Kia has formed a solid reputation for itself in the UK market by offering well equipped, sturdily built cars at competitive prices.
The diminutive looking, yet rather spacious, ‘Venga’ is the Korean manufacturer’s entry into the mini-MPV sector, where practicality and comfort is crucial to success. While it represents a Korean brand, it’s actually manufactured in the EU.
Mini-MPV’s are, perhaps, some of the most underwhelming cars on the market with regards to engaging performance, but in a city environment they are some of the easiest cars to use.
The Venga has a relatively small footprint and so getting around town and squeezing into spaces is not too difficult. There are three engines offered and, in truth, none of them are particularly impressive.
The 1.4 petrol engine will be suitable for buyers who have a low annual mileage, but the 1.6-litre petrol is the one we would definitely avoid as it only comes attached to a four-speed automatic gearbox and isn’t particularly efficient.
It may be better to seek out a 1.4-litre diesel on the basis that it’s capable of over 60mpg and costs just £30 a year in road tax. It’s however rather noisy and a bit lethargic.
Ride and handling
Comfort is very important to buyers in this segment and Kia has succeeded in making the Venga a pleasant place to be when driving around in town. It has a rather soft ride and deals with the cracks and bumps on inner city roads without fuss.
But, while the soft ride makes the Venga great for driving around town, it hinders it once you’re out on faster and more open roads. The steering feel is vague and the fairly low powered engines complain noisily when pushed.
There is grip available though, and the Venga will stick to a line through a corner, although it never seems composed and people who enjoy driving will be rather disappointed. It feels much better in an urban environment where the simple, light controls and small footprint can be put to better use. On a B-road the Kia Venga really just feels well out of its comfort zone.
Controls in the Venga’s cabin are all laid out and easy to operate but the quality of the materials used is not quite as good as those found in its rivals. Seating is comfortable though and room in the back is quite impressive with plenty of head and leg room on offer.
The rear seats themselves can actually recline slightly and the floor in the back is also completely flat, making it much easier for occupants to get comfy and move around. Boot space is pretty decent for a smaller vehicle, with the rear seats in place it’s listed at 440 litres.
Kia has also included a clever extra storage area under the boot floor, and this increases the space to 570 litres. Room can be increased yet further, though, as the rear seats can be folded almost completely flat, making the total volume available a garden centre friendly 1,253 litres.
As far as trim levels go, the basically named ‘2’ or ‘3’ gives probably the best balance of value and equipment. All Venga models feel rather bland inside so we’d avoid the more expensive ‘SR7’ and ‘4’ levels, though they were the only trim levels where parking sensors came as standard.
What to know before you buy
Kia has a solid reputation for producing well made cars, but if you are looking at an early Kia Venga (2010) make sure to check that it was recalled to fix an early issue with the driver's seatbelt.
In later models this was altered at the time of production and so isn’t something that needs to be checked. This problem was a big part of the Venga only scoring four stars in its original Euro NCAP safety testing.
Kia addressed the issues raised in the testing and after adjustments it went on to score a full five-star safety rating.
Unfortunately for the Kia Venga, it’s outshined in almost every department by the Ford B-Max. While the Venga will be cheaper to buy, the B-Max is more engaging to drive, has greater practicality, and a better interior.
It also has one of the finest engines on the market in the shape of the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost. The B-Max also has an ace up its sleeve with the presence of special sliding rear doors and the absence of central pillars, making it far easier to get in and out of.
Citroen’s C3 Picasso is more stylish and quieter when on the move, and the Vauxhall Meriva is more fun to drive and comes with a better selection of engines. The older Renault Scenic was the ‘go-to’ small MPV for many years and has a proven track record, even if it’s now starting to feel old.
While the Kia Venga offers good value for money, it doesn’t quite stack up to its rivals when it comes to offering a gratifying driving experience.
It’s undoubtedly at its best in an urban environment, but if your budget can stretch just that a little bit further, there are more rewarding cars to be found on the market.