Feb 1 2010 Chris Russon
Venga proves Kia has arrived
KIA has come up with a king-sized supermini good enough to rival the top-selling Ford Fiesta.
Built in Europe and guaranteed for seven years, the new Venga demonstrates Kia is now up with the best.
Well made, purposeful and very capable, the Venga has as much room inside as a compact people mover while being little larger than a basic hatchback.
Venga means 'arrived' in Spanish and that is exactly what has happened to the Korean car maker.
In just five years Kia has transformed itself from a producer of cheap and cheerful models to become a major league player.
The Venga is on sale from February 1 - the same time as Kia launches an all-new version of its flagship SUV, the Sorento.
The new model is not only capable of taking on the Fiesta but will also have the likes of the Citroen C3 and Honda Civic in its sights.
Priced from £11,495 to £15,395 the Venga shows that Kia is no longer in the bargain basement but nevertheless it is still serious value for money.
From tip to toe the Venga is a smart car - the first model to be styled from scratch since Kia's design guru Peter Schreyer was headhunted from Audi.
The clever touch has been creating a spacious five seat cabin in a body which is just over 12 feet long.
Sliding rear seats mean a six footer can sit in the back with plenty of room while the luggage space varies from saloon car proportions of 444 litres to a very useful 1,253.
There is even an underfloor storage area to keep belongings out of sight.
The rear seats can fold flat and split on a 60/40 basis delivering added flexibility while there is plenty of usable space inside.
Sharing some of its instrumentation with Kia's trendy Soul, the dash is uncluttered but still a touch on the plasticky side.
Air conditioning is standard across the three model range and so is electronic stability, traction control and a device to help moving off on slopes.
That is quite a lot of kit for a small car and should help it follow the Soul by gaining top Euro NCAP safety ratings.
The Venga also marks the introduction of a new lean burn diesel engine from Kia.
Like the car, the 1.4-litre engine is built at the Kia factory in Slovakia and comes with a stop/start system pushing fuel economy to 62.8mpg on average. Emissions of 117g/lm mean £35 a year road tax for private motorists.
The little diesel has been designed and engineered in Germany where Kia has a technical facility and will become an important part of the car maker's armoury.
Developing 89bhp - the same as the 1.4-litre petrol engine also available in the Venga - it has a 0 to 60mph time of 14 seconds and a claimed top speed of 104mph.
That's not earth shattering but it is very eco-friendly and has enough acceleration to cope.
A 1.6-litre petrol automatic is available in mid-range trim only and priced from £14,095 while the entry level 1.4-litre petrol Venga will return an average of 45 to the gallon with CO2 figures of 147g/km.
The petrol version is slightly quicker and less noisy but both versions handle better than any little Kia has done before.
The Venga shares its underpinnings with the larger Soul but its suspension is much more suited to British roads.
The car feels very confident and well put together - as good as anything more established European car brands can produce.
Kia's heavy investment in its European operations is now paying dividends and the cars from Slovakia - the cee'd, Sportage and now the Venga - are genuinely competent.
They have to be. For any manufacturer to offer a seven year warranty on all its cars is a bold step and one which is certain to impress Kia owners.