Kia Carens 1.7 CRDi 2 (114bhp) Eco manual.

Price: £20,595 (on the road).

Top speed: 112mph.

0-60mph: 12.6 seconds.

Fuel: 60.1mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emissions (g/km): 124.

Verdict: Much improved design, stylish, practical, comfortable, well built and refined.

KIA’S new Carens is another interesting and great car from the Korean manufacturer. Not only is it one of the most stylish seven seat MPVs you can buy but the family-friendly vehicle is backed by the company’s industry-leading seven year warranty.

Former Audi designer Peter Schreyer has now replaced Kia’s entire range of cars with new models that appeal for their style and quality as much as their value and practicality and the Carens is the last vehicle to receive the Schreyer treatment which has not only helped transform Kia’s image but drive the company towards record sales.

The new Carens has distinctive styling and is a far better looker and performer than the outgoing model.

For the present there are three clean and modern direct-injection engines – a 1.6 litre petrol unit pushing out 137bhp and a couple of 1.7 litre turbo-diesels. The diesels, fitted with particulate filters as standard on all manual gearbox models, are the favourites with power units of 114bhp or 134bhp.

Kia prices have been increasing and are not cheap but considering the practicality and generous equipment the cars remain good value with on-the-road prices starting at £17,895 for the seven seat petrol to £23,895 for the top specification Carens three diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox.

If you are looking for a family MPV, the Carens is well worth putting on your shortlist.

The vehicle is new from the ground up and considering it is smaller than the outgoing model, Kia has ensured it has an easy-tolive- with interior with clever seating arrangements and a big boot with a wider tailgate and window which help show the greater practicality of the new model.

The front passenger seat folds flat for carrying long loads and the middle row of seats slide and fold individually. The rear pair fold up from the boot floor but are on the small size and only suitable for children or small adults.

Actually, the front seats have been specially designed, providing greater shoulder support which taller adults, in particular, will find useful.

Of course, the Carens has been produced with the family in mind and there are a host of useful features which include the panoramic roof, tray tables built in the seats, cup holders and power points. In the boot there is storage space under the floor while another handy idea is that the boot light can be removed and used as a torch.

The 1.7-litre diesels have a strong blend of performance and economy and their high torque is maintained over a wide rev band, giving the Carens excellent driveability.

Extra economy is helped by Kia’s intelligent stop-and-go engine system which is standard on all manual gearbox models.

The diesels offer plenty of power for the needs of most families and best of all the car gives a supple and comfortable ride which is insulated from wind and road noise. The car handles well, too, with body roll kept in check. It’s good to drive at all paces, although the ride, general composure and steering seem best at higher speeds.

While the styling of the Carens is low and sporty, the interior also has a touch of class about it with a well arranged and easy-to-read dash layout with standard items like air-conditioning, cruise control and numerous top-bracket safety and security features.

The middle grade two model boasts 16 inch alloys, dual-zone air conditioning, reversing sensors, privacy glass, chrome window trim, roof rails, auto headlight control, rain-sensing front wipers and electric folding door mirrors.