These two Korean-made seven-seaters go to battle in an attempt to win the family man’s heart (and wallet).
THERE comes a point in a family man’s life when he realises that his regular saloon is no longer adequate for the needs of his growing brood. It is at this point that he starts considering a seven-seater multi-purpose vehicle for his next ride. He would do well to consider the pair of Koreans we have here. The Kia Carens makes its much-awaited return to our shores as a 2-litre model after a lengthy absence, while the Chevrolet Orlando (which is built in South Korea despite the American name) hopes to beat the newcomer, with the Chevy’s strongest weapon being a road-tax-friendly 1.4-litre turbocharged engine.
The carens appeals to the young-at-heart dad, while the orlando draws the practicalminded father.
The latest Carens was actually launched overseas in 2013. Its local debut is two years late because of sky-high COE premiums, which made it unviable for dealer Cycle & Carriage to bring in the car. With Category B premiums softening in recent months, C&C took the plunge and reintroduced the new seven-seater, whose predecessor was popular in Singapore. The Orlando, meanwhile, has been around since 2011. Its appeal was boosted, quite literally, by a new 1.4-litre turbo 4-cylinder that promises better performance than the previous 1.8-litre naturally aspirated motor. The new engine produces the same power (140bhp) as the old 1.8, but boasts more torque (200Nm versus 176Nm) for improved acceleration.
This results in a more driveable vehicle. The Orlando’s torque is available from just 1850rpm, and it therefore feels sprightlier than its bigger-engined sibling. Progress on the road is much more enjoyable, because there’s no need to mash the accelerator pedal in order to get going at a decent pace.
The cockpit of the Carens (top, left) is well-built and featurepacked, while the Orlando’s is stylish and blessed with clever storage solutions.
That said, the Orlando is still outgunned by the Carens, whose 2-litre naturally aspirated engine produces 166bhp and 213Nm. Compared to the Chevy, the Kia delivers power in a smoother and more linear fashion, although this characteristic may suggest it’s less powerful. The performance figures indicate otherwise. The Carens is quicker than the Chevy from a standstill to 100km/h (10.8 seconds versus 11.2) and has a higher top speed (200km/h versus 191km/h). Neither car gives cornering thrills, but the Carens proves to be a happier handler that’s nimble and light on its tyres.
The six passengers will find the Orlando (left, below) to be roomier and more comfortable than the Carens.
Its steering is a let-down, though, with the FlexSteer adjustable-weighting function coming across as artificial and lifeless. The suspension is wellcontrolled, providing a good compromise between decent handling and a pliant ride. The Orlando’s suspension has a more “solid” setup that’s planted and stable while on the move. The Chevy lives up to its American nameplate by feeling more at home on the highway than in corners. The steering is dull, but most drivers are unlikely to complain about this. So I would go for the Carens if I want a (marginally) more entertaining drive. But it would be the Orlando if I need, first and foremost, to ferry passengers.
The Orlando has more cabin space than the Carens. While both cars have a seating capacity of seven, the Chevy’s slightly bigger size (including greater length in wheelbase and body) means that third-row occupants will find it less of a squeeze than in the Kia. They also benefit from elevated seating, which aff ords a better view out the windows. Furthermore, the Orlando’s block-like exterior translates to generous headroom, contrasting against the Carens’ relatively sleek shape that “eats” into the roominess.
In terms of key equipment, the Kia off ers six airbags, pushbutton ignition, LED daytime running lights and multi-zone air-conditioning, while the Orlando comes as standard with multi-function touchscreen infotainment, a reverse parking camera and a sunroof (kids like this feature). Choosing between these two MPVs boils down to how much of a family man you’ve become.
The Kia Carens appeals to the youngat- heart dad with its pleasant drive and attractive design. The Chevrolet Orlando, on the other hand, appeals to the practicalminded father who appreciates extra space and comfort. Both MPVs are, otherwise, equally up to the job of serving the family man with multiple transport tasks. The deal breaker in this case is the $16k price diff erence in favour of the Carens (at press time).