Kia Venga review
The Kia Venga has made a big impact in mini MPV sector, with great space and strong value
The Kia Venga proves that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a truly practical family car. This supermini MPV combines practicality and value for money to great effect, and as a result has made a big impact on this class of the market.
The car has recently received a mid-life refresh in a similar way to the latest Picanto city car with tweaked exterior styling including new alloy wheels designs, a larger front grille, deeper air inlets and daytime running lights.
Another big part of the appeal is the industry-leading seven-year warranty Kia offers – this shows the manufacturer’s confidence that the car won’t suffer any problems, and provides buyers with real peace of mind. The only potential fly in the ointment is the firm suspension, which can make for a rather uncomfortable ride over rough road surfaces.
Plus, as spacious and practical as the interior is, it trails rivals like the Honda Jazz and Ford B-MAX by a long way in terms of quality – the Venga hasn’t caught up with the level of fit and finish found in newer cars from Kia.
Most buyers will be able to put up with this when they look at the price, though: the basic 1 model represents brilliant value for money, while even the more expensive, gadget-packed flagship 3 looks tempting.
Our Choice: Venga 2 EcoDynamics 1.4 CRDi
As with the recently-revised Kia Picanto, it’s a game of spot the difference to tell this Venga apart from the previous model. But Kia has given its supermini-MPV a revised front-end design, with a larger version of its trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille as well as a larger lower air inlet that incorporates the Venga’s foglamps and daytime running lights.
There are a few other styling tweaks, including some new alloy wheel designs across the range, but the visual differences really are minimal – and in our test car’s £490 optional Silver Storm metallic paint, the Venga’s soft, rounded shape appears a little drab.
The Kia’s hatchback-on-stilts looks come from its versatility, and although it might not be the most stylish five-door on sale, the extra height works wonders for practicality, adding extra room inside. Kia might not have focused too much on changing the exterior design, as the basic look worked and the family resemblance was already present, but the interior has come in for more attention – there are now some smarter trim details that brighten up the functional layout. And although you don’t get that many gadgets on the lower-spec models, a tyre pressure monitor is now fitted as standard across the range.
Also included are core features like air-conditioning, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors, while a digital radio is the only real option on mid-spec '2' versions. As on many Kias, this is a £250 dealer-fit extra.
As a result of all this, it’s not the most sparkling cabin, but it does feel hard-wearing and build quality is good. In this sector, where practicality rules, it’s these qualities that can make the difference, and the Kia scores well here, even if it is a little short on flair.
There’s a wide choice of engines in the Kia Venga. Entry-level 1 models come with 1.4-litre petrol or diesel engines, both with 89bhp and a manual gearbox only, while if you go for 2 spec, you also get the option of a 123bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine with an automatic box.
Buyers choosing the top-spec Venga 3 and Venga 4 models can pick from the 123bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine with manual or automatic transmissions, or a 114bhp 1.6-litre CRDi diesel manual – and the latter is the cleanest and most economical model in the range.
In fact, diesel will be the best bet for most buyers, as the 1.4 and 1.6 CRDi engines combine stronger efficiency with decent mid-range performance, and their six-speed manual boxes serve up greater long distance refinement. With quick, if lifeless, steering and reasonable grip, the Venga is surprisingly agile on twisting back roads.
Longer-travel suspension means there’s a noticeable amount of body roll if you’re a little too energetic with your corner entry speed, and the squidgy steering doesn’t give much feedback – but the Venga is more about relaxed cruising in urban areas than blasting down a country road.
Here it makes more sense, with a soft chassis set-up that soaks up cracked roads and rutted tarmac well. On the motorway, the Venga is refined and offers smooth cruising ability, while even on B-roads it’s comfortable, floating nicely over bumps. It never feels engaging, though, and it’s a shame that the engine lacks any real shove, even if the light five-speed manual gearbox is pleasant to use.
Compared to some of its rivals, the new updated Venga should also be reassuring to run, as Kia finished our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey in 19th position. This isn’t the best performance, but its reliability scores were more impressive.
The brand’s dealer network fared much better, however, coming in 10th place in our last survey. We’ve not heard of any major problems with the Venga, but it only just made our Driver Power top 200 best cars to live with – owners ranked it 197th.
Euro NCAP crash tested the previous Venga in 2010, and although it performed well, scoring a full five-star rating, the assessment has changed since then. Still, we’d expect the new car to fare as well now, with six airbags and ESP as standard. There’s a hill start assist function, too, and the car will flash the hazard lights under hard braking to warn drivers behind.
Things get brighter for the Kia when it comes to practicality: in its regular five-seat configuration, the 440-litre boot is the biggest here, helped by the rear seat bench which can slide back and forward by up to 130mm, giving a good amount of rear legroom.
With the back seats down, luggage capacity rises to 1,253 litres, which isn’t as big as in the Ford B-MAX or Nissan Note, but still plenty. It’s more impressive that the load bay is so spacious in five-seat configuration.
There’s also a false boot floor for secure storage, and inside there are plenty of large compartments dotted around the high seating position. This means an excellent view of the road, too, while there’s a handy armrest for extra comfort on long journeys.
The Kia Venga represents strong value for money, undercutting less well equipped mainstream rivals on price. However, it doesn’t hold on to that price especially well – poor predicted residual values undermine the otherwise excellent financial case for this car. If low running costs are a priority, the diesel versions make the most sense.
The top-spec 1.6-litre CRDi EcoDynamics diesel is equipped with stop-start technology – Kia calls this Intelligent Stop and Go, or ISG – and promises fuel consumption of only 64.2mpg, while 117g/km CO2 emissions mean low road tax bills. ISG also cuts fuel and road tax bills on EcoDynamics versions of the 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol cars.
But you don’t have to buy a high-spec Venga to get low fuel consumption and emissions: the 1.4-litre diesel delivers 62.8mpg and 119g/km even in the entry-level 1. The 1.4 CRDi also benefits from longer, 20,000-mile service intervals; most other versions of the Venga will need attention from your local dealer every 12,500 miles.
Air-conditioning and electric windows feature on all versions, while 2 trim and above gets a leather steering wheel and an iPod connection cable. If you can stretch to a Venga 3, you benefit from automatic air-con, cruise control, heated front seats and a cooling glovebox as standard. And the line-up ranges from insurance group seven to 15, depending on the spec you choose.