After running the brilliant Volvo XC60 for a number of months, I approached my new assignment with an element of skepticism. The new recruit is Korean, not Scandinavian. It is finished in a rather 'out-there' dazzling white hue as opposed to the conservative Seashell Metallic (beige). And it boasts a comparatively measly 1.7 litre turbo diesel engine rather than a mighty 2.4 litre, 212bhp lump.
You can understand my tentative attitude towards the admittedly handsome people mover but upon its arrival and after a short test drive, all preconceptions were parped from the tailpipe along with the impressive 132g/km of CO2.
The biggest difference between our latest arrival and the highly praised Swede is the price tag: the Kia costs almost half the price of the big Volvo yet it doesn't hold back on the lavish options.
Our model (LJ63 YYT) is the most generously specified being a '3' model, so we are spoilt with a full leather interior, sunblinds, a panoramic sunroof, reversing camera, a trick audio system and even ignition keyhole illumination. Yes, we can insert the key even when it is DARK. Not bad at all for £23,895.
Kia is also extremely competent at creating handsome yet highly practical vehicles that intelligently tackle every day problems. The seven-seat arrangement can be split and folded in all manner of combinations - dump all of the rear seats flat and you have enough loading space to start up a small business, or fold the rear set to increase boot space on a family outing.
There are also clever hidden cubbyholes dotted throughout the cabin, including one underneath the feet of rear passengers that can be used to store children's toys and other small items. The middle-rear seat can also be folded down to provide a comfortable arm rest complete with cup holders, there are fold down tables on the backs of front seats and the light in the boot can be removed and used as a torch. The Korean marque should rebrand itself I-Kia (sorry).
We have decided to add some roof bars to our test model, just to increase the load-lugging capabilities further, and we're looking forward to the first proper road trip in its leathery luxury.
Model: Kia Carens '3' 1.7 CRDi manual ISG
Price: £23,895 as tested
Engine: 1.7 diesel
Max speed: 119mph
0-60mph: 10 seconds
MPG: 56.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 132 g/km CO2
Mileage this month: 200
Costs this month: £0