published on December 18, 2021

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