XL6 owner drives the Kia Carens diesel & turbo petrol AT

I was interested in understanding the difference between the Carens and the XL6, which is what I currently own.

BHPian procrj recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Walked into a very crowded Kia showroom today for a quick check and drive of the Carens. I was interested in understanding the difference between the Carens and the XL6, which is what I currently own. I was able to squeeze in back to back test drives of the diesel AT and turbo petrol AT.

Power delivery: The diesel definitely suffers from turbo lag and the AT seemed hesitant at city speeds/stop and go traffic. Quick press of the A pedal and there is a disconnect between the engine whine, audible in the cabin as revs increase, and power delivery. You need to cross 2K RPM mark before the D-AT becomes more pliable. This could mean a lot of revving if you have to climb up inclines from a dead stop with a full load. Turbo Petrol AT is such a joy drive to drive on the other hand, very linear power delivery that makes it a lot more easy to drive vs. the D-AT, but the downside would be lower F.E. Plan to go back on a weekday to test drive the MT petrol and diesel variants.

Ride: Small bumps, undulations, patches and even small speed breakers are easily handled by the suspension and 16 inch MRF rubbers. There is no suspension crashing and very minimal side to side movement in the Carens. As compared to the XL6, you feel a lot more cushioned and isolated from road surface variations. Not sure how this would change in the lower variants which come with steel wheels riding on 15 inch MRF rubber. Would also be interesting to check how the Carens performs on our patchwork highway network at cruising speeds, as I feel that the suspension is tuned to low speed comfort.

Lower variants get 15 inch steel wheels:

Handling: Very car like handling in the city, will be very easy for folks who are shifting from a hatch to the Carens. More interested in evaluating highway manners and rough road handling.

Cabin noise: While diesel engine whine does creep into the cabin, compared to the XL6, in cabin noise insulation is miles ahead. Noise from seepage outside the car is minimal, even when the music is off and it only gets better if you switch on music. A quick check of the door beading and the difference in quality is discernable, The Carens gets a thicker but soft door beading, which in combination with thicker door sheet metal (assuming this, given the heft of the door) helps isolate noise very effectively. Not sure how this would change on highways, but I would assume road noise would be minimal while there could be wind noise filtering through.

Premium feeling: The Carens definitely delivers across a wide range of parameters:

  • Door panel heft - Doors feel a lot heavier than the XL6 and shut with a quiet thud.
  • Seating comfort front row - Seats in the Carens are on the firmer side, which is to my liking as I believe it provides better support to your legs and back, which is important if you plan on doing long drives. While the white art leather seats in the Luxury spec Carens look + feel luxurious, black seats in the Prestige variant are equally comfortable, even if they do look a little drab. Compared to the XL6, under thigh support in the front seats are better while back support is probably on par since there doesn’t seem to be dedicated lumbar adjustment in either cars.

Black seats in the Prestige variant:

  • Seating comfort 2nd row - Maybe the captain seats in the Carens are more comfortable, but the bench seat is a compromise IMO. I did not get a chance to experience the comfort in the captain seats but I did evaluate bench seat in the prestige variant and I wasn’t too happy with seating position and comfort. With the driver/passenger seat pushed back all the way, there is barely enough room for a 6 foot adult to sit in the 2nd row and the seating position ensures that your under thigh is raised, which might not be very comfortable during long drives. Carens is being considered by folks who travel with parents (based on the sample of people who were at the showroom today) and the seating position in the bench seat might not work for all. Further more, when you recline the seat, you body gets into a very weird angle (checked it myself and obsereved others reclining in the middle row) where it becomes a challenge to support your lower back. Hence anyone considering the 7 seater Carens, please do take extensive test drives with folks who would occupy the middle row before you decide to book the car.
  • Seating comfort 3nd row - based on inputs from my son + my own experience, 3rd row comfort seems at par with the XL6 - both from a space and seating position point of view.
  • Driver Seating position - You definitely sit higher than the XL6 and its easy to find a good driving position thanks to ample seat height adjustment and steering rake/reach adjustment. All round viewability is good and the slightly bigger(vs. XL6) OVRMs and IVRMs make it easier to evaluate surroundings.
  • Tinted Windows - Both the Prestige and Luxury variants seem to have tinted windows, which should help control in cabin temperature. Also observed that the window glass is marginally thicker than the XL6, which again should help with noise insulation.
  • Spacious - Front seats are positioned further apart, which results in more space between drive and passenger seat occupant. Especially important for big/tall folks with long hands.

Quality of plastics: Overall, plastic quality in the Carens is a lot better than the XL6.

Dashboard - Few notches above the quality in the XL6, both in the Luxury and Prestige variants. While Luxury variants have a blue grey textured finish with cream plastics providing a contrast, Prestige/Premium variants come with a black textured finish with cream plastics providing a contrast. Blue OR Black, it feel a lot more thicker and sturdier than the plastics used in the XL6.

Door panels - Well contoured, sturdier and more ergonomic vs the XL6. Grab handle like cavity + storage space for a phone, both of which are missing in the XL6. Even the lever for opening the door feels a lot more sturdier and easier to use vs the XL6.

Door panel - Prestige variant:

  • Window control panel - again a couple of notches above XL6 as the window switches feel a lot more premium to use and don’t have this plasticky flex. Not sure if they are illuminate though.
  • Steering Wheel - Controls on the steering of the Carens vs XL6 was a mixed bag for me. While the push buttons felt much better on the Carens, I find the rectangular adjustment buttons provided in XL6 easier to use for setting volume/Cruise Control vs. those provided on the Carens. Overall plastic quality of the steering wheel on the Carens is better than that of the XL6.
  • Third row plastics - on par with Maruti as the panels are thinner, flex under pressure and have this very plasticky looking finish.

Other small things:

  • Cramped engine bay - There is hardly any space in there vs the XL6 engine bay, which has ample space. Going to be hard to clean and access various components:

  • Halogen Headlamps - A big plus for anyone purchasing the Premium/Prestige variants. Replace the halogen with a 90/100 Phillips + relay combination and you are all set for night/rain/fog. The 3 chamber LED headlamp + Fog lamp combination is definitely going to be a big letdown for all those who plan to invest in the higher end Carens:

  • Footwell space - Dead pedal positioning is very good and footwell space is comparable to the XL6. I do feel that it will get crowded in the footwell for people with large feet (I wear size 11 footwear), will need to drive a MT and check.
  • Glossy black surfaces - Big turn off as these were layered with fingerprints and dust. I am definitely not a fan of the pattern on these surfaces and it might have been cheaper and more elegant, if Kia could replace these panels with textured grey panels.
  • Seat height and recline adjustment levers - looks to be a direct lift from Maruti stable and are flimsy when compared to other plastics in the Carens:

  • Seatbelt adjustment - Absence of height adjustment in Premium and Prestige variants is a letdown.
  • Rear wiper and defogger - Absence of rear wiper and defogger adjustment in Premium and Prestige variants is another letdown, but they do get rear camera and front + rear parking sensors:

  • Aircon controls - Very basic looking aric on controls in Premium and Prestige variants is another letdown:

  • No rattles - Absolutely no rattles in the test drive cars and given the solid feel of panels, I am not sure if they will develop rattles.
  • Boot struts - Seem to be quiet sturdy and open the rear hatch in a very easy motion. Additionally, the weld joints around the boot door have a cleaner finish vs. XL6.
  • Boot floor cover - seems a tad thinner than the XL6 covers and its not split, which would mean that you have to unload all items from the boot to lift the cover.
  • Wheel cap - decent looking wheel cap on the 15 inch steel wheels. If you buy a Red Carens, you could paint the wheels red, should be a good contrast against silver caps.
  • Smart key - thin elegant looking smart key provided in the higher variants while premium and prestige variants will not get keyless entry.
  • Additional padding - boot door area gets additional padding, which I am assuming is in place to reduce noise and vibrations from the boot door:

So the big question is, If you are in the market for a petrol 6/7 seater under 15L, should you seriously consider the Carens? My answer would be a very strong yes. The 7 seater Prestige 1.5 MT variant is 12.4L OTR Bangalore vs. XL6 Zeta variant which is about the same price. The Carens seems to outshine the XL6 on many parameters and what needs to be evaluated is highway manners and braking, both of which I was unable to check since Kia showrooms are not providing long test drives of the Carens.

Seat belts save lives