The Venga slots in the Kia range below the Soul
The model we tested was a 1.4 diesel in mid-spec 2 trim
The design is well executed, looking handsome, neat and contemporary
The ride wasn't impressive in Rome, but was much better when tuned for the UK
The electric power steering lacks feel and has more weight than needed
It lacks the mechanical refinement of a Nissan Note or Citroen C3 Picasso
Fit and finish inside is commendable
The fascia looks modern enough not to appear cut price
The optional glass roof makes the cabin feel bright and airy
What is it?
Kia’s first mini-MPV, the new Venga, which will be built alongside a forthcoming Hyundai sister version in Nosovice, in the Czech Republic.
Mini-MPVs represent the last word in efficient packaging; they have the cargo volume of an estate car, better passenger space than a family hatchback, added cabin flexibility, and they’re available for little more than the price of a basic family runaround. They’re the archetypal autmotive over-deliverers. So it’s odd that it’s taken automotive budget brand Kia so long to launch one; it’s nine years since Honda invented the species with the 2001 Jazz.
The Venga slots into Kia’s range slightly below the firm’s funkier Soul brother. While the latter offers style before substance, the former has a slightly longer wheelbase for greater passenger space, a taller glasshouse and a bigger boot.
The Venga will be offered with a choice of three trim levels and three engines: an 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol, an 89bhp 1.4-litre turbodiesel and an auto-only, 123bhp 1.6-litre petrol. We’re testing the turbodiesel in mid-spec trim here, because Kia expect it to be the biggest seller.
What’s it like?
Although there’s little that’s original about it, the Venga design’s is certainly a well-executed one. Outwardly it looks neat, handsome and contemporary – there’s a certain attractive something of the shrunken Ford S-Max about it.
And inside, the Venga’s got rear seats that fold, slide and recline, a false boot floor, a proliferation of storage cubbies, split A-pillars for improved forward visibility – every trick in the big book of small MPV design, in other words. It’s as roomy and as clever inside as the class standard, if not quite as cavernous or airy as Citroen’s smallest Picasso.
Fit and finish inside the Venga’s cabin is commendable, and like the outside of it, the Venga’s fascia is attractive- and modern-enough not to look cut-price. That impression falls apart a little when you begin to play around with indicator stalks and storage cubby lids; plastics are a little too shiny and hard in places, and too lacking in pleasing texture, to be really convincing.
We drove the Venga in Rome, where it displayed decent enough handling and manoeuvrability to match its fine visibility. It seemed a little stiff-legged to ride well in the UK, crashing noisily over sharp intrusions and offering little in the way of compliance. However, a subsequent test drive in the UK, in a UK-specced car on specially tuned dampers, assured us that the car will ride more comfortably here, with better rolling refinement and the capacity to soak up more of what British bitumen with throw at it.
This little Kia doesn’t put in the perfect dynamic performance. Like the Soul’s, the Venga’s electric power steering lacks genuine feel and has more weight than is called for. It also sounds and feels quite coarse under heavy throttle, lacking the mechanical refinement of a diesel-powered Citroen C3 Picasso or Nissan Note.
Should I buy one?
Not withstanding its noisy engine, the Venga does enough well enough to be mildly impressive. It would make a very fine cut-price alternative to a C3 Picasso or a Nissan Note, in fact. If only it was cheap enough.
But mainly because Hyundai makes this car on behalf of Kia, it won't work out as cheap as its importer originally envisaged. At current published prices, a basic Venga looks likely to cost as much as an entry-level Skoda Roomster or Renault Grand Modus, and more than a basic Honda Jazz or Nissan Note.
Kia will argue that the Venga will be better endowed and better equipped than its competitors model-for-model, and that there are price rises in the pipeline for all of the Venga's rivals due in the next few months.
But it still seems a great shame that it couldn't negotiate a better deal from sister company Hyundai on this car, because if the Venga was only a thousand pounds cheaper, we could see it being very popular. As it is, it's just a pretty but otherwise pretty average little monobox on offer at a pretty unremarkable price.