Kia has unveiled its fourth model for the Indian market, with the all-new Kia Carens making its world premiere in New Delhi. Following the Seltos, Carnival, and Sonet, the Kia Carens – designed specifically for the ‘modern Indian family,’ according to Kia – will plug the vast gap in India’s domestic MPV market at present. As the design sketches suggested, the Kia Carens are more than just another multi-purpose vehicle, with enough design and styling elements to divide opinion on what it is.

In the build-up to the debut of the Carens, Kia said its newest offering – which the company loosely terms a ‘recreational vehicle’ – would combine the attributes of a large family vehicle with the boldness of an SUV.’ And that is true because the Carens look MPV-like from certain angles. It is larger than the Seltos and borrows some cues from the midsize SUV, especially when viewed in profile.

The first model for India based on Kia’s new ‘Opposites United’ design philosophy, the Carens, features what Kia calls the ‘Digital Tiger Nose’ front end. A distinctive light signature is created by the kinked LED DRLs upfront (that derive inspiration from constellations), which sit above the main LED headlight clusters.

The large air intake has a chrome surround, there’s heavy plastic cladding around the sides of the Carens, and the subtly-incorporated roof rails all add to its tougher-than-an-MPV look. The LED tail-lights are linked by a thin light bar in a bid to accentuate the MPV’s width, and there’s a significant chrome element integrated into the rear bumper as well, so when viewed from the side or rear-three-quarter angles, the Carens does appear more SUV-like.

On the inside, the Kia Carens pack the same 10.25-inch touchscreen as the Seltos (running the new Kia Connect infotainment system that can facilitate OTA updates), along with a digital instruments display, a standard-size sunroof, ventilated front seats, wireless smartphone charging, an air purifier, eight-speaker Bose sound system, 64-colour ambient lighting, over 60 connected car features and more.

Kia will offer it in both six- and seven-seat forms, with the former being equipped with captain chairs for the second-row passengers. In welcome news for third-row occupants, the second-row seats feature an electric fold-and-tumble function to ease ingress into the last row. The rear passengers also get a dedicated second AC unit and AC vents, and space is likely to be class-leading, with Kia claiming the Carens will have the most extended wheelbase of all models it’ll compete with.

The Caren’s name will be familiar to audiences overseas, as Kia has sold three generations of the Carens MPV abroad over the last two decades. The model unveiled today is technically the fourth-generation Kia Carens. According to Kia, Caren’s name is “based on the concept of Car + Renaissance. Aimed at ‘modern Indian families,’ Kia says the Carens will create a segment of its own.

That may not strictly be true, as the Mahindra Marazzo is still very much around but hardly finds any takers, and there does exist a chasm between India’s highest-selling MPVs – the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga at the budget end, and the Toyota Innova at the premium end. Kia’s only MPV on sale in India, the Carnival, is also positioned as a super-premium offering. The Carens are expected to be slightly larger than the Seltos but smaller than the Carnival – they will be a more affordable and more accessible family vehicle.

The Kia Carens will carry over the Seltos’ 115 hp, 1.5-liter petrol, and diesel engines and will also be available with the 140 hp, 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine. In addition to the standard manual gearbox, the Kia Carens will also be offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (for the 1.4-liter turbo-petrol version) and a six-speed torque-convertor automatic (for the 1.5-liter diesel version). The Carens will also come with drive modes.

Barring the Marazzo, the Kia Carens will have no direct rivals at launch. Still, it will have to contend with three-row SUVs operating in the same price segment, including the Alcazar, MG Hector Plus, and Tata Safari. Expect prices for the Kia Carens to range from Rs 13-19 lakh (ex-showroom) when it’s launched in the first quarter of 2022.

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