Although we have low expectations of what a 1.4-litre 89bhp family runabout can achieve, the Kia Venga proved disappointingly slow during our tests. It is not so much the 0-60mph time of 13.1sec, but the performance beyond this point that looks a little sluggish.
Under full acceleration it needed 13.5sec to go from 60-80mph, or just the sort of sprint you might need to join a fast-moving motorway. A 1.4 Fiesta takes 10.2sec and the Citroën C3 hatch is faster still.
What we can report with more assurance is that at lower speeds and lower revs the engine feels noticeably stronger; at town and A-road speeds (up to 50mph) the Venga is adequately brisk. Both petrol engines feature continuously variable valve timing, which means four-fifths of the 1.4’s maximum 101lb ft of torque is available from 1500rpm.
It is also an impressively quiet engine at idle and low revs, making the Venga refreshingly refined. Beyond 3000rpm the engine is more strained, but again this may improve when properly run in.
The 1.6 promises slightly better performance, but actually feels worse on the road than both 1.4s – although if you opt for it, not helped by the old-school four-speed auto. The EcoDynamics diesel is shows more grunt but is limited again by its coarseness. No question, the base 1.4 petrol is the pick of this range.
The manual gearchange is light without being vague and the weighting as the lever passes from one gear to the next is consistent and reassuringly positive. While it is unlikely that you’ll be changing gear for the sheer hell of it, there is little in the process to discourage you from doing so.
All Venga models get the same brake set-up, consisting of ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. While outright stopping power is not an issue (in road use), we would like more consistency and reassurance to the pedal feel, the initial response occasionally feeling too mushy.