New Mini MPV Challenges Honda Jazz
Looks Good, Flexible Too, But Prices A Bit Steep
Fantastic Kia Guaranty Could Be The Deal Maker Though
BARCELONA, Spain - The Honda Jazz is still the best mini MPV, but the new Kia Venga is the strongest pretender to the crown for some time.
The Jazz, sold as the Fit in America, has been updated and its looks and engines have been improved. We are also promised a hybrid version later this year. Just as well there has been all this progress, because the new Venga, made in Slovakia and designed in Europe, is probably better than the old Jazz. I should know; I’ve got one. The fact that Honda announced that 646,000 Jazzes made from 2002 until 2008 would be recalled to fix a potentially fire-inducing window switch doesn’t change anything.
Where the Venga fails is in the interior packaging. Yes, the rear seats fold down flat impressively, but they are much more cumbersome when you have to put them upright again. With the Jazz it is a simple, easy-peasey one-handed operation. With the Venga you need two hands. And the Jazz rear seats also allow for a cinema-style seat set-up. When you restore the flattened seat set-up to regular seating, in the Jazz the seats fold to allow a cinema-seat like space down to the floor; ideal for transporting tall, thin stuff, like your aspidistra in its pot, for example, or an Irish Setter standing up. Mind you, the Venga’s two-tier boot is neat. You expand the standard 444 litres of cargo space by uncovering more room under the floor, which gives you an extra almost 130 litres. Also the rear seats slide to give extra leg room when there’s little luggage
The Venga is a top class little motor, made almost irresistible by the fantastic 7-year, 100,000 mile guaranty. That gives it the edge over just about every other car, unless you have faith in the manufacturer that an extended guaranty is not required. I have that faith in Honda (my Jazz is now in its eighth year and is still performing like a stalwart, recall notwithstanding).
The looks of the Venga (I know this is said to be in the eye of the beholder) are a bit weird. My first impression was that it was very pretty and cute. But look a bit closer and the impression changes. From the front it looks a bit goofy and dumpy, with the weird angle of the headlights making it seem a bit disjointed. From the rear, the top part of the body squeezes in, making it look as though the top half is not related to the bottom bit. From the side, the rising crease line helps to make it look purposeful, and overall it does look very attractive and loveable despite these shortcomings.
There are three trim choices 1, 2, and 3 and the 1.4 litre petrol and diesel engines are available for all of them. The 1.6 auto model only comes in “2” trim.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, electric front windows, remote central locking and tinted glass. Every Venga also has a six-speaker sound system, with MP3, AUX and USB ports. They all come with six airbags, and a host of computerised safety stuff. Venga 2’s have 16 inch wheels, body coloured electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, iPod cable and steering wheel mounted audio controls. Venga 3s sport climate control, front and rear electric windows, front fog lamps, a panoramic electric sunroof and privacy glass.
Now that’s all changed. Korean cars now look just as good as Europeans and they perform as well too. Also on the Venga launch was the new Kia Sorento SUV, which I will be reporting on in February. The Sorento is a fabulous vehicle which now looks very attractive and is priced to bring tears to the eyes of VW, Audi and Land Rover.
But back to the Venga. Another negative scoring against it was, surprisingly, the prices, which start at £11,495 and top out at £15,395 for the 1.4 Diesel 3. This doesn’t seem cheap compared with its big rival the Jazz. I would have expected the Venga to be at least £1,000 cheaper across the range than the established Honda Jazz, but in fact prices seem more or less the same.
(Kia provided a flight to Barcelona and 2 hotel nights)
Neil Winton January 30, 2010
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