Kia Carens 1.7 CRDi 2
Week ending February 21
Driven this week 42 miles
My time with the Carens has come to an end, although it’ll still be on our fleet. I'll now be running a Honda Civic Tourer, so it'll be interesting to see how a compact estate car compares with our Kia MPV when it comes to life with two young children.
I've enjoyed the Carens: it hasn't been perfect, but it's been easy to drive and live with, which counts for a lot if you're a busy parent. In particular, the big, tall boot has been fantastic. I haven't had to think twice about what it could swallow, and the Carens' height combined with a flat boot lip has made it easy to put in heavy items without straining my back. The height of the rear seats has been great, too – I haven't had to bend over to stuff my recalcitrant toddler into his seat.
It's good to see a number of several family-orientated features in the Carens, but some of them would be more useful if they were better quality: take the underfloor storage lids that aren't attached to the floor, and the child-view mirror that makes your kids look half a mile away.
The extra pair of seats under the boot floor got only a couple of outings, but they were surprisingly comfortable for adults on short trips. I'll cope without the extra seats in the Honda, but will it cope what we've got to throw at it? Look out for my first impressions online next week.
By Alex Newby
Week ending February 14
Driven this week 52 miles
Steering wheel controls for a car's systems can be a great idea, because in theory you don't have to take your eyes off the road for more than half a second to use them.
However, not every car does this with the same level of success. One car I drove recently had small, squishy buttons that were an effort to push at any speed. But the Carens has no such issues.
Its steering wheel buttons all feel satisfying to use, subtly clicking down and springing back up. What’s more, the volume and cruise control switches are firm rockers that feel totally different from the adjacent switches, so you never need to look down to find them.
Additional buttons are attached to the wheel hub instead of its arms, so neither area has to get too cluttered. Of course, there are plenty of cars that do a great job with their steering wheel controls, but the Carens should definitely be counted among them.
By Alex Newby
Week ending February 7
Driven this week 106 miles
It may not sound very significant, but the dedicated storage area for the Carens' boot cover – which is under the front of the boot floor – is another feature that makes this MPV genuinely versatile.
If you change your needs while you're out and about – from seven-seats to a big load space – you can use or stow the boot cover as required. None of this business of putting the boot cover in the hallway or the living room until you get home again (where I’ll inevitably have had to park miles away from the front door).
What's more, even with the boot cover stowed away, there's still space beneath this for a few bags, bits and valuables – so you can have your cake and eat it. Marvellous.
By Alex Newby