The petrol model is quiet, refined and responsive -more than can be said for the diesel
The little petrol engine pulls very willingly from 3000rpm
On the road, slightly sticky- and anodyne-feeling steering is the only let down
Equipment levels are generous despite this being the most basic model
What is it?
The entry-level petrol version of Kia's new practicality-specialist supermini, the Venga mini-MPV. In £11,500 trim, it comes with manual air conditioning, but without alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel or proper iPod connectivity.
Kia's entry-level engine in the Venga is a petrol 1.4 with 89bhp. Continuously variable valve timing makes it capable of producing a useful 101lb ft of torque at 4000rpm without the aid of a turbo. Although in Europe the engine can be equipped with a fuel-saving stop-start system, in the UK the car will produce 147g/km of CO2 and return 45.5mpg without such assistance.
What's it like?
Quiet, refined and responsive. Which, on the whole, is more than can be said for the 1.4-litre turbodiesel we tested.
The little petrol engine pulls very willingly from 3000rpm, and remains smooth and relatively hushed all the way to 6000rpm. It's shy one gear ratio relative to the diesel, offering only five forward ratios to the diesel's six, but the engine's fatter-than-average torque curve makes up for that, as, in part, does a gear lever that's slick and pleasant to use.
The rest of this Venga's package is the same as the diesel's; it's compact, and quite contemporary and attractive looking. It's also got reasonably impressive, if not quite class-leading, levels of interior accommodation, good all-round visibility and decent cabin quality to match.
On the road, slightly sticky and anodyne-feeling steering is the only letdown. On UK-spec dampers, and with its longer-than-normal wheelbase, the Venga rides with comfort and handles competently, if not brilliantly. It's also got ample performance for a car of this size and type.
It doesn't have the funky style or space of the Citroen C3 Picasso, or the unexpectedly enjoyable drive of a Nissan Note, but in a cheaper-than-average compact people-mover you may expect neither.
Should I buy one?
If you're going to buy a Venga, this one makes the most persuasive case for itself. The Venga diesel is, after all, £1000 more expensive, less refined and, according to Kia's own performance figures, marginally slower than this car.
And although the diesel will go about 15 miles further on a gallon of fuel and has a starter-generator to bring its CO2 emissions down, it ends up no better on CO2 than a 1.5-litre dCi Nissan Note, which probably remains the value pick of the oil-burning offerings available in the mini-MPV segment right now.
No - if you're going to buy a Venga, make the most of the value for money it offers and stick with the cheapest you can get. Because the cheapest Venga is also the sweetest.