Kia reveals the all-new 2013 Carens ahead of Paris Motor Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 19, 2012

Kia will unveil at this year’s Paris Motor Show the all-new Carens compact MPV and announced that the vehicle will hit the market in Spring 2013. According to the official press release, the new Carens is completely new from the ground up and was designed and engineered in order to meet the demand of modern families.

The Korean manufacturer says that the new Carens uses a new platform and delivers stylish, spacious practicality. As expected, the car was built for families who have an active lifestyle and Kia hopes to attract a new segment of customers. For those who don’t know, the Carens will not be the only premiere from the Paris Motor Show as Kia will also bring the all-new pro_cee’d, which was unveiled last week.

Press Release

2013 Kia Carent

The design-led revolution that has completely transformed Kia's image and driven the company towards year after year of record sales comes full circle with the arrival of the all-new, third-generation Kia Carens seven seat MPV.

Under President and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer, Kia has replaced its entire range of cars with new models that appeal for their style and quality as much as for their value and practicality - all in less than half a decade. In the same period important additional niche models like the Soul and Venga have been added.

All versions of the new Kia Carens in the UK have a versatile and spacious seven-seat interior. There are three highly efficient and modern engines, two transmissions and three trim and equipment packages.

Stylishly practical

Kia is not claiming to have re-invented the MPV with the new Carens. But it provides all the room and versatility of its competitors while offering something they all lack: style.

MPVs exist to meet the varied needs of families rather than turn heads. The new Kia Carens has been designed to do both. It exhibits yet another interpretation of the Kia design language masterminded by Schreyer...dynamic, elegant, prestigious, strong and distinctive. In customer clinics conducted in Europe, the new Carens came out ahead of its major European competitors for its all-round appearance.

Like the latest Sportage SUV - another radical departure from the model it replaced, and one that has been at the forefront of Kia's rocketing sales - the new Carens is a car people will want to own rather than one bought out of necessity.

The new Kia Carens is 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 45mm lower than the model it replaces, which means that in size it sits somewhere between the five-seat and seven-seat models from competitors. Yet thanks to a 50mm increase in wheelbase and lower seat positions it more than matches them for space, with abundant head, leg and shoulder room in all three rows of seats, while delivering the additional benefits of increased luggage space and a lower loading lip. The overall height of 1605mm is one of the lowest in class and 5mm lower to that of the Soul.

There are now three individual sliding and reclining centre-row seats in place of a split bench and two separate seats in the rear, all of which fold flat to ensure the ultimate in passenger-to-cargo versatility. A longer, wider and taller luggage area and - for the first time - an under-floor compartment to store the cargo screen adds to the practicality of the new Carens. The front passenger's seat also folds flat to allow exceptionally long loads to be carried.

This has all been achieved within a rakish, sleek and sporty profile typical of the Schreyer-inspired modern Kia look. This is not purely for style. Aerodynamics - and, as a result, fuel efficiency and refinement - also benefit. Three-dimensional side surfaces add to the dynamic appearance of the new Carens. Delta glass features behind the A-pillars and ahead of the C-pillars to ensure maximum side visibility, while on the majority of models a chrome belt line runs along the length of the side windows and rises as it meets the C-pillar, adding an elegant and sporty finishing touch.

Body-coloured or chrome exterior door handles and body-coloured door mirrors (with LED indicators and kerb lights on all but entry-level versions) are other premium touches, and most models have new-style alloy wheels and surface-mounted roof rails.

The front of the new Kia Carens is dominated by the now familiar Schreyer 'tiger-nose' grille with a chrome edge and either black or high-gloss black mesh. The front is sharply contoured and voluminous, differentiating the Carens from the flat, dull appearance of most MPVs. Volume is also a feature of the stylish headlight units that include, as standard, cornering lights and LED daytime running lamps.

At the rear, a wider tailgate and window emphasise the solidity and practicality of the new Carens, with no dilution of the cohesive overall design. Black garnish beneath the rear bumper and a standard rear spoiler with an integral high-level brake light maintain the dynamic appearance of the front and sides. Most versions feature a chrome tailgate finisher.

Quality through and through

The new Kia Carens maintains the leap in quality with every successive new model from Kia, thanks to the classy materials and sophisticated detailing. The wide fascia and crash pad have been split into an upper information area and a lower control area for ease of use, with all switches placed exactly where the driver would expect them to be.

The cabin trim is characterised by minimal panel gaps and soft-to-the-touch surfaces. Each trim grade comes complete with its own unique seat material - black cloth, black woven cloth with keep-clean texture or a choice of two leathers. A leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter with chrome surround are standard, along with faux leather garnish on part or all of the door interiors. The two upper trim grades have black high-gloss panels with a grille pattern in the dash, upper centre console, doors and steering wheel spokes, and all models have metallic finish door handles and chrome accents within the cabin.

The increased space within the cabin and boot is reflected in the improved and more intelligent storage and usability features of the new Carens. The standard cooled glovebox is supplemented by second-row under-floor storage, a centre console box, front and rear door pockets large enough to hold drinks bottles and front seat-back pockets. The front seat backs also have fold-up tables with cupholders in most versions, and there are cupholders in the second and third rows. The middle-row centre seat folds to create a table.

The new-style front seats provide greater support in the shoulder area for taller occupants. Ten-way power adjustment for the driver, and integral heaters in both front seats, are standard with the highest trim grade. The individual second-row seats are lighter for easier adjustment and folding, and all three have built-in three-point seat belts. A tilting and sliding mechanism on the outer two improves access to the rear. Third-row seats are also easier to move as a result of the introduction of rigid but lightweight plastic parts, and redesigned head restraints ensure no obstruction to the driver's rear visibility when the seats are unoccupied.

Efficient and fun to drive

The new Carens is available with a choice of three direct-injection engines - one petrol and two turbodiesels - which share the common characteristics of strong performance, outstanding fuel efficiency and excellent driveability and refinement.

The petrol engine is the 1.6-litre Gamma GDi direct-injection unit that, with 133bhp and 165Nm of torque, ensures relaxed motorway performance and easy-to-drive, flexible responses in stop-start driving. Combined fuel economy is 44.1mpg, with comfortably more than 53mpg possible when cruising, while CO2 emissions are an impressively low 149g/km. But this is not at the expense of brisk performance. The petrol Carens can accelerate from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds and has a top speed of 115mph.

The new Kia Carens is also available with two versions of the European-designed 1.7-litre CRDi manual transmission turbodiesel engine, developing either 114bhp and 260Nm of torque or 134bhp and 330Nm. Those high torque figures are maintained over a wide rev range, giving the Carens supreme driveability even with a full complement of passengers on board. The standard version delivers maximum torque from 1,250 to 2,750rpm and 0-60mph acceleration in 12.6 seconds with a 112mph top speed. The more powerful engine option develops its 330Nm between 2,000 and 2,500rpm, which allows 0-60mph to be completed in 10.0 seconds and a top speed of 119mph.

The 1.7 CRDi version with the automatic transmission delivers 134bhp and 320Nm of torque between 1,750 - 2,500rpm, that allows a 0-60mph to be completed in 11.6 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 46.3mpg and 159g/km.

Both are extremely clean and fuel-efficient. Official combined cycle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 60.1mpg and 124g/km and 56.4mpg and 132g/km respectively, and a diesel particulate filter is fitted as standard.

Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) engine stop-start system is standard on all manual-gearbox models. A new accelerator pedal design makes driving more comfortable with a design that puts less stress on the driver's ankle articulation.

The MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear suspension has been tuned to ensure precise handling and taut body control. This minimises undesirable lateral movement which can make passengers travelling in the middle and rear rows queasy. At the same time the suspension is supple enough to prevent the effects of bumpy and uneven roads from being felt in the cabin.

Kia's Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) now has a quicker ratio for more direct responses and includes as standard the triple-mode Flex Steer function. It allows drivers to select a greater level of assistance (Comfort) to make parking easier, or reduced assistance (Sport) for improved high-speed stability. There is also a default Normal setting.

Great efforts have also been made to ensure the cabin is as quiet as it is comfortable. New measures include increased foam filling and sound-insulating pads in the roof pillars, a vibration-damping sheet on the dash panel and a larger air duct and a new resonator to counter engine booming. There is also a new three-point engine and transmission mounting system and a temperature-insensitive driveshaft damper that improves cold weather noise characteristics with the petrol engine.

New safety features in three highly specified packages

Safety is paramount at Kia, especially in a model designed with family use in mind. With the arrival of the new model, several features previously unavailable in the Carens have been introduced, and as with every Kia, they are standard across the range.

Hill-start Assist Control prevents the car from rolling backwards during uphill starts by maintaining braking pressure until the driver touches the accelerator, while the high-level brake lamp at the rear now includes an Emergency Stop Signal which causes the light to flash during sudden braking to warn following drivers. The new Carens also features Brake Assist to ensure maximum stopping power in an emergency, regardless of the force applied to the pedal by the driver, plus Vehicle Stability Management. This links with the Electronic Stability Control to reduce the amount of steering assistance if the driver over-corrects in an emergency, and increases assistance if the driver under-corrects.

The new Kia Carens has an immensely strong body shell created using the latest computer-aided design techniques. Collision energy is dispersed along deliberate channels to protect occupants in frontal, side or rear impacts. The body features extensive use of high-tensile hot-formed steel in the three frontal collision load paths and the side pillars and sills. Considerable effort has gone into the body framework and joints to improve rigidity. The body features rigid front strut mounts, reinforced vertical and cross members and a ring-shaped structure around the tailgate, that is lighter and more rigid thanks to the use of tailored blanks.

The new Carens is available with three trim and equipment packages, badged '1', '2' and '3'. Standard features include projection headlights with cornering lamps, LED daytime running lamps, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, driver's seat height adjustment and tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, a centre console armrest, air conditioning, rear air ventilation, steering wheel-mounted controls, front and rear power windows, cruise control with a speed limiter, remote central locking, a six-speaker RDS radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming. Trim grades '1' and '2' also have a rear conversation mirror, which is replaced by the controls for the panoramic sunroof on trim grade '3'.

Mid-range '2' models have in addition 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, chrome window trim, fog lights, roof rails, automatic headlight control, rain-sensing front wipers, electrically folding door mirrors with LED indicators and kerbside lamps, dual-zone air conditioning, a luggage net, a portable LED luggage light and reversing sensors.

The top-grade '3' versions are distinguished by 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, 10-way driver's seat adjustment, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, aero blade-type front wipers with a de-icing system, second-row sun blinds and LED reading lights, and a reversing camera integrated into the centre fascia screen.

All versions are protected by a seven-year, 100,000-mile transferable warranty, Kia's industry-leading demonstration of faith in the quality and reliability of its cars. For retail customers, Kia's Care-3 and Care-3 Plus inflation-proof 3- and 5-year servicing packages are available. All work is undertaken by trained technicians using genuine Kia parts and approved oils. The servicing packages are also transferable if the car is sold before they expire.

DESIGN

Mid-sized MPVs exist to meet the varied needs of families rather than turn heads. The new Carens has been designed to do both. It exhibits yet another interpretation of the Kia design language masterminded by President and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer; dynamic, elegant, prestigious, strong and distinctive. In customer clinics conducted in Europe, the new Kia Carens came out ahead of its major European competitors for its all-round appearance.

Like the latest Sportage SUV - another radical departure from the model it replaced, and one that has been at the forefront of Kia's rocketing sales - the new Carens is a car people will want to own rather than one bought out of necessity.

Kia is not claiming to have re-invented the mid-sized MPV with the new Carens. Thoroughly European in its execution, it provides all the functionality of its competitors while offering something they all lack: style.

The front of the new Carens is dominated by the now familiar Schreyer 'tiger-nose' grille with a chrome edge and either black or high-gloss black honeycomb mesh. The front is sharply contoured and voluminous, differentiating the Carens from the flat, dull appearance of most MPVs. The emphasis on volume lends the Kia Carens a dynamic and sporty appearance through its sharp contours and is also a feature of the stylish headlight units that include, as standard, cornering lights and LED daytime running lamps. All versions have projection headlights with 'welcome' and 'follow-me-home' functionality, and grades '2' and '3' also have automatic headlight control.

The upper two grades also have vertically positioned fog lamps set into a black housing which is connected to the lower air intake. The bumpers of all three trim grades are in body colour. The front wipers have a butterfly action so that they clear the edges of the screen on both sides. On grades '2' and '3' the wipers are rain-sensing, while on grade '3' they are aero blade-type and incorporate a de-icer.

The sporty appearance of the new Carens is even more evident from the sides, where the sleek profile is typical of the Schreyer-inspired modern Kia look. This is not purely for style. Aerodynamics - and, as a result, fuel efficiency and refinement - also benefit. Three-dimensional side surfaces, with concave sections starting on the lower edge of the front doors and gently rising to the trailing edge of the rear doors, add to the dynamic appearance of the new Carens. The more forward starting point of the cowl adds to the rakish looks of the new Carens and also aids aero dynamics.

Delta glass features behind the A-pillars and ahead of the C-pillars to ensure maximum side visibility, while on the majority of models a chrome belt line runs along the length of the side windows and rises as it meets the C-pillar, adding an elegant and sporty finishing touch.

There are body-coloured door handles on grade '1' models and chrome door handles on the upper two grades. All versions have body-coloured electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors with LED indicators and kerbside lights and an electric folding mechanism on all but entry-level versions. Grades '2' and '3' have new-style alloy wheels of 16- or 17-inches in diameter and surface-mounted roof rails.

The rear of the new Carens is sculpturally connected to the sides and lends the car a stable appearance while emphasising its practicality. A spoiler on the top edge of the tailgate, containing the LED high-level brake light with Emergency Stop Signalling on all models, is a neat, sporty flourish as well as an aerodynamic aid. The new Kia Carens has a wider tailgate and window, with a hidden frame design for the glass, for added practicality. Split, horizontal rear combination lights make loading easier. Black garnish with red reflectors beneath the rear bumper underlines the practicality of the new Carens by visually stretching its width, and is another sporty embellishment. Grades '2' and '3' feature a chrome tailgate garnish and all models have a rear wiper arm mounted on the tailgate glass.

Inside information

The new Carens is 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 45mm lower than the model it replaces, which means that in size it sits somewhere between the five-seat and seven-seat models from competitors. Yet thanks to a 50mm increase in wheelbase and lower seat positions it more than matches them for space, with abundant head, leg and shoulder room in all three rows of seats, while delivering the additional benefits of increased luggage space and a lower loading lip.

There are now three individual sliding and reclining centre-row seats in place of the 60:40 bench of the previous Carens, and two separate seats in the rear, all of which fold flat to ensure the ultimate in passenger-to-cargo versatility. A longer, wider and taller luggage area and - for the first time - an under-floor compartment to store the cargo screen adds to the practicality of the new Carens. The front passenger's seat also folds in half to allow exceptionally long loads to be carried. The new Kia Carens offers 71 litres more luggage space (492 litres) than the previous model to the back of the second-row seats and has a 15mm lower loading lip. It can accommodate 1,650 litres of luggage with the second- and third-row seats flat.

The emphasis on volume in the exterior design is continued in the cabin, where the horizontal layout and clean, simple lines accentuate the feeling of space. At the same time sophisticated details, luxurious materials and meticulous attention to fit and finish maintain the leap in quality that accompanies every successive new model from Kia.

The wide fascia and crash pad have been split into an upper information area and a lower control area for ease of use, with all switches placed exactly where the driver would expect them to be.

The increased space within the cabin and boot is reflected in the improved and more intelligent storage and usability features of the new Carens. The standard cooled glovebox is supplemented by a second row under-floor storage, a centre console box, front and rear door pockets large enough to hold drinks bottles and front seat-back pockets. The front seat backs also have fold-up tables with cupholders in most versions, and there are cupholders in the second and third rows. The middle-row centre seat folds to create a table. There is also storage space at either side of the third-row seats.

The new-style front seats provide greater support in the shoulder area for taller occupants. Ten-way power adjustment for the driver, and integral heaters in both front seats, are standard with the highest trim grade. The individual second-row seats are lighter for easier adjustment and folding, and all three now have built-in three-point seat belts. A tilting and sliding mechanism on the outer two improves access to the rear. Third-row seats are also easier to move as a result of the introduction of rigid but lightweight plastic parts, and redesigned lifting head restraints ensure no obstruction to the driver's rear visibility when the seats are unoccupied.

Each trim grade comes complete with its own unique seat material - black cloth for grade '1', black woven cloth with keep-clean texture for grade '2' or a choice of two leathers for the top grade. A leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter with chromed surround are standard, along with faux leather garnish on the centre trim and armrest. The two upper trim grades have high-gloss panels with a grille pattern on the dash, upper centre console, doors and steering wheel spokes, and all models have metallic finish door handles and chrome accents on the steering wheel ring, power window switches, air vent bezels, cluster ring and the various instruments rings around the cabin.

Tilt and telescopic adjustment of the steering column is a standard feature, and the steering wheel is heated on the grade '3' model. The audio, Bluetooth, Flex Steer and cruise control and speed limiter buttons are integrated neatly into the steering wheel spokes to minimise the time the driver's hands have to leave the wheel. Newly designed multi-function stalks offer improved functionality while blending more harmoniously with the steering column shroud.

RANGE

The new Carens is available in the UK with three trim and equipment packages, badged '1', '2' and '3'. As is customary from Kia, all versions are extremely well equipped so that customers do not have to buy expensive options or packages.

Standard features include projection headlights with cornering lamps, LED daytime running lights, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, driver's seat height adjustment and tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment with a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift.

The cabin is air conditioned and has rear air ventilation and there is a centre console armrest, steering wheel-mounted controls, front and rear power windows, cruise control with a speed limiter, remote central locking, a six-speaker RDS radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming.

Trim grades '1' and '2' also have a rear conversation mirror, that is replaced by the controls for the panoramic sunroof on trim grade '3'.

Grade '2' models have in addition 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, chrome window trim, fog lights, roof rails, automatic headlight control, rain-sensing front wipers, electrically folding door mirrors with LED indicators with kerbside lamps, dual-zone air conditioning and an automatic defog system and reversing sensors.

The top-grade versions are distinguished by 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, aero blade-type front wipers with a de-icing system, leather upholstery, 10-way driver's seat adjustment, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, second-row sun-blinds and LED reading lights and a reversing camera integrated into the centre fascia screen.

THE TECHNICAL STORY

The new Carens is available with a choice of three direct-injection engines - one petrol and two turbodiesels - which share the common characteristics of strong performance, outstanding fuel efficiency and excellent driveability and refinement. A six-speed gearbox is standard, including the automatic option with the more powerful diesel engine.

The MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear suspension has been tuned to ensure precise handling and taut body control. This minimises undesirable lateral movement that can make passengers travelling in the middle and rear rows queasy. At the same time the suspension is supple enough to prevent the effects of bumpy and uneven roads from being felt in the cabin.

Kia's Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) now has a quicker ratio for more direct responses and includes as standard the triple-mode Flex Steer function. This allows drivers to select whatever level of assistance they prefer. A full range of electronic aids is also standard to assist the driver and ensure the Carens provides best-in-class active safety.

Great efforts have also been made to ensure the cabin is as quiet as it is comfortable, with a package of measures to counter noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The result of all this is that the new Carens is economical and fun to drive - with a hint of sportiness that matches its dynamic new design - and comfortable, quiet and safe to travel in.

Engines and transmissions

The petrol engine in the new Carens is Kia's 1.6-litre Gamma GDi unit. The new Carens is also available with two versions of the European-designed 1.7-litre CRDi U2 turbodiesel engine. A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted to all three power units, while the more powerful of the two diesels is optionally available with a six-speed automatic transmission on the '2' grade.

The Gamma petrol engine develops 133bhp at 6,300rpm and 165Nm of torque at 4,850rpm - sufficient to ensure relaxed motorway performance and easy-to-drive, flexible responses in stop-start driving. It is an all-aluminium 1,591cc unit with four valves per cylinder operated by twin overhead camshafts. Continuously variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust sides ensures high torque across the rev range for good driveability and excellent power for motorway driving.

With a compression ratio of 11.0:1, electronic throttle control and piston crowns which are shaped so that the directly injected fuel converges around the spark plugs, it delivers outstanding performance, fuel economy and emissions control. Fuel is delivered at a pressure of up to 150 bar through six-hole injectors in a fuel rail fixed directly to the cylinder head at four points. A high-pressure sensor controls the fuel-flow rate and feedback through pressure changes in the fuel rail. The Gamma engine features an offset crankshaft to optimise fuel economy by reducing friction losses and improving the speed reduction of the pistons around the expansion stroke.

Combined fuel economy is 44.1mpg, with comfortably more than 50mpg possible when cruising, while CO2 emissions are an impressively low 149g/km. But this is not at the expense of brisk performance. The petrol Kia Carens can accelerate from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds and has a top speed of 115mph.

The 1.7-litre U2 turbodiesel engine was engineered and designed at Kia's research and development facility at Rüsselsheim in Germany. In standard form it develops 114bhp at 4,000rpm and 260Nm of torque from 1,250 to 2,750rpm. The higher-power version increases this to 134bhp, still at 4,000rpm, and 330Nm for manual and 320Nm for automatic of torque between 2,000 and 2,500rpm, and 1,750 - 2,500 for automatic.

The U2 engine delivers excellent driveability. Similar in construction to Kia's European-designed and built 1.6-litre CRDi engine, but with 77.2mm cylinder bores and a 90mm piston stroke to give a cubic capacity of 1,685cc, it has been designed with the needs of European motorists in mind.

The U2 CRDi turbodiesel engine is a 16-valve double overhead camshaft unit with a cast-iron block and bedplate and an aluminium oil pan. It features high-pressure common-rail fuel injection for maximum efficiency and a variable geometry turbocharger which adjusts the flow of exhaust gases by altering the angle of the turbo vanes according to engine requirements to raise performance while reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Measures to enhance efficiency include an overrun alternator decoupler and an innovative battery management system. Variable swirl control increases swirl at low-to-mid loads to reduce emissions and decreases it at high loads to maximise power. A plastic oil filter, intake manifold and head cover have reduced its weight, while an isolation damper pulley on the high-performance version has enhanced NVH.

The standard version of the U2 engine allows 0-60mph acceleration in 12.6 seconds with a 112mph top speed. The more powerful option raises the top speed to 119mph, with 0-60mph acceleration possible in 10.0 seconds on the manual transmission version. Both versions are extremely clean and fuel efficient. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 60.1mpg and 124g/km and 56.4mpg and 132g/km respectively on the manual transmission version, and a diesel particulate filter is fitted as standard.

The efficiency of all manual versions of the Carens is increased by Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) stop/start system. This switches off the engine when the car comes to rest and the driver puts the gear-lever into neutral and releases the clutch. As a result no fuel is used and no emissions are created when the car is stationary in traffic. The engine restarts as soon as the driver presses the clutch pedal. A new accelerator pedal design makes driving more comfortable with a design that puts less stress on the driver's ankle articulation.

ISG consists of crankshaft position, battery and vacuum sensors plus neutral, on-off and clutch switches that feed into an electronic control unit. This operates the ISG starter, intelligent alternator and cluster. The air conditioning units and bonnet switch also feed into the ISG ECU.

The crankshaft position sensor measures the crank angle during engine run-out and monitors it while the vehicle is stopped, ensuring the starter is activated for as short a time as possible by optimising cranking and combustion. The battery sensor monitors the battery condition and temperature, while the clutch and neutral switches recognise when the driver wishes to continue driving and ensures the engine is started. There is a brake booster pressure sensor to make sure the engine continues to operate if brake boost falls too low.

A new heavy-duty maintenance-free AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) battery delivers the power necessary to run the system, and intelligent alternator management reduces drain on the battery while accelerating and recharges the battery when coasting and braking.

The six-speed manual transmission is completely new and offers enhanced shifting performance and durability while contributing towards fuel efficiency. Its smooth shifting action is assisted by triple-cone synchronisers and fabric-carbon synchroniser rings which maximise the friction area. It requires shorter movements to change gear and has a trigger-type release button for selecting reverse gear. A modular shift control mechanism reduces the number of parts to save weight, improves quality and delivers greater precision by reducing the cumulative tolerance of the parts assembly.

The automatic gearbox which is optionally available on grade '2' is one of the few in-house six-speed automatic transmissions in the global auto industry. It incorporates a unique 'flat' torque converter, which is one reason why it is so compact, and features three planetary gearsets and four pinion differentials. The design of the hydraulic pressure control unit allows the transmission's eight solenoid valves to be individually calibrated at the assembly plant to ensure ultra-fast, smooth and precise gearshifts throughout the engine speed range.

A new, smarter-looking and more space-efficient straight shifter offers the driver a choice of two operating modes - fully automatic for town driving, and sport for a more involving driving style. In this mode, the driver can perform sequential manual changes up or down. The automatic version of the Carens features an active ECO switch that, when activated, causes the transmission to upshift as early as possible and promotes a more economical driving style by delivering a softer accelerator response.

Suspension, steering, brakes and electronic driver aids

Like its predecessor, the new Carens relies on a tried-and-trusted suspension arrangement of MacPherson struts at the front with a torsion beam at the rear. It is a set-up that promotes stable and nimble handling with a pliant and comfortable ride and low noise transfer into the cabin while taking up the minimum of space - an essential condition to meet Kia's requirements of flat-folding second- and third-row seats with the maximum possible luggage capacity.

However, there have been considerable improvements over the previous system that enhances the car's dynamic qualities, comfort and refinement. A larger castor angle and decreased castor trail at the front improve straight-line stability. Body movement under braking has been reduced by an increase in the king-pin offset. This is further assisted by the steering gear being moved forwards as a result of a decrease in the angle of the tie-rod linkage, which has the additional beneficial effect of improving steering response.

At the rear, more upright rear dampers improve steering stability, and a number of measures have been taken to enhance the ride quality. The trailing arm bushes are more rigid, there are insulated mountings in the upper structure of the damper mountings and the rigidity of the bump stops has been decreased.

Kia's Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) is again employed, but has a quicker ratio (now 14.6:1) for more direct responses. It includes as standard the triple-mode Flex Steer function. This allows drivers to select a greater level of assistance (Comfort) to make parking easier, or reduced assistance (Sport) for improved high-speed stability. There is also a default Normal setting. Flex Steer has a memory function so that, for instance, if the car is parked using the Comfort setting the same degree of assistance will be maintained upon restart. The Kia Carens requires just 2.7 turns from lock-to-lock for a turning circle of 11 metres.

The Carens has ventilated front disc brakes 300mm x 28mm at the front and solid rear discs of 284mm x 10mm. Anti-lock (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BAS) is standard on all models. Together, these measures ensure that the car stops in the shortest possible distance. BAS applies maximum braking in an emergency regardless of the force applied to the pedal by the driver.

Hill-start Assist Control prevents the car from rolling backwards during uphill starts by maintaining braking pressure until the driver touches the accelerator, while the high-level brake lamp at the rear now includes an Emergency Stop Signal which causes the light to flash during sudden braking to warn following drivers. The new Carens also features Electronic Stability Control (ESC) plus Vehicle Stability Management (VSM). ESC detects a possible loss of control on slippery surfaces or through over-exuberant driving and stabilises the car by braking one or more wheels, reducing engine torque or both. VSM links with ESC to reduce the amount of steering assistance if the driver over-corrects in an emergency, and increases assistance if the driver under-corrects.

Counter-measures against NVH

The new Carens is an extremely refined car, not only in comparison to the previous model but also when measured against class competitors, thanks to extensive work to counter noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). To isolate road noise, dual foam filler pads have been applied to the lower areas of the A- and B-pillars and expansion foam has been applied in six critical areas.

To reduce rumble and high-frequency noise, a vibration-damping sheet is fixed to the dash panel, while a larger air duct and new resonator counter engine booming. There is also a new three-point engine and transmission mounting system and a temperature-insensitive damper which improves cold weather noise characteristics with the petrol engine.

The drag co-efficient, or Cd, of the new Kia Carens is 0.30, which matches or betters that of its main rivals. A low Cd figure not only benefits fuel consumption and emissions by reducing aerodynamic drag at speed: it also aids refinement by minimising wind turbulence. A rear spoiler is standard on all models and there are under-body covers around the front wheels and the engine, the centre floor, the rear wheels and the rear sides. Even the edges of the rear lamp clusters have been shaped to smooth airflow around the car.

SAFETY

Safety is paramount at Kia, especially in a model designed with family use in mind. So, in addition to the electronic driver aids - ABS, EBD, BAS, ESC, VSM and HAC - designed to raise active safety thresholds and make accidents avoidable, the new Carens is fully equipped with passive safety features to protect if a collision is unavoidable, all features are standard in every model, in keeping with Kia's policy of taking a democratic approach to safety.

Passive safety begins with the strength of the body shell, and the new Carens has an immensely strong structure created using the latest computer-aided design techniques. There is 150kg of hot-stamped high-tensile steel on the centre pillar outer lateral structures, another 100kg on the centre pillars themselves and a further 120kg on the side sill reinforcements. In total, almost 36 per cent of the body is made of high-tensile steel that is more than three times the amount in the previous model.

Static torsional stiffness has been improved by 64 per cent and dynamic torsional stiffness by 31 per cent compared with the previous model. Large diameter welding is applied to the front side members for enhanced collision performance and the stiffness of the body - and its NVH characteristics - benefit from almost 41 metres of automotive structural adhesives. In the previous Carens there was none.

Collision energy is dispersed along deliberate channels to protect occupants in frontal, side or rear impacts. The body features extensive use of high-tensile hot-formed steel in the three frontal collision load paths. Considerable effort has gone into the body framework and joints to improve rigidity. The body features rigid front strut mounts, reinforced vertical and cross members and a ring-shaped structure around the tailgate, which is lighter and more rigid thanks to the use of tailored blanks. This allows the tailgate to be lighter but stronger.

Should the worst happen, every passenger has a three-point seat belt and there are twin front, front-side and curtain airbags. A seat-belt reminder alerts the driver if a passenger in the second or third rows fails to buckle up, or unfastens the belt during a journey. There are anti-whiplash front seats which automatically partially recline the backrests if a bumper-mounted rear collision sensor detects the possibility of the Kia Carens being hit from behind. ISOFIX child-seat mounting points are fitted to the second-row seats and the front passenger's seat, which has an airbag deactivation switch.

RUNNING COSTS

The new Carens has been engineered, designed and equipped to minimise ownership costs. From the highly efficient powertrains on offer in the UK to the fully specified trim and equipment packages and the improved safety of the new car, the Carens is an MPV that will appeal to smart families.

This introduction of new petrol and diesel engines - all now with six-speed gearboxes and EcoDynamics fuel-saving measures available like ISG and active ECO - means that every model is extremely economical. The entry-level diesel engine has combined fuel economy of more than 60mpg - and nearly 70mpg when cruising. With reduced CO2 emissions the Carens is also less expensive when it comes to Vehicle Excise Duty or Benefit-in-Kind taxation.

An extensive list of standard equipment for all three trim options frees owners from having to add expensive extras or packages to bring the car up to an acceptable specification, which is why Kia does not even offer an options list. And the structural strength of the new Kia Carens combined with its extensive list of standard electronic driver aids pays off when it comes to insurance.

Servicing

Routine servicing is needed only once a year or every 20,000 miles for both petrol and diesel versions.

Care-3 and Care-3 Plus - Kia's service packages for retail customers - are available and offer fixed-cost and inflation-proof servicing for the first three or five years. All work is carried out by trained technicians using genuine Kia replacement parts and specified oils.

Both packages cover the car, not the owner, so are transferable should the vehicle be sold. If a vehicle with a Care-3 package is sold on then the next owner may upgrade to the five-year service package. The cost of the first MoT test fee can also be included.

MANUFACTURING AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The new Kia Carens is built at the Hwasung plant in Asan Bay. Hwasung is also Kia's major petrol and diesel engine production plant.

It is Kia's largest factory, with a capacity of 600,000 cars a year - double the maximum volume from the Žilina plant in Slovakia, for example. It was opened and began producing cars in July 1989, and officially launched in 1990. Within the Hwasung complex is a 425-acre proving ground with 16 driving courses. An employee sports centre gives the 15,000 workers and their families' access to gymnasiums, swimming pools, squash courts, weight-training and community facilities.

The facility has undergone major changes aimed at improving the quality of production processes and the cars leaving the factory gates, something which has been recognised by the American publication, Consumer Reports.

Constant efforts are also being made to minimise the plant's effect on the environment. There have been major initiatives to increase recycling, reduce the amount of pollutants and waste in the production process, lower greenhouse gas emissions and cut air pollution through more eco- friendly production systems. Energy-saving measures have also been introduced and Hwasung now sends no scrap to landfill.

Improved painting facilities have been installed, and every aspect of vehicle production has been under scrutiny to ensure the plant uses less energy and produces less waste. Water and power consumption, dust and CO2 emissions per vehicle produced and contaminants and waste volumes have all been reduced.

Kia has made reducing the amount of raw materials being fed into the production process a major priority in every one of its factories around the globe. The last few years have seen significant progress in reducing waste, increasing recycling and developing cleaner production processes.

The overall waste generated by Hwasung is under constant review and a number of programmes have seen dramatic improvements. Recycling waste is now well in excess of 95%. Exhaust pollutants from Hwasung have also decreased dramatically - dust, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide output have all been reduced significantly.

New technology is playing a significant part in environmental improvement. Typical cast melting furnaces produce large amounts of dust and contained within this is a high proportion of zinc. The captured dust is treated and the zinc extracted before being re-used within the production process.

Another simple energy-saving process has been implemented within Hwasung's huge and complex air conditioning systems. A fixed amount of heat was supplied, regardless of the outside temperature, to some areas of the plant. Using smart control units, the fans now only supply heat where and when needed.

More technology is being employed in the machining shops where gearboxes are produced. Compressed air is used as a coolant when machining intricate gearbox internals, rather than cutting oil. This and the associated oil mist are problem pollutants and the new scheme is reducing oil use to less than half of one per cent.

The green landscape around each facility is an important part of its make-up. One on-going programme is based on a number of 'ecology gardens' which are filled with trees and plants which are resistant and also sensitive to environmental changes in air pollution. The Hwasung plant has more than 3,251,923 square metres of green areas and 228,752 trees. This makes for a more comfortable environment for the staff and local population and offsets some of the CO2 output from the facility. These 'ecology gardens' are continually monitored since they act as real-world indicators of air quality.

Each site is broadening its green 'patches' and constantly monitors air pollution in neighbouring communities. A monthly task for each facility is the 'One Stream Clean-up' programme where Kia cleans and maintains local, natural streams. This is not only to monitor cleanliness but also to keep them maintained for the local communities to enjoy.

The overall effect of the many 'green' initiatives has resulted in Hwasung being officially recognised as an eco-friendly worksite by the Korean Ministry of the Environment.

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