Car reviews - Hyundai - Venue - range
Great value for money, smart interior packaging, sweet-shifting manual, comfortable ride, well-balanced steering
Room for improvement
No air vents or fold-down armrest in second row, lethargic engine, indecisive automatic, top-heavy around corners
Hyundai loses its Accent but opens a new Venue in the form of a budget small SUV
20 Sep 2019
HYUNDAI built its brand on being cheap and cheerful, but as the decades have gone by, it has slowly moved upstream and challenged preconceptions about itself.
Despite this ongoing shift, the South Korean marque has not lost sight of what brought it to the party: being budget-friendly.
The Accent light car has long flown the banner for this particular movement, but it is no more, with production of the current-generation model ceasing and its successor unlikely to head Down Under due to pricing issues.
So, where to from here? If you were thinking a sub-Kona small SUV that’s more affordable, you’d be on the money.
Indeed, the unusually named Venue is here and it’s looking to make a splash with buyers that covet SUV styling at near-light-car prices. How does it stack up? Read on to find out.
First drive impressions
Don’t call it an Accent replacement.
That’s the message from Hyundai, which acknowledges that the Venue doesn’t play the same role as the Accent, even if a number of its characteristics are present.
Namely, the Venue is aimed at the budget-conscious with its sub-$20,000 starting price, albeit before on-road costs.
While this is a several thousand dollars higher than the Accent’s entry cost, it is still remarkably competitive for a small SUV, especially for a comprehensively specified one.
Yes, steel wheels and a plastic steering wheel are giveaways that the range-opening Go grade makes some equipment sacrifices to achieve its keen pricing, but it’s still a much better proposition than the Accent.
The Venue’s 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is sure to delight most buyers, but it’s the standard fitment of autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist that will truly surprise.
The mid-range Active grade (from $21,490) is arguably the sweet spot of the range, bundling in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and leather-accented trim for the steering wheel and gear selector, among other features, for just $1500 more than the Go.
And let’s not forget that the premium over the Accent nets Venue buyers a small SUV. While we can happily debate for hours the true definition of a Sports Utility Vehicle, there’s no denying that this crossover has a higher driving position, which is said to be desirable.
It might surprise you to find out, though, that the Venue is actually not as long as the Accent, although it is wider and taller.
That said, while the Accent is packaged like a light car, the Venue feels like a true small SUV despite its diminutive proportions.
Hyundai has done a superb job of packaging the Venue, which when it comes to exterior dimensions, is one of the smallest SUVs on the Australian market today – not that it feels like that when you hope inside.
Make no mistake, the Venue is roomier than several best-selling small SUVs, including one from Hyundai’s own model line-up!
Case in point: sitting behind our 184cm driving position, a couple of inches of legroom and headroom are available, making the Venue more than comfortable for two adults in the back.
But this isn’t a terribly large vehicle, so the middle seat can only be humanely used when three children are present. Swap the young trio for full-size humans are arguments are likely to ensue…
Speaking of displeasure, rear occupants are likely to find issue with the lack of air vents in the second row as well as the absence of a fold-down armrest. Thankfully, the door bins are big enough to accommodate small drink bottles, so the lack of cupholders is not a real issue.
But we digress… the boot is also top-notch all things considered. With 355L of cargo capacity on offer, the Venue is again doing better than some of its larger rivals. And if need be, the 60/40 split-fold rear bench can be stowed for extra space. Happy days.
The rest of the Venue’s cabin is predictable. A budget-friendly small SUV is never going to feel premium, so hard plastics are in abundance. That said, Hyundai has been smart with its choice of materials, opting for tasteful finishes that feel more expensive than they are.
As mentioned, though, Hyundai had to save money here and there to make the Venue’s pricing a reality, so it opted for a tried-and-true 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine as its sole powertrain option.
With just 90kW of power at 6300rpm and 151Nm of torque at 4850rpm to play with, you can already imagine that the Venue is no speed demon.
But when you consider that most will spend the vast majority of their lives within the city limits, it does the job in traffic and at low speed.
Head out onto a highway and this atmo unit needs plenty of revs to overtake, which makes you think twice about pulling into shorter overtaking lanes.
It’s a similar story when confronted by a steep hill, the Venue needs a heavy right foot on the way to maintain momentum.
Of course, engine noise builds and easily penetrates the cabin in these scenarios, making for a less than pleasant driving experience.
The best way to deal with these challenges is to opt for the Venue’s six-speed manual, which is a sweet little unit. Thanks to its light clutch and reasonable throw, you can get the most out of the situation and prepare the engine for what’s ahead.
Most buyers, though, will opt for the other transmission option, the six-speed torque-converter automatic, which is a little indecisive when the going gets tough, upshifting and downshifting as it struggles to find the right approach.
Nonetheless, the two-pedal set-up does serve up smooth if not leisurely gear changes, so it’s more than capable. And if you’re feeling really keen, the Sport drive mode moves the shift points to higher engine speeds for extra oomph – and more noise.
Being a Hyundai model sold in Australia, the Venue has been subject to a local tuning program, which paid particular attention to its rear torsion beam that’s typically thought to be less sophisticated.
No less than 41 damper iterations later, the final suspension set-up was decided upon and it’s unsurprisingly good, particularly around town.
Take the Venue out onto a country road and it still stacks up well, with the ride on lower-quality tarmac improving as speed builds, even if does still feel a tad firm when meeting sharper edges.
While we doubt many if any Venue buyers will spend any time off the beaten track, given its front-wheel-drive limitations, our drive program also included extensive time on gravel and corrugated dirt roads, which also weren’t able to ruin its composure.
The Venue isn’t as graceful through the corners, though, where it feels a little top-heavy in keeping with its SUV origins.
For example, a decent amount of body roll is encountered when attacking the twisty stuff with intent, and the Venue especially doesn’t enjoy having its 1140-1225kg weight transferred suddenly from side to side.
Don’t get us wrong, the Venue handles pretty well, but there’s no defying physics here. That said, its well-weighted steering turns in sharply and offers plenty of feedback, so it’s still quite fun to punt along.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Venue is a better pound-for-pound proposition than the Accent. Sure, it costs (a little) more money, but it also has a lot more to offer.
We’ve just got our fingers crossed that Hyundai eventually introduces Down Under the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder engine available in other markets. Its low-down torque, in particular, would go a long way under the Venue’s bonnet.
Until then, the South Korean brand is seemingly onto another winner that demonstrates its ability to move with the times.
Is this Venue the place to be in the small-SUV segment? If price is a big factor, perhaps so.
Model release date: 1 September 2019
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