1 Jul 2000
By CHRIS HARRIS
KIA tried to crack the nascent ‘space hatch’ segment with the oddly named Carens, a small front-wheel drive hatchback with extra seating versatility.
It features the Kia Shuma/Mentor/Spectra small-car's platform, suspension and Mazda-derived 81kW/152Nm 1.8-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine tied to a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox.
Inside there is seating for six in a 2-2-2 formation, thanks to a tall body and upright seats that liberate the necessary space.
But despite easy access to the cabin, there is no split fold on the strictly kids-only third row seat. And with that third row in place there is very little luggage space, so if you need to carry items then the Carens inconveniently turns into a four-seater.
Equipment levels include a driver’s airbag, air-conditioning, CD audio, power windows, mirrors and steering, a luggage blind and boot-sited power socket, but no central locking, outside latch for the rear hatch, anti-lock brakes (ABS) or a front-passenger airbag.
Performance is leisurely due to the Caren’s substantial weight for a small engine six-seater – 1315kg – while noise levels, not only from the engine, but also from wind, road and suspension, can also be intrusive as speeds rise.
But, despite a low price and good storage areas, the Carens was not a sales success, with Kia withdrawing it in Australia just 18 months after launch.