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Korea Progression

Ryan Borroff
IF any car proves Korean manufacturer Kia’s star is in the ascendant then it must be its compact car, the Venga. It’s something of an illusion because it’s clear from the moment that you get in it that this is not really a compact car at all, in fact it’s what is known in the industry as a mini MPV. Which essentially means it’s a very clever little design – from the outside you have a car that feels a similar size to a Ford Fiesta but what you actually get is the kind of space and versatility that you’d expect in a car that is much bigger.

It’s a nice looking car, handsome enough, but nothing to write home about. But when you consider how this car combines such practicality with its looks then the design is truly impressive – especially when you take a look at some of its rivals which look like converted panel vans. Having avoided what seems to be the prerequisite boxy profile, the Venga is instead sleek and looks so little like an MPV – mini or otherwise – that you would be forgiven for assuming it was just a regular little compact. We found that the car got better looking the more we looked at it.

However, the USP of this car is that it’s the automotive answer to Mary Poppin’s carpet bag – you wouldn’t believe how much shopping, holiday suitcases or sporting paraphernalia you can shoehorn into it. In terms of storage space, the Venga rivals an estate car, thanks in part to being one of the widest cars in the B segment. Split rear seats move forward and back so you can increase the amount of boot space if you need it. And the car even has what Kia calls “Fold and Dive”functionality which means the seats effectively disappear into the floor. The resulting space is a sizeable 1,486 litres.

It’s even got two tiers in the boot that gives you double the amount of storage space. Just lift up the floor and there’s a whole other storage area underneath with netting for wet gear and several compartments for keeping things separate – it looks like an automotive bento box.

The handling and manoeuvrability is positive and surprisingly comfortable, and the steering accurate if rather light around town, although I have to say that most cars of this size – marketed, as they are at urban drivers – feel very similar to me.

We had the top level Venga 3 model which came with a panoramic sunroof that drew back from the top of the windscreen towards the rear screen almost without interruption. Two sliding shades here prevented the sunshine from cooking us on what turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the year. It also nursed just two tanks of diesel to and all the way round Cornwall over a long weekend – good news now that the price of a litre of fuel is so astronomical.

It’s not all good, of course. We found the 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi diesel EcoDynamics engine with its stop-start technology to be very noisy, though less intrusive at speed. Around town it could be noticeably annoying and under heavy throttle it lacked oomph at the top end on the hill sections of Cornwall’s A30, requiring a shift down or two of its six-speed gearbox.

The interior was acceptable. We had the best of the three trim levels and although it felt contemporary enough some of the materials were a bit rigid where I would have liked something softer. Fit and finish, however, appeared good – the car really felt well put together. With three of us in, it was a seductive choice for a family that gets to leave the city less often than they would like and who have no regular daily commute. Our crew, and people in a similar position, is a key market for Kia with this car. There is no doubt that a young urban family could do very well with it, especially as it offers such a great about of space and economy for very modest running costs.

All in all the Venga is an astonishing over-achiever. Considering its market leading seven-year (or 100,000 mile) warranty, plus more space and flexibility than compact rivals, the question is why – when the Venga costs from just £11,495, £200 less than a Ford Fiesta – would you not buy it? When you consider the increasing cost of fuel and the resulting general trend to smaller cars, it would seem that a car like the Venga can really enable you to have your cake and eat it.

THE FACTS:
KIA VENGA 1.4 LITRE CRDI VENGA 3 ECODYNAMICS
PRICE (AS TESTED): £15,395
0-60MPH: 14.0 secs
TOP SPEED: 104 mph
CO2 G/KM: 117
MPG COMBINED: 62.8 mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN ***
PERFORMANCE ***
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ***