Gareth Butterfield checks out the ubiquitous Kia Venga
IT’S often a good indicator that a car is worth its salt if you start to see plenty of them on the road. The buying public tends to make wise choices en-mass.
That said, I’m not sure what went wrong with the Vauxhall Corsa, but other cars which are common sights on the road are plentiful for good reason.
Look around, for example, and you’ll often see the Kia Venga. On the face of it it’s an attractive small car with a badge that commands huge respect in this day and age, backed up by Kia’s brilliant dealer network and that never-been-beaten seven-year warranty.
It’s been dubbed a mini-MPV and that’s another daft niche sector of the market I’ve never really understood, so I like to think of it as a large supermini.
In fact, Kia themselves prefer to label it as a large supermini, but it’s really not that large. It’s certainly misleading to pop the MPV moniker on it – “Multi-Purpose Vehicles” came into being in the days of the Renault Espace and so on, and it has no similarities with that or any of its competitors.
However, while it’s not that large on the outside, it must be said, it’s a brilliant bit of packaging on the inside.
Its reasonably stylish body, which has been updated a few years ago to freshen it up, conceals a “tardis-like” interior with plenty of space for four (or five if you must), a roomy area for the driver and passenger and a decent boot.
So it’s off to a good start. However all this room gives you more space to have a proper look round and, to be honest, it’s not exactly luxurious inside.
This being one of the older models in Kia’s line-up there’s some obvious parts of the dashboard that remind you of how far Kia has come. None of it is dated enough to put you off, but it’s perhaps a reminder of how far Kia has come in recent years.
For example, the central controls look fairly modern at first glance, but it all feels a little “old-tech”. There’s nothing it does that impresses or feels fresh and original. The red LEDs of the small display have been replaced by a colour LCD screen in nearly all of its competitors and this adds to the back-in-time-a-bit feel that’s going on inside.
The quality of some of the plastics will also be disappointing to owners of more modern Kias, and certainly to anyone used to pootling around in a German car. But it really isn’t all bad news.
The controls are nice and light, the visibility is excellent, and it’s a doddle to drive. Its gear-change is great and the steering is very pleasant to use for a car of its type.
There’s four engines to choose from, a 1.4-litre petrol a 1.6-litre petrol and the same sizes are available in a diesel flavour.
The diesels are good enough, but the fizzy petrol engines suit the car better. That said, the diesels are far more frugal. The 1.4 CRDI diesel version I tested returned a healthy 55mpg just about everywhere. It’s not the quietest of diesels, but it was a pleasant thing to drive, even with just 89bhp on tap.
The range starts below £12,000 for a bottom-of-the-range 1.4 petrol version and, to my mind, that’s probably the Venga’s sweet spot.
This might offer up a very basic specification, including wind-up windows in the back and steel wheels, but pile on the extras and you pile on the pounds.
Opt for a top-spec Venga 4 with the 1.6 diesel engine and you’re knocking on the door of £19,000, which is a lot of money for a car of this type. Especially when the competition feels a little more sophisticated.
But it wouldn’t have proven popular if it wasn’t doing something right. Often, all buyers want is an attractive car with plenty of space and peace-of-mind ownership. And that’s what the Venga does well.
If you like your gadgets, look elsewhere. If you want to stand out in the crowd, it might not be for you.
But if you want a small car with plenty of space and the best warranty in the business, try the Kia Venga. It’s popular for a reason.