Kia Carens 1.5 Petrol Prestige: Likes & Dislikes after a 500 km drive

This engine and transmission likes to stay in the 600-2,500 RPM mark in higher gears most of the time. I assume this is for more fuel efficiency.

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A new Kia Carens 1.5 Prestige naturally aspirated petrol joined the (extended) family last weekend. Since then, I have had the opportunity to drive it for about 500 Kms on highways and city. Here's my take on the car. The driving experience has been penned down in a separate paragraph.


  • Safety: Disc brakes on all four wheels and 6 airbags are standard. TPMS and ESP are also standard.
  • Excellent space, inside out. The third row is very usable for people who are 5'4" or below height.
  • Very comfortable front, middle, and fairly comfortable third rows of seats. The third row is perhaps the best available in this segment.
  • Sliding & split middle-row seats liberate legroom for the third row of passengers and also recline.
  • One touch tumble down operation of the left row seat in the middle is very easy to operate. There's enough room to get in as well.
  • A flat floor makes it a comfortable three-seater in the middle row.
  • A very good air conditioner with roof vents that can be opened or shut with flow direction. Rear aircon control too.
  • Decent enough luggage space in the boot of 215 liters capacity.
  • Very comfortable ride quality on the highways with R15 steel wheels.
  • Short turning radius. I was surprised that it did a tight U-turn in one go when I was expecting a 3-point turn.
  • Wireless Android auto connectivity gives seamless integration with the in-car entertainment unit.
  • The super-light clutch is easy to operate with well-spaced out pedals and a good enough dead pedal.
  • The gates for the 6-speed gearbox are well-designed and slot well.
  • Space for 10 bottles within the cabin!
  • The Arkamys music system is fairly decent.
  • Variable-speed intermittent wipers work very well.
  • Great view of the road ahead from the driver's seat.
  • Steering adjustable for rake.
  • The rear camera view includes dynamic guidelines. You can also use the rear camera view while driving forward.
  • Wing mirrors are large enough to view the traffic behind.
  • Front parking sensors make it easy to park in tight spots and are not excessively intrusive in traffic.
  • Privacy curtain for the middle row.
  • Enough space within center console to keep your wallet, phone, water bottles, and other small items.
  • Well laid out and clean engine bay with a super silent motor. It is hard to tell it is running. Fit and finish are top.
  • The cabin insulation is decent and we didn't hear the engine except for some road noise, likely due to the poor JK rubbers.
  • Wheel wells have full cladding to reduce noise.
  • Wide doors make ingress and egress very easy for drivers and passengers. A well-designed side step is available as an accessory.
  • Kia's sales and delivery experience was quite good!


  • The digital speed & RPM meter is not to my taste. There is no redline.
  • No cruise control
  • Weak headlights and horns. A change is a must.
  • No electrically folding ORVM.
  • No head rest for the middle passenger seat in the second row.
  • A very light steering wheel does not weigh up on highways but makes it very easy in city traffic.
  • No rear wash/wipe! It is difficult to spot the traffic behind when it rains. Alternative: Use the rear parking camera view.
  • Annoying speed warnings at 80 (intermittent) and 120 (Constant)
  • Passenger seat belt off warning shows up as a message on MID, but the rest of the passenger's seat belts only give a warning chime that makes you wonder what the car is trying to indicate until you find out that the seat belt warning light next to the front cabin light on the roof. I didn't know it until my son told me where to spot it.
  • Scrolling through the MID requires you to operate two different switches. One to scroll to the item, another to select it.
  • The idling stop/start system resets every time you switch off the car.
  • Hard plastics inside the cabin everywhere.
  • Headunit for ICE is placed far away from the driver seat. You have to extend out to operate.
  • Touch screen operation for auto AC and ventilation systems requires you to take your eyes off the road, should you need to operate them.

The Driving Experience:

Fire up the engine and it is really hard to tell if the engine is running. The motor is super silent and gets vocal over 3,000 RPM and that too if you listen to it carefully. On the go, if you play music, the engine is not audible at all, and those who are used to engine sound as an indicator for upshift or downshift will find yourself trying to listen to the engine sound most of the time.

Now, the following is purely my opinion and from my experience. This engine is tuned for low-end torque with very short gearing. The available power and torque in the initial gears are very good to drive in the city. It is also split out well through the gears for efficient cruising and for fuel efficiency. The first gear seems specially set up for higher torque with load. I was a bit skeptical about the car climbing a steep incline with load, but it did it very well. In fact, the first couple of gears are so good, you don't need to slip the clutch at all when going over speed breakers. You can pretty much release it completely while crossing the speed breakers. These gears will also let you climb inclines and ghat sections on the highway without any struggle, but progress will not be brisk.

On the flip side, this engine and transmission combination will not deliver momentum as quickly as you may expect during in-gear acceleration, at least it didn't for me. The gear shift indicator will tell you to upshift around the 2000 RPM mark or just above that. Often, it will recommend you upshift two gears instead of the immediate next. Yet, it does not tell you to downshift ever! This engine and transmission likes to stay in the 600-2,500 RPM mark in higher gears most of the time. I assume this is for more fuel efficiency. You need to step on the A pedal (over 30% input) to get up to speeds beyond 75 KMPH. This car is a calm highway cruiser in the speed range of 75-90 KMPH. Sadly, cruise control will be sorely missed in this car.

Overtaking and passing other cars: Overtake with caution. Out on the highway, even when you are in cruising speeds of 60-80 KMPH, stepping on the gas pedal will not deliver immediate output to complete the overtake quickly. You'd think that downshifting will give you more momentum and you will be surprised that it does not do what you expected. There's not even a slight push you'll feel. The engine RPM climbs and you will hear the engine, and the power delivery takes time - Looking at the speed, it felt like watching a clock's seconds go by. To give you an idea, on the L&T bypass road in Coimbatore, I found that you need 3-4 trailer lengths to make safe overtakes while upshifting. Now, this might sound like nitpicking with me used to driving a Wolf remapped 1.6 diesel of the S-Cross, but trust me, I am not comparing that engine to this engine. All I am saying is that you need to consider leaving enough room (especially with people and luggage on board) while overtaking in a dual carriage road. You should not try to cut sharp while getting back into the lane; the car does not like it due to its length. It has to be a gradual transition back and that needs room (remember, this is a longer car) and will also keep your passengers happy. On a barricaded highway, it is an absolute pleasure to cruise in this car with family or friends with speeds under 100 KMPH. It absorbs all the bumps in the road well. This car is for enjoying time with your family or friends on long trips.

Braking is good with all 4 disc brakes. Thanks, Kia for offering this and all the safety equipment as standard when many other manufacturers do not. As you will see, the likes are much more than dislikes and Kia surely knows what to offer for a car of this category. These considerations hardly make it a deal breaker for most people. It is, therefore, not surprising that you see a lot of Carens on the road.

The Buying Experience:

The car was bought at Incheon Kia in Thrissur. The booking and delivery experience by Layesh and his team was excellent. Everything went like clockwork and they guided us through the procedures to the T. There were no hiccups in the entire booking to delivery experience. The car was ready by the promised time and delivered without any damages. It was spic and span. The team explained the procedures very well and handed over to us all the documents. They also joined in the celebrations with a cake. Overall a very great experience purchasing from Incheon Kia, Thrissur.

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