Kia careful to get it right

By Liz Dobson

Seven-seater great for moving people, just don't call it a people mover

Kia's Carens is a modern station wagon for families who only occasionally need extra space.
Kia's Carens is a modern station wagon for families who only occasionally need extra space.

There's an abbreviation Kiwi car buyers don't like. It's not GST, IRD or even LPG - it's MPV.

Meaning Multi-Purpose Vehicle, MPVs are better known as people movers and although they were a hit in the 1990s, Kiwi buyers have shunned them in recent years.

So when Kia New Zealand launched its seven-seater Carens this week it was careful to avoid the letters MPV or the words "people mover".

Instead, the company is pushing it as a modern station wagon, offering it for families who don't want a lumpy SUV or crossover, and instead require a higher driver's position and room for the occasional couple of kids in the third row.

Kia NZ's general manager, Todd McDonald, also expects owners of five-door hatchbacks to be keen on Carens for the extra room it provides.

Launched in 2007, and priced at $42,000, the first-generation Carens was hit by the global recession and sales fell from 257 a year to being pulled off the market in 2010.

But Kia NZ has decided it's time to reintroduce it after it realised there was a need for a city family car. The latest Carens is not only longer than the older model but, at 2750mm, it is also 50mm greater than the just-released Cerato sedan and the Sorento R full-size SUV.

The 2013 Carens is also higher specced that the previous model, and gains styling and technology from the Cerato - starting at the front with the Kia "tiger nose" grille and the badge on top of the bonnet.

Priced at $37,990 for single model EX, it is available with a 2-litre petrol engine with six-speed automatic transmission and comes with a five-year warranty.

The standard 17-inch alloy wheels can be upgraded to 18in alloys and a manual transmission model or diesel engine can be specially ordered.

But the direct-injected 2-litre GDI CVVT petrol engine offers 122kW of power and 213Nm of torque, so I doubt many new diesel Carens will hit our roads.

With the kerb weight reduced by 55kg through high-tensile steel and the ECO function available, the official fuel economy is 7.9l/100km.

Kia NZ expects the Carens to gain a five-star Ancap safety rating. It has such features as rear parking sensors, three-point seatbelts, reversing camera, seat belt reminders for all seven occupants, plus ABS, ESP and curtain airbags for that third row of seats.

The Carens also offers practical features such as airline-style trays incorporating drinks holders in the front seatbacks for two rear passengers, and the second-row this time - to the letter

seats slide individually - so you provide more or less legroom depending on passengers' needs.

And that sliding ability is needed when the third row of seats is in use. A 1.78m colleague tested the space at the Auckland Carens launch, and although he had a few centimetres above his head, a middle-row seat had to move forward to accommodate his legs.

And with the third row of seats in use, the boot is severely reduced to a one supermarket bag width.

But as Kia's boss McDonald states, the third row is occasional use only - when the kids invite mates over after school or you have extra members of your child's sports team to transport.

Kia NZ is hoping for sales of 250 a year for the second-generation Carens, and already the first two shipments from Korea have sold out.

It's also for sale in Australia but known as the Rondo.

Kia NZ has decided to keep the name Carens as it is already established here.

Though if you were called Karen and owned a Carens things could get confusing or even turn into a comedy routine.

Friend: "Whose car is that?"

Karen's.

"What is it?"

Carens.

"I know that it's Karen's, but what is the model?"

See what I mean?

- NZ Herald

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