High ground clearance, a wide cabin and tall stance all mean that the Carens glides over bad roads with ease and comfort and an engine performance that is adequate in terms of the power of this vehicle, says Pavan Lall.
Kia is a rare example of a newbie auto company that has swiftly ramped up volumes in a short period of time and also managed to do so by studying its customers -- fathoming what they want and designing products around their requirements rather than presuming they'd want something that has worked well overseas.
To think about it, there is no shortage of overseas aspirants that landed in India with a hope to crack one of the largest car markets in Asia.
However, the results have been less than successful and most of these entrants have also beaten a retreat.
General Motors (Chevrolet), Fiat, Harley Davidson and most recently Ford are examples.
Kia is perhaps the only entrant to have accelerated as fast as it has. The company had sold 177,982 units in 2020.
Domestic sales stood at 181,583 units in 2021 as against 140,497 units in the previous year, a growth of 29 per cent in a tough market with supply constraints.
Of course, it always helps to have the support of an incumbent such as sister company Hyundai, whose mistakes they can learn from.
To that end, Kia has rolled out smartly positioned cars in the subcontinent starting with SUVs, and then migrating to large “people-mover” UVs that essentially not only tap growing segments but also make for good economic sense.
An SUV is almost always higher on profit margins than smaller sedans or hatchbacks.
If you drive the Carens after a similar sized vehicle such as the Kodiaq, the difference is palpable.
The Carens is clearly a car made by an Asian manufacturer for Indian roads. Which is to say, it's not heavy on kerb weight, something that Kia keeps mum on (it does not disclose weight for any of its cars) and second, it looks like a car that's built with today's world in mind.
The light weight basically means good fuel efficiency and Kia claims a mileage of around 16 km per litre for petrol and over 20 km for diesel.
It's good looking, with stylish design cues, yet it manages to retain an authentic DNA that had come to be expected of the Korean badge.
High ground clearance, a wide cabin and tall stance all mean that the Carens glides over bad roads with ease and comfort and an engine performance that is adequate in terms of the power of this vehicle.
Inside the cabin, quality is premium and similar to what you'd expect from any top grade car-maker such as Honda or Toyota -- smart consoles with a good finish, comfy seating and other interiors that show little or no signs of cheap material or cost-cutting.
Kia has announced a special introductory price for the vehicle starting from Rs 8.99 lakh and going up to Rs 16.99 lakh.
It's a price range that will make its peer group find the going starting to get tougher.
That's a warning for cars such as the Tata Safari, Hyundai Alcazar, Mahindra Ertiga, Toyota Innova Crista and Mahindra XUV 700, because the Kia punches much harder than others in its weight category.
After the Sonet, Seltos and the Carnival, this new launch by Kia then marks its expansion into a large seven-seater category that's playing in price segments above the Marutis and the Tatas but below the German cars that include the Volkswagens and Skodas.
As a vehicle that is likely to be used in long cross-country style drives and trips, the Carens comes equipped with a suite of safety features that includes all basics such as antilock braking systems, electronic stability control and also downhill brake control and parking sensors.
There's also a smart air purifier that supposedly protects against bacteria and viruses, and automatic air control.
And it boasts a 10-inch infotainment screen, different drive modes and, last but not the least, Bose speakers for music lovers.
Comfortable, silent, well-insulated from the world outside and designed for refined performance, the Carens could be another arrow in Kia's growing quiver of winners given its pricing and so long as it keeps its service and repair qualities on track as volumes grow.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com