Kia Venga 1.4-litre CR DI Ecodynamics

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £12,795
Top speed: 104 mph 0-60mph 14 seconds
Consumption: 62.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Best for: downsizing Audi fans who like Peter Schreyer's work
Also worth considering? Citroën C3 Picasso, Nissan Note, Vauxhall Meriva

Perceptions change slowly in the car market. If you're not particularly interested in cars, there's a chance you may not have heard of Kia, or have only a vague idea about its products. But in the industry, Kia has been a hot story for three years now, a fact that can be traced back to a watershed moment, the launch of the Golf-sized Cee'd. Before that, a couple of Kia's models, the rugged Sorento SUV and the little Picanto, had their fans but the Cee'd was different. It arrived as if from nowhere, a fully formed, fully competitive rival for mainstream European products such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

Of course, any manufacturer that makes such a big advance with a single car makes a rod for its own back by raising expectations, at least among industry followers, about the likely qualities of its subsequent new models. Fortunately, Kia has managed not to disappoint; its next two new cars, the rather self-consciously funky Soul and the smooth second-generation Sorento, broadly kept up the standard set by the Cee'd, without causing too much new excitement. The company's new small car, the Venga, is from the same mould.

It has a neat design, the work of ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer, which cleverly deceives on two counts; first, in terms of the industry jargon, it's a B-class (or Fiesta-sized) car, but looks bigger, and second, it's an MPV, or people carrier, in terms of the depth of its cabin, but it doesn't look remotely van-like from the outside. The interior shows a bit less evidence of this sort of cleverness; it's very roomy and practical in a straightforward way but lacks the thoughtful little details that mark out some French rivals such as the new Citroë*C3 Picasso. The dashboard is rather Cee'dy, which is to say it all works very well but looks a bit sober compared with the rest of the car.

On the road, the diesel model I tried had plenty of go. The diesel engine itself is a new 1.4 litre version of the very smooth 1.6 litre that's fitted to the Cee'd; if it's just a shade less civilised in the Venga, it compensates by being exceptionally considerate towards your wallet and the planet. A generous seven-year warranty should also help your peace of mind. In all, the Venga is fit to take its place on the showroom floor alongside the Cee'd, Soul and Sorento, and if you don't know much about Kia, it's probably worth going to take a look.

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