The Kia Venga is a good but unexceptional mini-MPV that’s disappointingly expensive

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Although Kia has a history in the regular B-segment with three generations of the Kia Rio hatchback, the Kia Venga is its first B-segment MPV, slotting Kia below the Carens. Parent company Hyundai has its own version of the Venga, the ix20, which uses the same engines and chassis and, even to Hyundai and Kia bosses, looks just a little too similar.

The biggest difference between the two cars is the warranty – seven years and 100,000 miles-worth for the Kia and five years but with no mileage limit for the Hyundai. While Kia is hardly being shy and retiring in the naming of its latest small car –‘Venga’ is Spanish for ‘come on’ – the company is holding back from calling the Venga an MPV.

In the UK the Venga range consists of just three engines, each with four cylinders

Which is strange, because to our eyes the Venga’s extended head room and adjustable rear seats mark it out as exactly that. Kia says it is instead a B-segment (think Ford Fiesta size) hatchback but with stretched proportions for increased interior space, and as such is targeted at downsizing families.

In the UK the Venga range consists of just four engines, each with four cylinders. There are two diesels – an 89bhp 1.4-litre unit and a 114bhp 1.6-litre oilburner that wears Kia’s EcoDynamics badge – and two petrol models, one a 1.6 producing 123bhp and is the only engine available with a four-speed auto gearbox, and the other a 1.4 with 89bhp.

In spite of the appeal of the diesel’s 62.8mpg and, for once, not an exorbitantly inflated price over the price of a petrol car, the bulk of Venga sales are likely to be the 1.4-litre petrol car. However, Kia list prices no longer have the advantage they used to over European rivals, which means the Venga must compete on its on-road merits.

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Kia Venga rear

The Kia Venga is based on the Kia Soul crossover, with the wheelbase stretched by 65mm. It is this modification that defines the Venga’s main selling point. Its length is some 20cm shorter than a Kia Cee’d, yet it has almost the same wheelbase, meaning generous interior space for the overall footprint.  

The Venga is the first production Kia to be designed from scratch by Kia’s new design director, Peter Schreyer (ex-Audi), and closely follows the No3 Concept, the only significant difference being the replacement of the concept’s combined panoramic windscreen and roof. However, a conventional panoramic roof is available on the top-spec Venga 3. In 2015 saw Kia give the Venga a minor facelift, with the changes to the exterior limited to a bigger front grille and sharper looking bumpers, while inside a tyre pressure monitoring system and Bluetooth connectivity are now all standard.

There's generous interior space for the overall footprint

As a result of the elongated wheelbase, the front and rear overhangs are relatively short. This, along with the broad track, gives the Venga a relatively squat stance, helping to hide the height. At 1.6m it is taller than a conventional hatchback.

The A-pillars are not particularly thick, but the front three-quarter windows (unusually large for such a small car), help boost visibility at junctions. 

Large, swept-back headlamps give the Venga a mini Ford S-Max look but there is no option of xenon technology, although front foglights are included on trim level 3. Meanwhile, the cheese grater grille is becoming a Kia styling trait. Although the Venga’s is not identical (in outline or shape of the grille) to Kia that of the Soul or the recently facelifted Cee’d, the design follows the same theme.

At the back, the cut-out in rear bumper looks a little contrived, even if it does help break up the bulk of the rear hatch. A small thing, but the shutline for the rear door is echoed by the angle of the tailgate and the join line of the rear bumper, which is a neat bit of styling.

Whether the styling appeals is, of course, subjective, but to our eyes at least it is entirely inoffensive but disappointingly bland. 


Kia Venga interior

This is arguably the most important category in this particular review, because above all else it is interior space and flexibility that the Kia Venga promises. And in terms of pure centimetres it delivers. Up front there is a good range of driving positions, with a height-adjustable seat plus steering reach and rake movement being standard on all trim levels.  

There is also an impressive array of cubbyholes of varying sizes, a number of which nestle between the front seats and which will collectively swallow a remarkable amount. The arrangement is not particularly attractive but it is at least functional.     

The only disappointment with the Venga’s cabin is that its design provides little in the way of excitement

But it is in the rear that the Venga impresses most. The rear seats are split and both recline and slide. We doubt the recline function will be of great benefit, but the ability to trade boot space for leg room is useful. The Venga’s high roofline ensures plenty of head room, too.

Further back, the boot is usefully uniform in shape and size. With the rear seats fully back it has a capacity of 444 litres, which is more than in a Honda Jazz, Skoda Yeti or Nissan Note, if not quite as much as the Citroën C3 Picasso

An underfloor storage area, divided to keep small items secure, adds a further 126 litres. Lower the rear seats – an easy operation that doesn’t require the headrests to be removed – and the seats fold flat to the boot floor. While there is nothing in the Venga’s operation that rewrites the rulebook, what it does it does well.  

The only disappointment with the Venga’s cabin is that for its functionality and ease of operation, its design provides little in the way of excitement. With the exception of the indicator stalks, which look like relics of Kia’s past, material quality is passable, but like the exterior the overall ambience is uninspiring.

On the equipment front, there are six trims to choose from - 1, 1 Air, SR7, 2, 3 and 4. Entry-level models get 15in steel wheels, heated door mirrors, hill start assist, front armrests, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity, while upgrading to 1 Air adds the convenience of air conditioning. 

The limited edition SR7 models include 16in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, vanity mirrors, electric windows, automatic headlights and privacy glass, while going up to the level 2 trim adds electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors.

The mid-range 3 trim adds a part leather upholstery, cruise control, heated front seats, climate control and cooled glovebox, and Kia's 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav and a reversing camera, while the range-topping 4 comes with a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel and keyless start.


Kia Venga engine bay

Although we have low expectations of what a 1.4-litre 89bhp family runabout can achieve, the Kia Venga proved disappointingly slow during our tests. It is not so much the 0-60mph time of 13.1sec, but the performance beyond this point that looks a little sluggish. 

Under full acceleration it needed 13.5sec to go from 60-80mph, or just the sort of sprint you might need to join a fast-moving motorway. A 1.4 Ford Fiesta takes 10.2sec and the Citroen C3 hatch is faster still. 

The 1.4-litre petrol feels quicker than the 1.6 auto and is more refined than the diesel

What we can report with more assurance is that at lower speeds and lower revs the engine feels noticeably stronger; at town and A-road speeds (up to 50mph) the Venga is adequately brisk. Both petrol engines feature continuously variable valve timing, which means four-fifths of the 1.4’s maximum 101lb ft of torque is available from 1500rpm.

It is also an impressively quiet engine at idle and low revs, making the Venga refreshingly refined. Beyond 3000rpm the engine is more strained, but again this may improve when properly run in.

The 1.6 promises slightly better performance, but actually feels worse on the road than both 1.4s – although if you opt for it, not helped by the old-school four-speed auto. The EcoDynamics diesel is shows more grunt but is limited again by its coarseness. No question, the base 1.4 petrol is the pick of this range.

The manual gearchange is light without being vague and the weighting as the lever passes from one gear to the next is consistent and reassuringly positive. While it is unlikely that you’ll be changing gear for the sheer hell of it, there is little in the process to discourage you from doing so.  

All Venga models get the same brake set-up, consisting of ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. While outright stopping power is not an issue (in road use), we would like more consistency and reassurance to the pedal feel, the initial response occasionally feeling too mushy.


Kia Venga rear cornering

Kia As it did with the Soul, Kia has tuned the Kia Venga’s suspension for British roads, which means a UK Venga rides differently from one in Europe. Kia UK has gone to this trouble because it felt the Venga’s European specification was too stiff for our broken roads.  

The question is, has Kia gone far enough? Because all that has been changed for the UK is the damping; the spring rates are unaltered. Certainly the first impression is that, for a relatively tall urban car, the Venga turns with remarkably little body roll. As a consequence, it feels surprisingly nimble and planted during cornering, and grips strongly. The ESP can be switched off, although we doubt any Venga owner would want to.

For a relatively tall urban car, the Venga turns with remarkably little body roll

However, while the Venga is competent, it could never be described as an entertaining car to drive. Rather, it is entirely forgettable, which we understand some people will see as a positive. We, however, wish the steering was more feelsome and less spongy on turn-in. The electric system is an improvement on that fitted to the Kia Soul, mostly because it is more consistent around the straight ahead, but it is still some way off the best electric set-ups. 

As for the ride, the Venga just about gets away with it. Around town the stiffness of the spring rates means the Venga is displaced by bumps more readily than we expect of this class of car, but there is just enough compliancy in the dampers that the movement doesn’t disturb occupants.


Kia Venga

The days when Kias used to have a significant price advantage over its rivals are long gone, but at least that seven year warranty and generous levels of equipment go some way to making up for the inflated prices. Although the Kia Venga undercuts the Citroën C3 Picasso, Kia dealers have less margin to play with and so final prices are broadly similar.

We were also disappointed with the measured fuel economy of the 1.4 petrol; on paper it’s on par for the class, but we averaged a poor 31.3mpg – some way short of the claimed 45.6mpg. The 1.6 auto claims an average of more than 40mpg, although we’d be amazed if you could get anywhere near those figures without trying desperately hard. The EcoDynamics diesel uses Kia’s ISG (intelligent stop/go) stop and start system to reduce emissions and boost economy – to a claimed 62.8mpg, about par for the course from eco-special small MPVs.

Touring economy on our test was particularly disappointing; we hope it would get a lot better as the engine loosens up.

Other running costs should be low, though, with insurance groupings looking par for the course, plus Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty providing some peace of mind. That warranty does nothing to boost residual values above anything other than average, though.



Kia Venga rear quarter

Only a few years back, it would have been big news if Kia had produced a car as good as the Venga. Back then Kia was a value brand that meant accepting compromises in quality and competence. Then came the Cee’d, and Kia demonstrated it was ready to mix it with the established players. 

So now it is no great shock when Kia turns out another relatively good product. Which the Venga is, assuming you’re not buying the 1.6-litre automatic. But it is no more than that. It has one stand-out quality: interior space, which is above average if not quite class leading. However, that’s one of many things (including its looks) it shares with Hyundai’s version of the same car – the ix20. In fact, but for a few pounds here and there, the two share prices, too.

It is no great shock when Kia turns out another relatively good product

In other respects (performance, economy, dynamics and overall verve) the Venga is no better than average. The Citroën C3 Picasso has it licked for style, quality and boot space and, when discounts are taken into account, prices aren’t dissimilar.

The venerable Nissan Note is a better drive, but feeling old, while the Honda Jazz is a more expensive option. None, however, are as generously loaded as the 1 or 3 models, are as generous with interior space or as generous with the warranty. 

Which would still be enough to recommend it if Kia had maintained its price advantage. But in pure price terms the Venga sits too close to more credible competitors for comfort.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Kia Venga 2010-2019 First drives