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Carens for the family

The South Korean company is the category leader with its Carnival, which is just about to become a two-model run with a shorter version of its latest Grand Carnival, and can see a potential place for the smaller Carens.

It has just been renewed, with Europe as the target because high-roofed family wagons are doing well there.

The second-generation Carens has an all-new body, a range of engines - 2.0, 2.4 and 2.7-litre petrol, and 2.0-litre turbodiesel - and will be built with either five or seven seats.

Kia has even given a choice of names, because the Carens will be called Rondo in North America.

It was previewed last week in Spain at the Madrid Motor Show, reflecting the European emphasis, though it could work in Australia under the new factory-owned operation at Kia Motors Australia.

"We're still looking and still thinking. It was only released last week and we have yet to see it in the metal," Kia Motors spokesman Jonathon Fletcher says.

"We obviously need to understand where it could fit in the Australian market and if we could bring it at a price that is suitable. And if there is sufficient demand."

He says Kia can see the potential in Australia for people movers thanks to its ongoing success with the Carnival.

"We obviously have the market-leading vehicle in the Carnival, and that's now extended to the Grand Carnival," Fletcher says.

"A short-wheelbase model is coming later this year so we need to be mindful of the market sector we're talking to."

But one thing is certain, the Carens would not compete with the Carnival.

"If we took it then it wouldn't come as a seven-seater. So we need to know if it will fit into the small-wagon market, or somewhere else. And also the competitors and if the price benefit will stand up."

The new Carens is longer, wider and taller than the previous model and has a new body. Kia also says it has been designed as much as a crossover vehicle as a people mover.

Though Carens is still a question market, it would probably come with a diesel engine because Kia is joining the push into diesel power in Australia.

"We're obviously looking at a diesel Sportage and Sorento and we'd very much like to bring them, possibly later in the year. So when we're evaluating Carens we'll look at petrol and diesel," Fletcher says.