What is it?
The car world is always transforming. Models come and go and even the manufacturers that build them are ultimately subject to a beginning, a middle and an end.
Happily, it seems that Kia is firmly entrenched in its ‘middle’ phase, and long may it continue. But anyone with a keen eye will have spotted Kia’s morphing from budget manufacturer to mainstream player. In the process its cars have not only become better built, more stylish and superior to drive but also more expensive.
Not all the changes have been seismic, though, as we can see with this gentle facelift of the Venga mini-MPV which, at £14,895 for this 1.4 CDi SR7 model, is bang on the money of rivals such as the Nissan Note and Honda Jazz. So has Kia’s latest offering lost some of the old model’s rough edges and become a real player?
What’s it like?
Outside the changes mean a bigger grille, sharper-looking bumpers and, on the SR7 model, smart new 16in alloys. Tyre pressure monitors are now standard, as are air-con, electric windows, automatic lights, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth.
Despite is being just 10cm longer than a Ford Fiesta, the Venga has got space inside for four six-foot adults. Indeed, with no transmission tunnel in the rear, it will facilitate a fifth person, too, if you don’t mind some friendly rubbing of shoulders.
So is the boot tiny as a result? No, there are 440 litres of luggage space back there, extending to 570 litres if you drop the boot floor to its lowest setting. You can also fold both rear seats in one simple action – without even removing the headrests – for a full 1253 litres and including a fabulously flat load deck.
If you need more options, the rear seats slide forward or back by 130mm and the backrests tilt, so you can prioritise the boot or rear seat space depending on your needs.
The driving position is good, with lots of adjustment to the steering wheel and seat. There’s also a good-sized glove box and plenty of oddment storage dotted around. The basic infotainment system, with its dinky, old-school display, is a mite fiddly, but given time you eventually become its master.
The 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel engine manages to seem quicker than the 0-60mph time of 14sec would suggest. It’s no fireball and overtakes need planning, but for everyday use in town with a bit of motorway driving thrown in, it’s fine.
However refinement isn’t its strength. It rattles at idle and becomes downright raucous by the time you get to the engine’s upper limits, at which point you’ll be desperate to grab another gear. Happily, there are six ratios to choose from and the manual box itself is pretty slick to use.
The ride and handling balance is fine for a car of this type. Overall it feels safe and secure, and while it tends to fidget over small undulations, the ride never gets crashy.
The steering would benefit from some feel but it is light when you’re twirling it around town. On the motorway the Venga does get pushed around by heavy crosswinds and you notice a fair amount of wind noise at these speeds, too.
Should I buy one?
In this world of change the new Venga hasn’t changed enough. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its good points: it’s still practical, well built and easy to drive, plus in SR7 trim it’s well equipped as well.
Elsewhere it feels adequate rather than great, but it’s the lack of refinement from this diesel engine that really knocks it down. As a result, if you really want a Venga we’d suggest you buy the 1.4-litre petrol version instead.
Ultimately though, you’d be better to change your mind completely and go for a Honda Jazz or Nissan Note. As the traditional mainstream offerings they can match many of the Venga’s good points, but feel far more refined and the more polished products as a result.
Kia Venga 1.4 CRDi SR7 5dr
Location Surrey; On Sale Now: Price £14,895; Engine 4 cyls, 1,396cc, turbo, diesel; Power 89bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1345kg; 0-60mph 14.0sec; Top speed 104mph; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 119g/km, 21%
What is it?