Hyundai's funky little Venue breaks the small SUV mould
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It’s no secret that the age of the SUV is upon us, and carmakers such as Hyundai cover off this segment better than most. So it’s surprising to realise it hasn’t covered off the compact city SUV sector, especially with the likes of Korean rival Kia’s Soul and Seltos.
With small considered medium, and medium considered large, there opened up a slot for a small city SUV, underneath the Kona.
This comes in the form of the Venue. And though Hyundai usually names its SUVs after popular holiday destinations (Santa Fe, Tucson) this small SUV has been dubbed the “Venue” as “the place to be”. Introverts will struggle with this aspect, but those who love to be bold and stand out will suit the funky little wagon perfectly — especially in its Green Apple hue.
In bringing the Venue to New Zealand, Hyundai was aiming for sub-$30k entry-level pricing to compete with the Seltos. While the self-describing Venue Entry is $27,990 — $2000 more than the Kia — it is priced lower than others in the segment such as the Honda HR-V and the Mitsubishi ASX. Moving up to the Elite model attracts a $31,990 price. Hyundai calls both “special launch” prices, with $2000 to be added once the term expires.
Let’s break it down: the Entry gets standard cruise control, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, and rear parking sensors. An 8in touchscreen infotainment system features CarPlay/Auto and takes pride of place on the dash, flanked by a 3.5in digital cluster with a digital speedo. Safety wise, a Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist system, lane-keep assist and driver attention system are bundled in.
Moving up to the Elite model includes a set of flashy 17in alloy wheels first and foremost, and a few other tech features on the inside, including a blind spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert. “Premium” finish seats are added, and the dash gets funky contrasting surrounds that millennials love … right?
Compared to Seltos, which we feel compelled to do, the Venue’s cabin feels a lot more contemporary, but some might not be a fan of the plastic surfaces decorated by the white trimmings.
Space inside the Venue is impressive considering the city SUV is shorter than the now-defunct Accent. Leg room in all seats is ample, and thanks to its tall stature, headroom isn’t an issue, either. Behind the seats is a 335-litre luggage area, more than a Toyota Corolla, but significantly less than the Seltos’ 468 litres.
That said, when the rear seats are lowered, the Venue offers a flat loading bay — with a space saver sitting beneath.
Unlike the Seltos, the Venue’s 1.6-litre engine is across both models. Don’t be fooled by the cute-but-rugged aesthetics: power is sent exclusively to the front wheels through a six-speed auto or manual transmission.
This might sound mild, but it allows the Venue to perform its city-hopping tasks, and never feels out of its depth.
The six-speed auto we tested could be mistaken for a dual-clutch unit at times thanks to impeccable shifts and overall smoothness; and the 90kW/151Nm is more than enough for motorway duties. As expected from an engine of this size, using passing lanes uphill requires some strategic planning, but it’ll reliably kick down a gear or two on demand.
Due to the nature of the little engine, most of the power is developed higher into the rev range, meaning the cabin can become a little noisy when pushing hard. It’s quiet enough across a range of speeds and surfaces, though it doesn’t totally hide the buzzy engine.
Hyundai claims a combined fuel economy of 7.2 litres/100km is possible in the auto, and we saw similar numbers, settling for us around the 7.4 litres/100km level with a mix of urban and motorway miles.
On the road, the Venue feels more like a hatch than an SUV, ducking and dipping through the busy Auckland streets. The body doesn’t lull through turns like larger SUVs, and steering is light and easy.
There are three driving modes to choose from — Normal, Sport, and Eco. Sport is meant to increase throttle response: Eco is said to smooth things out for less gas-guzzling. But the difference between the three is barely noticeable. When leaving the tarmac, Snow, Mud, and Sand modes are available, but in a front-drive city SUV, they’re largely trivial.
The Venue is a capable little package that will appeal to the masses thanks to its funky styling. While it’s more than big enough to hold a couple of kids and the week’s groceries, the benefit of the Kia Seltos’ larger boot becomes apparent when packing it for a weekend away.
But is this negative enough to offset the Venue’s likable looks and quirky interior? We don’t think so.
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