Everyone seems to want an SUV at the moment. Australia's mainstream car market declined 12.5 per cent in January, but the SUV market held strong to only fall 1.5 per cent.
Given those conditions, manufacturers are tripping over themselves to introduce new high-riding models to the ultra-competitive Australian car market. And Hyundai is no different.
The Kona has been a popular compact SUV since its Australian arrival in late 2017, but it now has some competition from within, in the form of the new Venue.
Although it's smaller, the Venue has an equipment list (and presence) that could tempt buyers away from its slightly older, bigger brother.
Are you better off sticking with the Kona, or does the new kid on the block have something to offer?
Pricing and specs
Size isn't directly linked to pricing at Hyundai. The flagship Venue Elite ($25,490 before on-road costs) is actually more expensive than the entry-level Kona Go ($24,000 before on-road costs) on test here, but the higher-spec, smaller-statured car counters for its higher price with more standard equipment.
Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, privacy glass, a contrast roof and mirrors, satellite navigation, premium cloth seat trim, and single-zone climate control are all standard equipment in the Elite.
That's atop the camera-based autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, tyre-pressure monitoring, auto headlamps, and rear-view camera, power-folding mirrors, leather steering wheel, and six-speaker stereo that are also standard on the lower-grade Venue Active.
Although it's a base model, the Kona Go isn't scantily equipped. Like the Venue, it has a camera-based autonomous emergency braking system, lane-keeping assist, automatic headlights, a rear-view camera, and a six-speaker stereo.
Unlike the Venue, which rides on 17-inch onion-dicer alloy wheels, the Kona has a set of 16-inch steel wheels as standard.
Both cars have the same basic infotainment system, but the smaller crossover has an 8.0-inch touchscreen in place of the 7.0-inch unit in its bigger brother. It also has inbuilt navigation, whereas directionally challenged Kona drivers need to plug in and rely on mapping through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Finally, the cheaper Kona has old-fashioned 'manual' air conditioning instead of climate control. Speaking of manual, both of these cars are started using the key. In 2020!
The Kona is cheaper, the Venue is pricier but gives you more. Call this one a dead heat.
|Model||Hyundai Kona||Hyundai Venue|
|Made in||South Korea||South Korea|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (2017)||Four stars (2019)|
|Daytime running lights||Yes||Yes|
The family resemblance between these two cars is clear. The dials are similar, the buttons on the steering wheel near identical – they even smell the same. But there are a few key differences between the Venue and Kona behind the wheel.
Because it's a higher-spec car, the Venue is the more interesting place to sit. The seats have leather look highlights on their bolsters and a fancy pattern on their bases, the steering wheel is trimmed in leather, and the air vents and air-conditioning controls are highlighted with acid-green trim to match the eye-searing exterior.
Although it's smaller than the Kona, there's a real sense of space in the front of the Venue thanks to its upright windows and short dashboard. The driving position is good for taller drivers, with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, and the view over the flat bonnet is commanding. There's no hiding the fact the Venue has been built to a price, though.
The plastics around the transmission tunnel in particular are hard, while the door trims feel quite light and thin. With that said, all the car's touchpoints are quality: the leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob elevate the interior, and the climate/audio dials are rimmed with rubber.
Without the Venue's lime-green pinstripes, the Kona is a more dour place to while away hours in traffic. But besides some tinsel, there's very little to differentiate the two Korean crossovers.
The Kona's touchscreen is more smoothly integrated into its housing, and there's more storage at the base of the centre console. The Venue counters with an open storage space between the dash and glovebox.
Although it has a smaller screen, the bigger Kona's touchscreen system operates in the same way – it misses out on factory navigation, however.
The driving position is also better for tall drivers, with slightly more seat adjustment allowing for slightly less uncomfortable leg splaying.
Although it feels darker inside, there's a touch more rear seat space in the Kona than the Venue, thanks to the former's longer wheelbase and body – the smaller car counters with better head room, albeit only slightly. Neither of these cars is what you'd call spacious in the rear, for what it's worth.
The Kona also gets a win for boot space, with 361L on offer with the rear seats in place and 1143L with them folded.
The Venue can't match it, its seats-up claim of 355L falling just short.
There isn't much in it, but the Kona's extra space hands it the win here.
|Hyundai Kona||Hyundai Venue|
You can have your Venue with any engine, as long as it's a 1.6-litre. Buyers are offered a choice of manual or automatic transmission, but the sole engine is a naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit making 90kW and 151Nm, put exclusively to the front wheels.
Our tester had the six-speed torque-converter automatic.
Both those figures are down on what you get from the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre in the Kona – although that's not what you'd call a firecracker either. Hyundai says it offers 110kW and 180Nm, put to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic in our tester.
Neither car is particularly fast, but the Kona flexes what little extra muscle it has in the real world. It's more comfortable pulling from low revs, allowing the transmission to hold a taller gear for longer when you lean on the accelerator.
As we said in its comparison with the Renault Kadjar, the Kona's engine is serviceable at best and breathless at worst. There's a fair bit of noise and vibration when you bury the throttle, but keeping up with traffic is never a problem, and the car has enough punch to overtake at highway speeds.
The less powerful Venue is slower than the Kona, and feels like it's working harder essentially all the time. There's less torque on offer, which forces the transmission to kick down when anything more than gentle acceleration is required. It also makes the Venue less of a natural highway cruiser, with high-speed overtakes requiring more planning and patience.
The naturally aspirated 1.6-litre is noisy and harsh when pushed, too. The engine is probably acceptable in the base Venue Go with its sub-$20K price, but it's out of place in the $25,000 top-spec model.
The strongest link between the two cars is their transmissions, both of which are smooth and inoffensive. In a world full of CVTs and dual-clutch set-ups, the two torque converters are reassuringly conventional.
No doubt about it, the Kona's bigger engine is better.
Fuel consumption: Testing for these models over our time with both cars has seen the Kona Go come in at at 7.4L/100km in mixed urban/highway driving, which is quite close to its official 7.2L/100km claim. The Venue has not come as close to matching its identical 7.2L/100km figure, however, achieving 9.6L/100km in its last test.
On the road
Although similar in concept, the Venue and Kona feel slightly different on the open road.
The bigger Kona has heavier steering than its little brother, and a slightly firmer ride. That manifests in a more planted, solid feeling on the open road. That's not to say it's uncomfortable – the Kona is still a city-friendly shopping trolley at heart – but it drives like a hatchback masquerading as a crossover rather than a ground-up four-wheel drive. Given it's closely related to the regular i30 hatchback, that shouldn't come as a surprise.
The little Venue has a different character. The steering is lighter and – despite the car's 17-inch alloy wheels – the ride is softer, which makes it easier to thread through city streets and garages. f
With a more upright windscreen and taller windows, it's easier to work out where the edges of the Venue are hiding in tight carparks – the fact the car's turning circle (10.2m) is tighter than the Kona's (10.6m) helps as well. It's essentially the perfect size for the urban jungle.
Despite its boxy looks and the slippery-road modes available through the car's rotary drive selector, this little crossover is 100 per cent focused on the blacktop. That means it feels bigger and more planted than you might expect on the highway. Despite its diminutive footprint and high-sided design, the little Hyundai acquits itself well, settling down with a surprisingly long-legged gait at 100km/h.
It's a shame the engine isn't better, because the suspension and steering are both up to the task of long-haul driving.
Both these cars are good to drive, but the Venue's more city-friendly demeanour gives it a very slight edge here.
Warranty and servicing
Both the Kona and Venue are backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Service intervals are the same at 12 months or 15,000km.
Hyundai charges $1420 for five years of pre-paid servicing in the Kona compared to $1575 for the same period in the Venue.
It's a small difference, but the Kona's cheaper servicing and identical warranty hand it the win here.
The fact there isn't much separating the Kona and Venue is testament to the quality of Hyundai's smallest, newest crossover.
This comparison is really a question of priorities – do you value a slightly bigger car and punchier engine, or the tinsel that comes with a higher-spec car?
For me, the Kona Go's bigger body and engine make it the more appealing compact SUV.
But there isn't much in it. The appeal of the Venue is clear.