KIA may have sowed the seed of success with the launch of the Cee’d nearly four years ago but few industry analysts could have foreseen the vigour with which it took advantage of the past 18 months’ economic turmoil.
Affordability coupled with a seven year warranty—an unrivalled show of faith in its vehicles’ build quality—saw scrappage buyers come flocking.
Now, with the end of the scrappage scheme looming large and Kia bolstered by buoyed sales, the timing couldn't be better for the launch of two all-new models.
Charged with maintaining the company’s momentum are the Venga hatchback and seven-seat Sorento SUV.
The first Kia to be built from scratch under new chief design officer, Peter Schrayer, the Venga has a profile not unlike a mini MPV.
Appealing from the front, an arcing roofline and square set rear end make for lots of airy interior accommodation but result in a look which might not instantly ignite the fires of desirability.
A hockey stick style slash along the flanks and flared wheelarches add some intrigue to the fairly high-sided design.
Taller and longer than a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa, the Venga offers more interior space than either and falls between the two in terms of price. £11,495 buys a an entry-level Venga 1, well specced with air conditioning, electric front windows, a six-speaker stereo with an iPod dock, remote central locking and tinted glass.
From launch there are three specifications (simply 1, 2 and 3) and three engines: an 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi diesel, and 89bhp 1.4-litre and 124bhp 1.6-litre petrol units. Prices top out at £15,395 with the 1.4-litre CRDi Venga 3.
The CRDi engine—£1,300 more than the 1.4 and £100 less than the 1.6—was the pick of the bunch on my drive.
Returning 62.8mpg with the help of start/stop fuel saving technology (standard) it pulled more keenly than the breathless 1.4 petrol despite a performance shortfall on paper.
Despite a healthy 163lb.ft. of torque the Venga diesel huffs and puffs to 62mph in 14 seconds. CO2 emissions of 117g/km means just £35 annual tax, though.
The Venga and Sorento share Kia’s best interiors to date.
Three sporty, cowled dials arc towards the driver while a multifunctional steering wheel and stylish dashboard look clean and stylish.
The panoramic sunroof of the Venga 3 adds light, complimenting the already spacious interior.
Predictable handling is served up with steady pace out on the road but with a pleasingly polished gearshift it’s an effortless run-around.
The Venga won’t knock your socks off down a twisting B-road but it has brought Kia a B-segment hatchback with genuine family car credentials and, in diesel form, fantastic economy.
Leaping to the other end of the Kia range, the new Sorento is more imposing than its predecessor and, in range-topping KX-3 guise, is an affordable premium-spec SUV.
Previously renowned for its class-leading towing capability, it has developed into a more road-orientated proposition.
A new lightweight monocoque chassis has helped bring the Sorento’s overall weight down and the result is better economy and a biddable feel on the road despite the presence of off-road orientated systems, including: Downhill Brake Control, Hill-start Assist and a lockable differential.
The addition of two more seats—taking the total to seven—has also brought added flexibility.
Prices start at £20,495 for the front-wheel-drive, 172bhp 2.4-litre petrol-powered Sorento 1 and top out with the £29,795, four-wheel-drive, 194bhp 2.2-litre CRDi KX-3.
Lower and longer than the model it replaces, the new Sorento has a butch appearance.
But as much as the exterior boasts a more premium appeal it’s, again, the interior that impresses most.
In KX-3 form there’s optional cream leather, neatly stitched leather seats, an attractive centre console and a panoramic sunroof which helps distract the rear-most passengers, in a seven-up situation, from their limited headroom.
A £1,300 premium for an automatic transmission is justified by effortless progress and impressive refinement, particularly when coupled to the torquey CRDi engine.
With acceleration to 62mph taking ten seconds, 38mpg and CO2 emissions of 194g/km this combination isn’t the range’s most frugal but is far from a gas guzzler among its seven-seat SUV counterparts.
Kia is on a roll. Their two latest additions prove this much by building on the quality already found in the Cee’d.
The Sorento is a worthy figurehead while the Venga brings affordability and practicality, even if it is at of the risk of outright desirability.
Either way, with that seven year warranty, a new Kia should see you well clear of the current recession...
The reign of the crunch-proof Kia continues.
Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel.
Power: 89bhp and 163lb.ft.
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 14 seconds and 104mph
Fuel economy: 662.8mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Price: £15,395 (as tested)
For: Quality interior. Family car space. Seven year warranty.
Against: Lacks driver appeal. Slow.
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel.
Power: 194bhp and 311lb.ft.
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 10 seconds and 118mph
Fuel economy: 38.2mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 174g/km
Price: £29,795 (as tested)
For: Premium feel. Handles well. Seven seats..and seven years warranty
Against: Misses some of predecessor’s towing ability.