This 2013 Kia Carens is a much more desirable proposition than its predecessor, which was the last of the 'functional' old-school Kias.
Based on the Ceed hatchback, it has the company's latest family look, including its distinctive 'tiger nose' front grille.
Although a five-seat version will be offered in some markets, only the seven-seater is available in the UK.
Prices are competitive, starting at £17,895 for the 133bhp 1.6 GDi in the entry-level, but well-equipped '1' trim, and rising to £23,895 for the range-topping 134bhp 1.7 CRDi in top-spec '3' trim.
What's the 2013 Kia Carens like inside?
Like most of its key rivals, the new Carens has three full-size middle-row seats that can be slid and reclined independently.
Third-row space is also competitive, which means children and smaller adults will fit – as long as they can persuade those in front to give up a little legroom.
However, getting to the third row isn't as easy as it is in a Peugeot 5008, because the middle-row seats don't slide as far out of the way and there's no memory function to make them return to their previous position.
All five rear seats can be folded to leave a long, flat load area. What's more, the new Carens has lots of handy cubbyholes, including one beneath the boot floor where you can store the luggage cover when it's not needed.
The dashboard in the new Carens is smartly styled and easy enough to use, while visibility is better than it is in many of its rivals, thanks to large windows all round.
Entry-level '1' models come with air-conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth and a USB socket.
Step up to '2' trim and you'll also get alloys, climate control and automatic lights and wipers, while range-topping '3' cars add a colour touch-screen, a reversing camera and a panoramic glass roof.
What's the 2013 Kia Carens like to drive?
Kia has put comfort before agility, which is no bad thing in an MPV. The ride is more supple and forgiving than a Peugeot 5008's, for example, with the soft suspension soaking up big bumps well.
Things can become a bit unsettled at low speeds on patchy surfaces, but the Carens is remarkably composed on the motorway.
The flipside of this is that the Carens rolls far more than the Peugeot through bends, and the front of the car runs out of grip quite easily.
The fact that the Carens is quite slow to respond to steering inputs also counts against it on twisty routes, while the steering itself has an artificial feel – no matter which of its three settings you choose.
There are three engines to choose from: a 1.6-litre petrol, plus 114bhp and 134bhp versions of a 1.7 diesel.
The 133bhp petrol engine is smooth enough, but feels gutless at low revs. On top of this, its average economy of 44.1mpg will push most buyers towards the diesels.
With its 134bhp, the more potent diesel has no trouble hauling even a heavily loaded Carens, although you do have to keep the revs above about 1600rpm. This engine averages 56.4mpg.
The lower-powered 114bhp diesel isn't quite as quick, but is actually more flexible; picking up speed swiftly from low revs and delivering its power smoothly as the revs build.
All Carens come with a decidedly notchy six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the 134bhp diesel can be mated to an optional six-speed automatic transmission.
Road noise is well suppressed, although there is a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors.
Should I buy one?
The Carens has a lot going for it. It's smart, well-equipped and comes with the reassurance of a seven-year warranty. True, it's pretty ordinary to drive, but then so are most of its rivals, and the Kia compensates with a comfortable ride.
In most trim options it's well priced, too, undercutting its key rivals from Peugeot and Toyota. We'd go for the 114bhp 1.7 diesel; it's the most economical engine and still offers reasonable performance. Choose entry-level '1' trim and you'll pay just £19,295.
The 134bhp diesel makes less sense unless you want an auto gearbox - it's available only in range-topping '3' trim and costs a hefty £23,895. There are better MPVs to choose from at this price, including the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer.
What Car? says...
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