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Kia Venga SR7 1.4 ISG

Click to view picture gallery“Clichéd it may be to say the Venga
  is Tardis-like but it’s no exaggeration
  because at a few inches over four
  metres long the Venga manages to
  pack ‘big car’ passenger and cargo
  room into its supermini bodyshell...”

RECENTLY REFRESHED with new front and rear styling and upgraded interiors, Kia's Venga has the added advantages of being affordable to buy (from £11,995) and cheap to run. Add in its versatile practicality and seven-year/100,000-mile warranty and it's the kind of car you'll want to hang on to.

Fronted by a classy new chrome-edged '3D' high gloss black mesh grille that highlights Kia's new take on its trademark 'tiger nose', this latest Venga with its well-planted stance, short overhangs, strong shoulders and clearly defined wheel arches housing machine-faced metallic dark grey alloy wheels is altogether sportier looking.

Engine choices are 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrol and turbodiesel units with both manual and automatic transmissions available on the 1.6 petrol models. We've been driving the four-cylinder 1.4-litre petrol engine SR7 fitted with Kia's fuel-saving engine stop/start technology (ISG: Intelligent Stop & Go) which in our hands averaged a very reasonable 44.4mpg.

“Open the high-lifting
tailgate and there’s more
than meets the eye —
the Venga comes with a
class-best two-tier boot.
With the floor at its
lower position it swallows 570 litres of shopping or luggage; back seats folded,
it handles 1,253 litres of cargo. Impressive!”
Performance-wise it runs to 104mph and posts a 12.4-second zero-to-sixty time. The 1.4 comes with a five-speed manual 'stick' but it's a clean changer and helps make life behind the wheel a pleasantly undemanding affair. At motorway speeds the cabin remains quiet, enhancing the Venga's relaxed ground-covering abilities.

If 'miles per gallon' is your mantra then diesel power will be what you'll want under your Venga's bonnet: the CRDi turbodiesel officially returns 64.2mpg in the combined cycle versus the 1.4 petrol's 50.4mpg.

However, if space is what does it for you then you've definitely come to the right place. Despite its compact footprint, the five-seat supermini Venga boasts interior room comparable to that of a car from the class above and, courtesy of its high roofline and class-best width, will easily accommodate four adults while providing plenty of room for heads (a fist-and-a-half in the front) and legs.

The Venga's recent facelift was marked by noticeably upgraded trim materials — pull open one of the big, head-friendly front doors (the roof is almost eye-level but the Venga's 'tallness' is skilfully masked by the styling) and you'll find a welcoming, roomy, smartly trimmed and well-fettled cabin that benefits from high-set seating. Deep windows ensure all passengers enjoy panoramic views out, as too does the driver from a first-rate driving position.

The large greenhouse emphasises the feeling of inner space, further improved by a full-width rear screen that lets in plenty of light to the back cabin while at the same time providing excellent rear views for the driver — reversing is a cinch, made even easier by rear parking sensors. Big door mirrors and large fixed quarter-lights in the 'forked' A-pillars boost driver visibility and placing the Venga on the move is a piece of cake.

The seats are comfortably bolstered and well shaped (the driver's chair gets manual height adjustment) and both the driver and front passenger have the added luxury of a padded captain's armrest.

A nice touch is that your front seat passenger can stretch out as much as they like without cramping the person sitting behind them. Another thoughtful feature is the oh-so-easy to adjust headrests that click forward sequentially to offer four settings before returning automatically to their start position — although not something you alter very often, it's still good that it is so hassle-free.

If the current heat wave
is anything to go by,
you’ll find it easy to
keep your cool in a
Venga SR7 — the AirCon
might be manually-
operated (full climate
control appears higher
up in the range)
but that doesn’t stop
it working superbly in
baking hot weather...”
The leather-wrapped steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, is good to grip and its red stitching matches that of the cloth seat upholstery (so no nasty burning leather on hot days or the shivers when getting in on a winter's morning). Oh, and the seat bases are long enough to make sure under-knee support is as good as it can be.

To help keep your hands where they belong are remote controls for the audio, phone (and a 'fave' button), all easily accessible on the steering wheel.

If the current heat wave is anything to go by, you'll find it easy to keep your cool in a Venga — the AirCon might be manually-operated (climate control appears higher up in the range) but that doesn't stop it working superbly in baking hot weather.

Also keeping things simple are the good-to-use, knurled rotary knobs that make it easy to control the air-conditioning whilst driving. And the pair of large cupholders in the centre console alongside the trad handbrake work equally well for hot drinks or chilled Frappuccinos. Big, deep, bottle-holding door bins further extend the storage for liquid refreshments.

Nor has entertainment been overlooked: you'll find a USB and Aux-in ports, an iPod cable and 12-volt power socket in the deep tray just ahead of the gear lever. A logically laid-out centre stack set at the perfect height for ease of use houses the air conditioning, airflow and audio; straightforward switchgear and crystal clear instrumentation with each of the three interlinked dials set in reflection-free hooded nacelles are additional ergonomic 'plusses'.

Of the five trim levels, the SR7 is second up the spec ladder and includes smart Houndstooth cloth upholstery with red stitching, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone operation with music streaming, tinted glass, a full set of electric windows, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, tilt and telescopic leather-rim steering wheel with remote audio controls, tyre pressure monitoring, AirCon, drive-away automatic door locking, USB and AUX ports, 6-speaker radio/CD unit with MP3 disc compatibility, iPod cable, auto lights, privacy glass (rear windows and tailgate), a rear spoiler, and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Safety-wise the five-star Euro NCAP-rated Venga is well equipped with a full complement of airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), height-adjustable belts, active front headrests, Hill-Start Assist, Electronic Stability Control with Brake Assist and Vehicle Stability Management, impact-sensing auto door unlocking, and Emergency Stop Signalling (flashes the high-level brake light in an emergency stop to alert following drivers).

The rear cabin is easily
accessed via the wide-
opening back doors and
s no head-ducking
as you come aboard.
Once in, there
s generous
headroom and multiple
angle backrests that
make lounging the
way to go.
A well padded centre
armrest drops down to
service two travelling
in the back, with wide
outer armrests on the
doors. Foot, knee and leg
room are all good and
stretching out
is not a problem...”
Family drivers will appreciate the Isofix anchor and tether points in the two outer rear seats, as well as the front passenger airbag's cut-out switch for when a rear-facing child seat is being used.

The rear cabin is easily accessed via the wide-opening back doors and there's no head-ducking as you climb aboard. Once in, there's generous headroom and multiple angle backrests that make lounging the way to go. A well padded centre armrest drops down to service two travelling in the back, with wide outer armrests on the doors. Foot, knee and leg room are all good and stretching out is not a problem.

Views out, both to the side and forward, are all good thanks to the high-set seats, deep windows and the large gap between the front seats. If it's three bodies you'll be carrying in the back then they'll travel pretty well too.

More Brownie points are scored by bottle-holding door pockets and the fact that the 60:40-split rear seats can be slid in both directions by up to 130mm so you can tailor the boot/passenger room depending on the needs of the moment.

Open the high-lifting tailgate and there's more than initially meets the eye — the Venga comes with a class-best two-tier boot: with the floor at its higher position (and level with the load sill) there's a perfectly practical 440 litres.

However, whenever you need more you can lower the floor to add an extra 163mm of height; doing so also boosts the boot space to a seriously accommodating 570 litres. And there's more… beneath the lift-up floor is a large, deep, multi-compartment storage tray which itself sits above a space-saver spare wheel. Naturally there are also tie-down eyelets and a stretchy luggage net.

Drop the 'Fold & Dive' 60:40-split back seats (they also lock down for safety) and you'll have a surprisingly cavernous (and very white goods-friendly) 1,253-litre cargo bay made even more useful by a totally flat floor and a 1,552mm long deck. If that's not enough for your needs you can always tow a braked 1,300kg.

Although most buyers choosing a Venga won't be expecting a hot-hatch, the Venga is surprisingly puntable. Make full use of the eager engine and clean gearchange and it's more than up for some press-on progress. The brakes (discs at each corner) are reassuringly good and pull you up without any drama, and the speed-sensitive motor-driver power steering is light enough (but not too light) to make driving as pleasant as it can be in today's choked townships. All-in-all you really won't find anything to complain about when it comes to the ride, either when you're picking your way through urban mazes or running free on the open road.

Smart and sassy, the Venga is about as easy to live with as they come plus it's economical to run, large enough for genuine family use and able to double as a versatile load-carrier whenever the occasion demands. Throw in the peace-of-mind that comes from its industry-leading seven-year warranty and putting one on your drive is the most logical thing in the world! ~

Kia Venga SR7 1.4 ISG | £13,595
Maximum speed: 104mph | 0-60mph: 12.4 seconds | Test Average: 44.4mpg
Power: 89bhp | Torque: 101lb ft | CO2: 130g/km