You know the world’s obsession with SUVs has reached new heights when one of the world’s biggest manufacturers makes one its entry-level model.
Hyundai’s Accent light car is gone once stocks are exhausted, at which point the new Venue baby SUV officially becomes the Korean brand’s cheapest model in Australia.
This is an ultra-rare SUV that can be had for less than $20,000, with the base-model 2020 Hyundai Venue Go priced from $19,990 – $3510 below Hyundai’s next-size-up SUV, the Kona.
If you want the Venue to perform the gear change operations, the Venue Go with six-speed auto is an extra $2000 over the six-speed manual.
Equipment isn’t similarly downsized. The Venue Go’s features compare favourably with slightly larger and slightly pricier compact SUVs such as the Ford EcoSport Ambiente.
While 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps are most certainly budget-spec, the Go’s highlights include an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, tyre-pressure monitoring, fatigue warning, auto high beam, lane-keep assist, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and AutoLink app.
If you want more features for similar money, and are happy with a manual, the $21,490 mid-range Active wears 15-inch alloy wheels, features daytime running lights with LEDs rather than halogen bulbs, and adds rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, and leather-appointed steering wheel and gear lever. Or, the Active auto costs $23,490.
Only the top-level Elite is available with a contrast black roof and Acid Yellow paintwork.
Whereas Hyundai’s Kona is more of a crossover design – it’s essentially a high-riding hatchback – the Venue is most definitely an SUV with a tall body (nearly 1.6m) to go with its tall, 170mm ride height (30mm higher than the Accent).
At 4040mm, the Venue is shorter than the Kona by 12.5cm and also 7.5cm more compact than the Accent hatch.
Hyundai has done a good job with the Venue’s packaging, then, because it gains 2.4cm in rear leg room over the Accent, and in this measurement is only a centimetre short of the Kona. So, knee space is surprisingly good provided there aren’t overly tall occupants up front, and toe space is very generous.
Taller rear passengers get further good news with about two centimetres of extra head room compared with the Kona and Accent.
It’s a comfortable bench for two adults, though no centre armrest is available in any variant. For storage, there are seatback nets and bottle-sized door bins.
At this pricepoint, it’s no surprise to find a cabin presented in hard plastics virtually everywhere, or with egg-carton-style budget roof-lining. Yet, there’s a reassuring solidity to the way everything has been put together and there is some beauty in the simplicity of the Venue’s dash design, which gets a visual boost with the dominant and slick-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen – the largest in the segment.
Another unexpected budget-car bonus is that there’s a very decent sound to the audio system to please both ends of the Venue’s buyer-demographic spectrum, whether you’re listening to the radio (non-digital in the Go) or streaming Spotify.
Speaking of which, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration adds an extra connectivity dimension – and crucially adds navigation that is otherwise only available as a factory-integrated feature in the range-topping Elite. It also allows for messaging.
Even if you’re just using the Hyundai interface, the graphics are of good quality and it’s easy to find the function you want.
You expect an SUV to serve up good storage options regardless of size, and the Venue ticks this off without delivering anything particularly innovative. The door compartments are primarily for drinks bottles, the centre console features dual cupholders and an unlidded storage bin, there’s a small storage shelf above the glovebox, and ahead of the gear lever is a useful tray for phones complete with 12-volt and USB sockets.
The vehicle’s biggest storage area, the boot, is usefully sized, too. At 355L, it’s just 15L shy of the Accent hatch’s load compartment and just 6L short of the Kona’s capacity.
It features a double floor to give the choice of a deeper boot (with a temporary spare under the lowest floor) or a more level load height with a secret compartment.
It’s no secret that so many people are drawn to SUVs by their raised driving positions, and it’s easy to understand the appeal when you sit in the Venue. Significantly elevated above the road compared with the Accent and with taller glass, the Venue’s all-round vision is excellent.
It’s easy to navigate small, tight roundabouts thanks to a good view over the front corners of the car, while good over-the-shoulder visibility helps spot traffic in your blind zone.
It also makes parking easy even without any sensors, and the rear-view camera provides decent image quality as well as guidelines. A tight 10.2m turning circle further extends the Venue’s city-friendly credentials.
The light steering feels about right for a baby SUV. There’s a bit of a rubber-band sensation where the steering feels a bit too keen to self-centre, though the steering’s main vice is a vague on-centre feel that becomes evident from about 70km/h upwards.
The Venue’s ride becomes fidgety at higher speeds including freeway drives, too, though is more relaxed around town. The suspension still isn’t super-compliant, but it consistently takes any unpleasant edges off sharper bumps and potholes.
Automatic models come with a Drive/Traction button-dial on the centre console. Traction mode varies engine braking and stability/traction-control assistance depending on whether Normal/Snow/Mud/Sand is detected, though the Venue is strictly a front-wheel-drive vehicle just like your average city car, so we wouldn’t recommend getting too adventurous.
Drive mode has three settings, but we’d stick to the default Normal. The Venue is horribly sluggish in Eco. Sport improves initial response but hangs onto gears too long (even for a Sport mode), and the Hyundai’s engine isn’t one you want to hear with too many revs onboard where it sounds thrashy.
It’s a rock-and-a-hard-place scenario, though. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder, lacking herbs with just 90kW (at 6300rpm) and a measly 151Nm produced at an unhelpfully high 4850rpm, needs to be stirred into action with a heavy right foot if you want to accelerate into that traffic gap you just spotted.
It’s a touch boomy at freeway speeds where it’s working relatively hard at about 2650rpm, though wind noise is more noticeable – betraying the Venue’s not-so-slippery exterior shape.
It’s an acceptable engine in the context of the low-priced Go; we’re not sure it’s so agreeable for the other, pricier Venue variants, especially the $25,490 Elite. The auto also does an admirable job considering the lack of performance at its disposal.
Fuel consumption is quoted at 7.2 litres per 100km, running on regular unleaded. Our experience suggests it will be hard to match that in everyday motoring, with an average as high as 10.0L/100km with two adults and two kids aboard for a suburbs-to-city return family trip.
A basic engine doesn’t necessarily equate to ultra-cheap servicing. The Venue’s maintenance bill averages $315 annually over five years (with 12-month/15,000km scheduling), whereas the comparable figure for the Toyota C-HR – complete with a turbo engine that is theoretically more complex – is $195.
Hyundai’s standard warranty period is five years. At the time of writing (early November 2019), the company is offering a seven-year warranty for private buyers up to the end of the year.
The Venue has yet to be crash-tested by ANCAP, though Hyundai Australia has admitted it expects a four-star rather than maximum five-star rating because of the AEB system’s lack of cyclist detection and Europe-Australia spec differences for the ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points.
Hyundai made its name – if not its brand – with cheap and (not always) cheerful cars. Build quality is a long way advanced from the Korean brand’s models of the 1980s and 1990s, of course.
And while the Venue Go doesn’t quite transcend its status as a budget vehicle, especially with its hard-plastic interior and uninspiring petrol engine, there’s much to like about its city-friendly credentials, excellent infotainment system, and especially the amount of space and equipment Hyundai has managed to cram into such small dimensions.