Car group tests

Flex appeal: Kia Venga vs Ford B-MAX & Nissan Note

Is the revised Kia Venga versatile enough to beat supermini-MPV class rivals from Nissan and Ford?

If you’re after a practical yet compact car, you don’t have to stick to the age-old supermini formula. There’s a big group of vehicles that mix MPV versatility with a compact hatchback footprint, and the latest to offer this blend of interior space in a squashed-down body is the facelifted Kia Venga.

While it might not be instantly obvious, Kia has tweaked its supermini-MPV for 2015 to keep it looking fresh, while adding some more luxurious touches inside. At £13,895, the Venga has price on its side – but it has to face tough competition, as there’s a legion of cars out there offering a similar level of practicality with more efficient engines and even more tech.

In a competitive sector where flexibility rules, price alone is not enough, which is why we’ve lined up two of the class leaders – the cleverly packaged Ford B-MAX and the Nissan Note with its surprisingly spacious interior – to see if the Kia is good enough to come out on top despite a relatively inefficient, old-school engine.

Both rivals are more expensive than the Venga, but do the Ford and Nissan’s extra features mean they’re worth the money?

More reviews for Venga

Kia Venga review

Ford B-MAX review

Nissan Note review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to find out which car wins...

Head-to-head

Versatility

All three of our test cars feature variable height floors, concealed compartments and sliding rear benches, so it has to be a special feature to crown one of these cars the most versatile. Even though the Note and Venga are roomier inside, the B-MAX has a couple more strings to its bow in the shape of those sliding doors and the folding front seat.

Ease of access

Access to the B-MAX’s rear is easy with those sliding doors and no central pillar. The Kia also lets you jump in with zero fuss due to its high-up seating position. The Note isn’t as simple – you have to lower yourself into the deeper seats. Despite more legroom, you feel hemmed in.

Technology

Cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful – on the Kia and Ford, equipment is sparse. Even in a small car, the Note’s reversing camera and other gadgets are welcome. Sat-nav and a big touchscreen infotainment unit could be a deal-maker for some.

Verdict

1st place: Nissan Note

Lower running costs, more equipment and competitive practicality see the Nissan Note take the victory. Its 1.2 engine isn’t fast, but it does the job sufficiently, while it’s refined enough for town and motorway driving. The Note’s strength, however, is its packaging and versatility, with a roomy cabin and boot that offer more space for passengers and luggage than either supermini-MPV rival.

2nd place: Ford B-MAX

If you’re after a drivers’ car with a sensible side, then the B-MAX is your best bet. Its perky engine and Fiesta-based chassis are the most fun, but they’re not enough to top this test. It’s too expensive in this company, the dash design is confusing and the Ford isn’t practical enough, either – although its party piece doors will make family life and loading the cabin extremely easy.

3rd place: Kia Venga

If the Venga’s engine was cleaner and more willing, it’d be a different story, as the roomy, comfy and refined Kia would be more appealing. But even at this ‘2’ version’s budget price point, you can’t get away from the high CO2 output and dearth of interior tech. The extremely mild facelift means the Venga just doesn’t feel like a new car, but one that’s stuck in the last decade.

Other options for similar money…

New: Skoda Fabia Estate SE 1.2 TSI 90

Price: £14,595Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl, 89bhp

Skoda Fabia Estate static

Skoda’s Fabia Estate is hugely practical, boasting a 530-litre boot. SE trim doesn’t bring much standard kit – like our ‘2’-spec Kia – but 15-inch alloys, air-con, DAB and Bluetooth are all on the equipment list. 

Used: MINI Cooper Clubman

Price: £14,500Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 122bhp

If you want petrol power, but fancy something with more of a premium feel, a used MINI Clubman is within budget. Its 260-litre boot means it’s down on practicality, but £14,500 gets you a low-mile Cooper with cruise control, part-leather seats and sat-nav.

Key specs:

 Nissan Note n-tec 1.2Ford B-MAX 1.0T EcoBoost ZetecKia Venga '2' ISG 1.4
On-the-road price/total as tested£15,365/£15,810£16,095/£17,465£13,895/£13,895
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£6,200/40.4%£6,803/42.3%£5,775/41.6%
Depreciation£9,165£9,292£8,120
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£490/£980£545/£1,091£584/£1,167
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,300/£2,167£1,521/£2,534£1,648/£2,747
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost7/£262/B/£2013/£273/C/£309/£265/D/£110
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£159/£249/£159£550 (3yrs)£339 (3yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,100/2,600mm4,077/2,489mm4,075/2,615mm
Height/width1,530/1,695mm1,604/1,751mm1,600/1,765mm
Engine3cyl in-line/1,198cc3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl in-line/1,396cc
Peak power/revs79/6,000 bhp/rpm123/6,000 bhp/rpm89/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs110/4,000 Nm/rpm200/1,400 Nm/rpm137/4,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel41 litres/repair kit48 litres/repair kit50 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)411/1,495 litres318/1,386 litres440/1,253 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,124/395/430kg1,279/481/750kg1,253/457/1,300kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.7 metres/0.30Cd10.5 metres/N/A10.4 metres/0.31Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr7yrs (100,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers18,000 (1yr)/22512,500 (1yr)/78110,000 (1yr)/170
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.28th/25th*25th/27th*19th/10th*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points86/82/58/70/592/84/67/71/589/85/64/71/5 (2010)
    
0-60/30-70mph12.1/12.5 secs9.9/9.2 secs11.7/11.9 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th6.6/10.1 secs4.8/6.4 secs6.0/8.8 secs
50-70mph in 4th/5th10.7/16.4 secs7.5/8.8 secs8.7/12.2 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph105mph/3,300rpm117mph/2,950rpm104mph/3,200rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph50.0/36.7/9.2m48.5/36.5/8.8m48.5/33.5/9.1m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph68/53/67/72dB70/52/65/71dB66/52/63/73dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range48.3/10.7/436 miles41.3/9.2/436 miles38.1/8.5/419 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined47.9/70.6/60.1mpg47.1/67.3/57.7mpg42.8/55.4/50.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined10.5/15.5/13.2mpl10.4/14.8/12.7mpl9.4/12.2/11.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket135/109g/km/16%158/114g/km/17%171/130g/km/21%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/no/yesSix/yes/£300^/noSix/yes/yes/no
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yesNo/yes/noNo/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/noAir-con/no/£175Air-con/no/no
Metallic paint/xenons/keyless go£500/no/no£495/no/yes£490/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£400/yes/yes/yesNo/yes/£250/yes

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