Review: KIA Carens (2003 – 2006)


Tidy-looking Scenic rival at keen prices. Practical design details. The promise of trouble-free ownership.

Unsatisfying gearshift on manual versions and gearboxes don't last. Doesn't quite look right.

Recently Added To This Review

10 November 2003

On 2,558 cars ABS programming error may cause reduced braking force at speeds below 40kph. Reprogramme ABS, ECM and RDM data. Read more

22 April 2003

Very nicely re-skinned Scenic size MPV with unique features such as huge and well desighend rear under-load tray and the option of a diesel automatic. Petrol Prices from £9,995; diesels from £10,895... Read more

KIA Carens (2003 – 2006): At A Glance

If style, image and status are important to you, then what follow are wasted words. The Kia Carens just isn't your kind of car.

On the other hand, if you want a strong, practical, economical, decent to drive, comfortable, safe and sensibly priced MPV, then it is. Strangely enough, it even photographs better than I thought it would and looks quite posh in metallic dark green.

What Kia has done is completely overhaul the old and awkward looking Carens, keeping all the best bits and overhauling nearly all the bad bits. It's much more than merely a re-skin, and now boasts important features such as a diesel engine option, petrol or diesel automatic options, optional satnav, five three-point seatbelts, and a hugely useful selection of separate storage places under the rear luggage area floor.

What does a KIA Carens (2003 – 2006) cost?

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KIA Carens (2003 – 2006): What's It Like Inside?

A £1,000 option on the new Carens is what at first seems a very basic type of Satellite Navigation built in to the DIN-fit radio. It's a bit awkward to operate at first and the sound level is too low but, remarkably, it pinpointed a traffic jam in Holland and very neatly guided us round it, saving an hour of travel time.

Inside, you don't get ‘aircraft style' tea trays on the backs of the front seats, or little cubbies under the rear passenger footwells. But you do get an enormous ‘wet tray' under the load area floor and also side cubbies, so the entire area can be used to keep the luggage deck free of tools and clutter.

Child seats that fit a KIA Carens (2003 – 2006)

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What's the KIA Carens (2003 – 2006) like to drive?

For this test I drove the manual diesel: about 400 miles in a day. On start-up it seems quite rough and gruff, but it's a modern 2.0 litre common-rail injected motor, with 111bhp and 181 lb ft torque. Not outstanding figures, but more than enough. The driving position is good, with heigh-adjustable wheel and a seat squab which can be adjusted both for height and for pitch so you can make sure your thighs are properly supported.

The gearshift is reasonably precise, a far cry from the usual pudding stirrer. The steering is quite well-weighted and gives plenty of feel of front wheel grip. For an MPV, handling is much better than average; even close to the top of the list. But its once you start cruising that the Carens II diesel comes into its own. The engine note subsides to a distant ‘thrum' and, at 30mph for every 1,000rpm, you shift along quietly and rapidly. Wind noise is surprisingly low. Tyre roar subdued. And stability is excellent, even in the wet and stormy conditions we encountered on part of our journey.

There really isn't much wrong with the Carens. The aerodynamics seem to send rainwater up the screen chasing the wipers. The rear wash/wipe is controlled by a separate dashboard switch, which is probably a hangover from it being an optional extra in South Korea. And the South Koreans persist in siting the main wiper stalk on the left of the wheel with the indicator stalk on the right. Nothing you can't get used to, though. Especially if the Carens is your only car.

What have we been asked about the KIA Carens (2003 – 2006)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

KIA Carens starting problem

My KIA Carens has been difficult to start. It usually takes at least 10 seconds when cold and around eight seconds when hot. Had a new battery and fuel filter fitted, but the problem persists. Any idea what the fault could be?
The most likely reason is an airleak into the fuel system.
Answered by Honest John
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