Kia Venga mini MPV

£11,995 - £18,570

The Kia Venga is a bit like the Tardis: small on the outside but big on the inside. It was mildly facelifted at the beginning of 2015, when it gained some styling tweaks, new alloy wheel designs and an enhanced specification. This was badly needed, since the Venga is one of Kia's oldest models.

It competes with cars such as the Skoda Roomster, Nissan Note, Ford B-MAX and Citroen Picasso. The Venga would suit a busy, growing family, or a couple with an active lifestyle who place reliability, practicality and value for money over image and driving pleasure.

There's just one five-door version, powered by a choice of 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines. None is especially quick, with the fastest, the 1.6-litre ISG petrol, taking 10.6 seconds to go from 0-62mph. The slowest (the 1.4-litre CRDI diesel) takes a full 14 seconds.

They're reasonably economical, with the 1.4-litre petrol posting 50.4mpg, but road tax is £110. The most frugal engine, the 1.6-litre diesel, does 64.2mpg and costs £30 a year to tax. Rivals' newer engines are more efficient as well as more powerful.

The roomy cabin will easily seat four adults with plenty of leg and headroom to spare. The back seats can recline, allowing their occupants to really stretch out. The seats can slide, too, making the already-large boot bigger still, and they fold flat to create a furniture-swallowing load area. Cabin materials improved a little with the facelift and the model scores well for reliability, a fact underscored by Kia's seven-year warranty.

You sit high up in the Venga, so visibility is good. However, the body leans quite a lot in corners, the suspension is a little too firm and the steering is light and lacks feel, so don't expect driving one to be much fun. Fortunately, the Venga comes generously equipped. There are five trim levels – 1, 1 Air, 2, 3, and 4 – but even the basic 1 comes with power-folding heated mirrors and electric front windows.

From the next trim upwards, things get better, with 1 Air having air-conditioning and 2 getting alloy wheels, reversing sensors and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Sat nav and a seven-inch touchscreen appear on 3 upwards. The top-spec 4 pushes the boat out with a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and part-leather seats. Our pick is 2 for its attractive blend of essential features and sensible pricing.

If you decide to buy a Venga, we'd recommend the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel model in '3' trim as it's the best blend of economy, performance, equipment and value-for-money.

The Venga was awarded the full five stars by Euro NCAP, so you can be confident it's a safe car. Regardless of trim level, all versions have a full complement of airbags, electronic stability control and hill-start assistance.