We're reviewing a car of second places here.
The Hyundai Venue is the second-best-performing car in its segment, year to date. The brand has reported selling 2316 copies of its Venue in 2020 so far, holding a nice 14 per cent slice of segment share as a consequence. To provide some framing around the dominance Mazda has in the same area, it holds spot number one with its CX-3, carving out a huge 52.2 per cent segment share, or 8637 units reportedly sold, in the same time period.
Overall, the segment that both of these cars play in, the ever-popular light-SUV class, is in itself like the Hyundai Venue. In terms of year-on-year sales, it too is also a second-best performer. When compared to every other SUV segment in Australia, only one other variety of SUV outperforms it.
One would instantly assume that given the current economic situation we're in, it all makes total sense. Light SUVs are, well, still SUVs, which means they have the mass appeal required to perform well forged into their intrinsics.
On top of that, stuff in the light-SUV segment is usually cheaper than wares from the small-SUV class above. This naturally aligns to a school of thought that the new-car-buying audience may well be being overly cautious with spending their money in the current climate, and thus applying the lens of frugality to such purchases.
However, the latter statement becomes slightly defunct when you understand that the best-performing SUV segment is actually the premium small-SUV segment, where cars like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 dominate the charts. It appears that buyer frugality, in the SUV space, is not being applied at all.
So, a second-in-class car, in a class that's also second place.
Let's find out whether or not a Hyundai Venue should instead be first place on your shopping list. In this review, we're testing the 2020 Hyundai Venue Active. This trim level is bang-on in the middle of the range, and starts from $21,700 with a manual transmission, in plain white, before any on-road fees.
Our car is an automatic, which will bump up the figures on your order sheet to $23,720, again before any on-road costs. If our test car's 'Intense blue' colour tickles your fancy, or if any of the other six metallic colours offered do, you'll be adding another $495 to the total bill. As tested, before you apply registration and taxes, our car's price came in at $24,215.
Before we delve deeper into the specifics of what you get, I'll set some context. A larger, base-model Kia Seltos kicks off from $26,990 drive-away. A European alternative such as the Volkswagen T-Cross is priced from $27,990 before on-roads. At the time of writing, Hyundai had set a $26,220 drive-away offer for the Venue Active auto – subject to change.
However, it's non-SUVs that come across in an even more compelling light. A Mazda 3 G20 Pure hatchback, which is a bigger car overall, if not famed for its interior space, starts from $26,590 before on-roads. If you start cross-shopping non-SUV alternatives in the same 'light' class as the Hyundai Venue, you'll find yourself looking at a mid-tier European. More specifically, a Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Comfortline for less than the price of a Venue at $23,390 before on-roads.
On the outside, your middle-rung Hyundai Venue is quite sparsely appointed. Things like painted bumper inserts, painted side trims and a chrome grille are only reserved for the top-spec model. What you do get is a rear skid plate finished in grey, alongside a set of 17-inch alloy wheels (upsized from 15-inch as a running change in mid-2020. Car pictured is on 15-inch wheels).
The little Venue is maybe not as divisive as a new Nissan Juke, but it is certainly more obtuse than a Volkswagen T-Cross. A happy, unique middle ground, perhaps?
Regardless of one's personal opinion and taste, its 14 per cent market share means it is resonating with shoppers looking for a car of this type.
Inside, things overall become more conventional. At this particular trim level, cloth seats, made from what feels like a hard-wearing material, come as standard. However, in keeping with the 'funness' of its overall design, they are complete with an offset 'racing stripe' design. I quite like this little touch, as it does help to break up the dominant theme of black hard plastics, which are used extensively in the cabin.
Irritatingly, the only piece of soft-touch material that can be found is located on the centre armrest. That means the armrests on the door trim area are hard, and therefore uncomfortable to rest your elbows on. Again a small point, but at least stretch the budget to make both of the most commonly used areas of the cabin somewhat tolerable for the pointy, bony parts of the operator.
Instrumentation is clear, as is the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Smartphone connectivity for Apple and Android comes as expected, but nice-to-haves such as DAB radio and inbuilt navigation are both not offered at this level – they're reserved for the top-spec Venue Elite. Sitting directly beneath the infotainment system, and juxtaposed to the touchscreen, is the manual air-conditioning system.
No climate control here or digital-dial adjustment of system. Just some good old manual knobs and a solid 'clunk' as the air-diversion panel flaps behind the dashboard from face to feet. An electronic climate-control system is again reserved for the top-grade model only. As are keyless entry and start, for that matter.
As for habitability, space is fair. A taller person will find themselves adjusting the seat quite far back and in line with the middle B-pillar. However, the car is petite, and you'll find this trait is common with others of similar size. Width-wise, elbow room is good, as is head height, too.
In the second row, a 180cm passenger will find it awfully tricky to slot in behind another 180cm driver. Not aiding this cause is the inclusion of very hard plastics on the seat backs, which makes it uncomfortable to at least rest your knees against something given the lack of space.
If your driver is courteous enough, a satisfactory amount of second-row room can be freed up. It's at this point where I'll mention that the Kia Seltos, for similar pricing, does offer far more room in the second row. The same story goes for the Mazda 3 I mentioned earlier, too. With regard to a Polo, space is comparable, but the Hyundai would edge ahead in terms of knee room as well as head room, if you were to compare the pair.
I took the liberty of fitting a large 0–4 age convertible baby seat into the Venue in both forward and rearward positions. The seat I used is designed for more narrow applications, but overall, a young family would have no issues with this SUV's second row. At best, you'll be fitting two of these narrow-width child support seats across its second-row bench. Other factors that will affect a parent's decision is that the Venue lacks both rear air vents and any form of rear power outlet out back.
With regard to placing the miscellaneous fodder of life, be it your phone, children's paraphernalia or purse, the Venue is level with the segment expectation. In the first row, there is a decent centre storage area, which can power devices thanks to both a USB and 12-volt power outlet. There is also a decent-sized centre armrest, and door pockets large enough to house a 600ml bottle of your favourite beverage.
Cargo capacity comes in at 355L, which is on the lower side when compared to similar alternatives from the same class. In terms of other comparably priced vehicles from other segments, its boot area is 89L smaller than that of the Mazda 3, and basically equal to that of a Volkswagen Polo.
|Nissan Juke||422L (to roof)|
|Citroen C3 Aircross||410L|
|Suzuki Ignis||264L (four-seat GLX) / 271L (five-seat GL)|
Its dimensions are generous enough to accept a compact stroller with relative ease, alongside either the stowage of an overnight bag or two, or three to four bags of groceries. However, a larger-style pram with a detachable bassinet will take up most of the space on offer.
Where the Venue does deliver is in terms of how it feels on the road.
I was surprised at how enjoyable the car was to both putt around town, as well as when departing from metro-life for some fast-paced action on quicker country roads. Rural contemplators of the Venue will most certainly find its handling and composure at speed quite refreshing, and against any ill assumptions.
The most favourable part of the overall package is the way the Venue manages bumps and road imperfections while at speed. Rarely was the car truly unsettled or succumbing to slight bump-steer events. The ride at pace may come across just slightly busy to some, but I've experienced far less composure from cars that cost four times as much.
With that in mind, kudos to the local division of Hyundai, which has again proven that localised ride and handling packages do add merit to an already good set-up.
Further building on this sense of confidence emitted by the Venue is a well-calibrated steering set-up. It enables the driver to easily gauge what's going on via the wheel, as it retains a natural feel despite being artificial and electronically assisted. Compliments flow on to its behaviour around town also, where it remains comfortable and never reacting in a way as to raise an eyebrow.
A small amount of active safety gear is fitted as standard at this spec level, which includes low-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam assist and lane-keeping assist. Items like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are only found on the top-grade Elite model. In terms of official ANCAP safety rating, the Hyundai Venue wears a four-star badge with a 2019 time stamp.
It's the engine that's most underdone if anything. Its 90kW of power and 151Nm of torque already suggest this before you get behind the wheel. As expected, it just takes some forward thinking in order to manage the small amount of power that's on offer. More important than the data is the fact that you'll learn to drive with it and not around it.
The driveline consists of a non-turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, which is paired up with a six-speed torque-converter-equipped automatic transmission. One blessing in disguise is fuel use, as on test the Hyundai Venue returned 7.5 litres per every 100km travelled, which is just slightly over the official combined figure of 7.2L/100km. Redemption for the lack of power? Quite possibly.
If you're spending long hours on the road, or live in an area that's a little more original and undeveloped, then a Hyundai Venue will perform for you in such a circumstance. Not only will you benefit from feeling secure thanks to its confidence-inspiring ride, but it'll also remove the burden from such a commute, if there were one to begin with.
However, its interior is not near the others in the segment, and offerings in other classes just seem to make more sense at this pricepoint.
For some, it'll work wonders.
For others, likely to be the majority, be sure to sample more than just this from within the segment. On top of that, also consider sampling others from different segments before pulling the pin.