WHEN I think of the many cars that have populated my life, sometimes with relish and sometimes embarrassment, I have to wonder what cars will be like in 50 years’ time.
The cars I grew up with seem not only old-fashioned now but fragile and crudely built compared with today’s designs that are in the main well made and turned out.
There is a reason for this and it is plainly commercial: any car that was shoddily put together today would be soon found out and become a financial disaster for its makers.
As to what motorists will be driving in 50 years’ time that’s anyone’s guess.
The way people view cars and indeed car ownership is changing. It may be that there will be a greater emphasis on economy and the type of cars one buys but that is surely a given. What is more interesting is people’s attitudes to getting around daily by car — which in this country is still more favoured than public transport.
One example I read about was a wine dealer in Berlin who when he wants to drive to work in the morning checks his smartphone to see where a particular hire car is parked and takes it. Once he gets to his destination, he parks the car on the street and forgets about it.
He might do this two or three times a day for journeys around the city, the cars he picks up and drops all maintained by the hire company. Berlin has become the largest one-way, car-sharing city in the world.
I arrived at this line of thought via this week’s test car, a Kia Carens. I was trying to think why this car in particular should prompt such thoughts. I believe it was because Kia is one of today’s success stories having been transformed from an indifferent South Korean car manufacturer into one that has a sheaf of new and exciting models. But what cars might Kia be making five decades on?
The Carens is not necessarily exciting but it is a very good car. And that is the point: with a determined German at the helm — Kia president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer whom I have written about before — Kia has come on in leaps and bounds.
So the Carens is a serious contender in its sales segment. And this goes for all the new Kia models that are collectively making the opposition sit up and take notice.
Kia says the Carens “completes the Kia design revolution”. This third-generation seven-seater MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) comes with a choice of three engines, two transmissions and three trim and equipment packages.
The space inside has been transformed in the new Carens. There are now three individual sliding and reclining centre-row seats and two separate seats in the rear of the car. The luggage area is larger in the new Carens and for especially long loads, the front passenger seat folds flat.
Kia talks about a “leap in quality” with the production of the new Carens and this will be key to its success. Both the interior layout and particularly the dashboard dials and controls are clearly laid out.
The Kia is available with a choice of three direct-injection engines — one petrol and two turbodiesels. I found the test model — a 1.7-litre CRDi — a willing performer on all roads, whether motorway cruising or on country by-ways.
Fuel consumption pans out at 60.1 mpg on the combined cycle so there is good economy there, too. On balance I would probably prefer the 1.7 CRDi version with automatic transmission for complete ease of driving.
No one could deny that Kia has taken its quantum leap into the future with these new and quality models. If as the company says the Carens is the final part of Kia’s “complete regeneration” of the model range it will be interesting to see what follows.
Maybe that was the real reason why at the outset of this article I was musing about what cars motorists might be driving in 50 years’ time.
Kia Carens ‘2’ 1.7 CRDi 6-speed manual ISG
*Price: £20,595 on the road
*16in alloy wheels
*6-speaker audio system
*RDS Radio/CD Audio with MP3 Disc Compatibility
*Seven year/100,000 mile warranty
By Nigel Wigmore