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What- Kia Venga
Where- Rome. Less driven - more stuck in traffic.
Date- December 2009
Price- £11,500-£15,000 est
Available- February 2010
Key rivals- Nissan Note, Citroen C3, Vauxhall Meriva
Nope we're not going to Ibiza. Actually it's Rome, to test out Kia's brand new Venga compact MPV. It looks good, but how's the practicality and performance?
We like - Exterior design, seven-year warranty, value for money, sensible, decent boot
We don't like- not knowing what UK suspension and steering will be like, rear legroom, some shiny plastics, diesel noisy, petrol sluggish
Gallery: Kia Venga
This is the Kia Venga - sharp looking, isn't it? That's an official opinion, by the way, as this car has already won a German International Forum, or iF, design award.
The Venga becomes Kia's third entrant into the supermini class, where it joins the Kia Rio and the Kia Soul, alongside a host of other small car superstars. These include the Ford Fiesta, and more significantly the Citroen C3 Picasso - for the Venga is a compact MPV and, like the Citroen, one that has been styled to look good rather than practical.
It's former Audi and Volkswagen designer Peter Schreyer's first all-new Kia design, and we reckon he's onto something. Even if, when you squint, it does look suspiciously like a modern Ford. Right down to the oval Kia badge on the boot. Not that this is a bad thing.
With Kia on the cusp of a complete breakthrough into the mainstream, these are buyer-comforting visual cues. Three Kias in one class might seem like a lot, but the current downsizing trend means this segment continues to expand.
Has the Venga got the right stuff to take advantage? Well, the seven-year, fully transferable, 100,000-mile warranty certainly won't do it any harm. But looks aside, how does the rest of the Venga measure up?
In the UK the Venga will be available with 90hp 1.4 petrol with five-speed manual, 90hp 1.4 CRDi turbodiesel with six-speed manual, and 125hp 1.6 petrol with four-speed automatic. The auto's of limited appeal so we stuck with the 1.4 manuals.
The petrol is a sweet little unit, but just seems to be getting going when it slams into the limiter. And with a modest 101lb ft of torque, response is decidedly sluggish unless you're in exactly the right gear at the right time. With kids and luggage aboard it will struggle.
On paper, petrol is faster: 0-62mph takes 12.8 seconds compared to 14.5. But behind the wheel the diesel is instantly, obviously, more responsive - the difference 162lb ft makes in the real world. If you're planning on loading your Venga up to the roof on a regular basis diesel is the only choice.
But there is a catch. It's very noisy. Really. Very. On the other hand, it also comes with Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) system as standard - meaning ecoDynamics badging and low CO2 - more on this below.
Ride and Handling
Ah, well, actually, there's not all that much we can say here, since the first thing we were told on launch is that the UK Kia Venga will have retuned steering and suspension. This, we are promised, will be 'much better'.
To which the only sensible response is 'thank goodness.' Here's a rundown of the European Venga's handling, just for comedy value. In its current state the Venga is a rolly-polly, lollopping, zero-steering feel kind of a car.
It pitches into corners, thumps over bumps and inspires very little driver confidence indeed. Does this really matter in a compact MPV? Arguably not. However, there is no missing the recent sales success of fun-to-drive cars such as Ford's Fiesta and Focus, not to mention the Mini.
It's difficult to make a splash if your car is little more than adequate in this department these days, and Kia clearly takes handling very seriously for the UK. Changes for us will include more feelsome steering and revised damper settings, apparently, with all the modifications developed right here, on our uniquely challenging tarmac.
We have high hopes. But can't, of course, yet tell you whether the Venga meets them. And there's nothing the changes can do for the Venga's visibility-impinging A-pillars.
Interior and Equipment
So the Venga still needs to score in other key areas. We certainly feel that the design is strong - though customers may yet disagree - and that its seven-year warranty is utterly unmatched. But what about the interior? Kia is keen to claim its assets as space, practicality, quality and value.
Following that order, let's first consider the Venga's roominess. The exterior design has brought compromise and benefits here. It's lower than it might be, and less box shaped. But has a long wheelbase and is the widest vehicle in its class.
Up front all is well, with a high seating position that buyers love, and plenty of elbow room. But the rear is disappointing; despite a sliding 60:40 bench, the Nissan Note thrashes it for legroom. Practicality is reasonable.
Again the sharp shape isn't ideal, but the boot's expansive, there's a split level floor, easy fold flat seats, plenty of cup holders and a big glovebox. Quality? Hmmm. The dash design is very recent Kia/Hyundai - neat, easy to get to grips with, solid. But there is a lot of hard, shiny plastics.
Let's just say it's definitely built to a price, but seems likely to last, neither of our test cars evincing any squeaks or rattles. As for value, well, that warranty rears its head again. But you also get air conditioning as standard on the entry-level Venga 1 trim, a six-speaker stereo with usb connector and remote central-locking.
Venga 2 adds iPod connection, 16-inch alloys - and more. Top spec Venga 3 gets climate control, front fogs, all-round electric widows and a panoramic sunroof - prices are expected to range from around £11,500 to £15,500.
Economy and Safety
No Euro NCAP score yet, but Kia is gunning for another five-star rating. Stability control is standard, there are six airbags, anti-whiplash front headrest and hill hold assistance. The 1.4 petrol returns 45.6mpg officially with 147g/km CO2 emissions, the 1.6 petrol 40.6mpg with 164g/km - not bad for an automatic.
But both are shamed by the diesel. This officially returns 62.8mpg combined with 117g/km CO2 emissions - meaning significant tax savings and much lower day-to-day running costs - justifying its higher pricing over the 1.4 petrol.
The ISG start-stop system works well - assuming you remember to knock it into neutral when standing still. The engine restarts nicely and you are unlikely to catch it out. The 'Intelligent' part of ISG means it doesn't switch the car off if the demand for power is high - such as from the ventilation system. Nor did it interrupt the satnav.
The built-in satellite navigation system, incidentally, is available in Europe only. Kia UK wisely noting that UK buyers are unlikely to want to pay the extra when they can just plug in a TomTom.
MSN Cars Verdict
With the steering and suspension set to change for the UK it is a little difficult to give a complete verdict on the Kia Venga.
But certainly there is a lot to like. With premium quality design, seven-year warranty, the prospect of low running costs and a reasonable asking price you could do a lot worse for a compact MPV. However, the plastics quality isn't quite up with the best in the sector, and rear legroom isn't quite as generous as we'd hoped.
However, it's clear the Kia brand has come of age. 2009 has been Kia's best UK year ever - remarkable given the underlying economic conditions. The Venga suggest there is more to come, especially given the other all-new Kias just over the horizon.
More images of the Kia Venga from Bing
|Need to know|
|Engines (petrol)||1.4, 1.6|
|Torque (lb ft)||101-192|
|Top speed (mph)||103-110|
|Rating||Kia Venga 2 1.4 CRDi|
|Ride and handling||TBC|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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