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Kia Venga 2 1.4

Click to view picture gallery“It’s near to 1 April but after the
s recent budget, added
  motoring costs — in the form of
  extra taxes
are no joke.
  However, Kia
s new Venga is on
  hand to meet today
s highly-taxed
  motoring needs

FOR MOST PEOPLE the cost of motoring is high on their budgeting agenda. It is estimated by the RAC Foundation that a substantial 15 per cent of disposable income is spent on motoring. So the staggered increases in the price of fuel, higher road taxes, higher Benefit-in-Kind costs, higher fuel benefit charges for company car users, higher national insurance contributions and the axing of company car tax discounts on alternatively-fuelled vehicles (such as electric-petrol hybrids, flex-fuel, LPG and bio-fuels) will add to the already high financial burden endured by today's motorists (remember that when you vote!).

Downsizing in both car body dimensions and engine capacities, together with driving less miles, will have to be the way forward for the vast majority of motorists as tax gathering measures designed to get us out of our huge national debt are heaped upon the motorist.

Fortunately there is no shortage of choice when it comes to compact, fuel-efficient cars with versatile passenger or load carrying combinations. Whether any satisfy our love of motoring is highly unlikely. Sadly, driving has become a function of daily life — not an enjoyable relaxation.

For example, on paper the new Czech-built Kia Venga answers all modern family (or a couple's) needs if it just about having a reliable 'set of wheels' which gets us from A to B cost effectively and in a reasonable amount of comfort and safety.

This new compact supermini, five-door, tall hatchback is just over four metres long but has a long wheelbase. It has a versatile interior for two adults and three children. Split rear seats that slide fore and aft by up to 130mm allow the passenger accommodation to be further stretched when maximum luggage capacity is not needed. Alternatively, a two-tier boot means that owners who occasionally need more than the standard 444 litres of cargo space can expand the luggage area simply by moving the floor. The luggage compartment then becomes 163mm taller, extending total volume to 570-litres. If more space is required the rear seats have 'Fold & Dive' functionality which makes them 'disappear' into the floor, creating a completely flat deck in the load area which expands the total space to a cavernous 1,486 litres.

For size and cost plus
the seven-year,
100,000-miles warranty
the Kia Venga is a
tempting proposition
There is the choice of 1.4-litre petrol and diesel engines coupled with manual gearboxes and a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an automatic transmission as standard. Prices start at a frugal 11,495 and rise to 15,395. Three trim levels are easy to understand — '1', '2' and '3'. Choice model should be the 1.4-litre petrol with Venga 1 specification and this model carries the range starter price tag.

All Vengas are well equipped and come with air conditioning, driver's seat height adjustment, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, electric front windows, remote central locking and tinted glass. In-car entertainment is taken care of by a high-quality six-speaker audio system with RDS radio, CD player, full MP3 compatibility, AUX and USB ports to connect MP3 loaded USB sticks or to connect MP3 players.

For safety and security, all Vengas have six airbags (front, side and curtain), active front head restraints, two ISOFIX chid seat mounting points, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Electronic Stability Control, Brake Assist and Traction Control.

Kia was hoping that its latest small car would follow the lead from its shared platform Soul brother and achieve a full five-star Euro NCAP rating but in fact it was awarded four stars. There was an initial hiccup with the potential for the lower end of the front seatbelts to be cut by the seat slider but this has now had a 'fix'.

Venga 2 models add 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, an iPod cable and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The Venga 3 is the top of the range model and comes with climate control, front and rear electric windows, front fog lamps, a panoramic electric sunroof and privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate.

So for size and cost plus the seven-year, 100,000-miles warranty the Kia Venga is a tempting proposition. Kia certainly thinks so: they expect to sell 3,800 this year, slightly less than their small Rio model but more than their 'funky' Soul creation on whose floorpan the Venga is based. For the record, competitors in this sector include the Honda Jazz and Nissan Note.

Compact on the outside
and big on the inside,
lots of seating and load
space options, long
warranty and high safety
The Venga might be satisfying as far as price, size, versatility and running costs go but it is not altogether a satisfying driving experience; while it undoubtedly offers a lot, that does not add up to a rewarding ownership experience. There are better mini MPVs on the market; there are better 1.4 petrol and diesel engines; and there are more rewarding 'drives'.

I tried the 1.4-litre petrol version with Venga 2 specification which costs 12,695. An attractive price and now that Scrappage deals have ended other discounts or exchange schemes are already forthcoming as dealers struggle to find retail customers. The most impressive feature of the car is the Tardis-like interior space it offers. It really is a bit of a magic box because the external size masks the impressive interior space and versatile seating and load carrying options. Some of the plastic trim is a bit low-cost but it looks durable.

The 1.4-litre 89bhp petrol engine (DOHC with variable valve timing) offers no more than adequate performance. It is noisy when pushed hard under load and the 33.7mpg during my week-long test drive was way short of the published 45.6mpg Combined Cycle figure. With 137lb ft of torque available it was relatively flexible at low to mid speeds and thankfully the five-speed gearbox has the right ratios and is not too highly geared. CO2 emissions are 147g/km so this means a 125 road tax bill. Insurance costs are low with a Group 8 rating.

The ride was firm but relatively comfortable; better than some in this class but not close to being class leading. Likewise were the roadholding and grip; OK, but only average and that rather sums up the Venga. Plus points: Compact on the outside and big on the inside, lots of seating and load space options, long warranty, high safety specification, meets some of today's frugal motoring needs. — David Miles

Kia Venga 2 1.4
| 12,695
Maximum speed: 104mph | 0-62mph: 12.4 seconds | Overall test MPG: 33.7mpg
Power: 89bhp | Torque: 137lb ft | CO2 147g/km