Feb 1 2010 Edward Stephens
Kia Venga - the car for space fans
YOU don't have to be big to be a family car - but you do have to have space.
And that's the key to the latest model from Kia, the new Venga - the little car that thinks big.
The Korean car maker has managed to fit into a package which is just over 13ft long a car which offers plenty of room for a family of five and their luggage. And unlike a lot of small cars it's a package which offers plenty of style and a big helping of panache.
But perhaps that's not too surprising as it has been developed under the watchful eye of the company's chief designer Peter Schreyer, the man who designed the Audi TT.
Looking a little like a cross between a Ford Ka and the versatile Honda Jazz, the Venga is eye catching, distinctive and is one of those car that just feels right from the moment you get behind the wheel.
By pushing all four wheels as far into the corners as possible Kia has created a long wheelbase on a relatively short car, allowing it offer more interior space than you would ever imagine from the car's exterior appearance.
A sliding rear seat which moves backwards and forwards by up to 130mm is one of the secrets of the car and I found that with it as far back as possible there was almost limousine-like space allowing me to stretch my legs right out. At the same time the luggage area still offered a sensible amount of load space.
If you need more luggage space when you are not carrying back seat passengers you can slide the rear seats up to meet the backs of the front seats. The rear seats are split one -third/two-thirds so there are several permutations.
Flip the rear seatbacks down and you have a completely flat van-like floor area of almost 1,500 litres.
Prices start from £11,495 and the car comes with a confidence-boosting seven year warranty.
It's available with either an 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine with a five speed manual gearbox, a 124bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine fitted with a four-speed automatic gearbox or an 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel with a six speed manual box.
Opt for the larger petrol model and you will get an average of just over 40mpg, while the smaller one offers 45.6mpg and the diesel a massive 62.8mpg.
There are three trim levels, Venga 1, Venga 2 and Venga 3. The 1.6 auto only comes in the mid-rane Venga 2 spec but the other two variants are available with all three trim levels.
Even the basic model, however, has with air conditioning, tinted glass, electric front windows, six airbags, ABS and electronic stability control as standard.
If you opt for the Venga 3 you get additional features like electric windows all round and a double panoramic electric sunroof covering almost the whole of the top of the car.
On the road the little car offers an impressively comfortable ride with a relatively firm suspension eliminating any of the usual body roll often associated with small family cars. The gearbox is slick and precise and so is the steering.
Both 1.4-litre diesel and petrol models that I tried were responsive and offered lively acceleration. The diesel proved to be a real gutsy engine in higher gears with an abundance of torque even at high speed. But while it was quiet in higher gears I did find it relatively noisy in the lower gears.
The car is on sale on February 1 and the price difference between petrol and diesel models is £1,300, so you have to work out how many miles you average and do your sums to work out which is the best value for you.
Either way the launch of the Venga couldn't have come at a more appropriate time as buyers are looking for something that is more economical to run and at a price which is not going to give the bank manager a panic attack.