It’s tricky to pinpoint the moment an SUV – otherwise known as a Sports Utility Vehicle – loses its utility.
Utility means many things to many people. For some it can be space for child seats, a boot to fit a small kingdom, or for others it’s simply interiors that can be thoroughly cleaned with a wet wipe.
In this case, it’s safe to say the 2020 Hyundai Venue is a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none.
Despite being the top-spec variant on offer in the range, the Elite long-termer I’m testing here doesn’t exactly do a convincing job of reminding you you’re in the cream-of-the-crop car.
Creature comforts like seat heating, dual-zone climate control and leather seats with electric adjustment are notably absent.
So, in lieu of luxury, is there utility? Sort of. The ‘cloth and premium-finish seats’ are really just fabric seats with faux-leather accents, and while they’re durable, they’re a little harder to keep clean than wipe-me-down leather seats.
They’re comfortable for shorter trips, but no lumbar support and limited adjustment could see them grow tiresome on longer trips.
Hard plastic elements throughout the cabin certainly aren’t precious, but they are also not that pleasant to the touch.
Infotainment is present and eminently usable, but doesn’t go above and beyond. There are no high-resolution screens or even a digital driver display, no head-up display, and no nifty interior lighting or audio tricks that you can show off to your friends.
Instead, I relied mostly on connecting my iPhone via a cable to use Apple CarPlay, which worked seamlessly through the 8.0-inch touchscreen display. Bluetooth audio streaming can be a little more temperamental, but works well for the most part.
The interior dimensions of the Venue are moderate. Adults likely won’t find themselves lacking in the head room department, but leg room can be a bit of a balancing act and totally dependent on the position of the seat in front.
Taller occupants will struggle with the back seat in general, and it’s unlikely you’ll want to sit three across in any rush.
Additionally, hotter days will be a bit more punishing for rear occupants because of a lack of air vents (although the windows helpfully go all the way down), and there’s no armrest or cupholders back there either.
There are, however, ISOFIX mounting points on the two rear outboard seats, with three top-tether points over the back of the rear seat.
Putting even one child seat in the back will immediately have the car feeling crowded, and while two child seats are certainly possible, you won’t have room for much else (especially a middle-seat occupant).
|2020 Hyundai Venue Elite|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||$25,990|
|Engine configuration||1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||90kW at 6300rpm, 151Nm at 4850rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.2L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.5L/100km|
|Boot volume||355L rear seats up, 903L when folded|
|Servicing costs||5 years, 75,000km for $1575|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Ignis, Nissan Juke, Ford Puma|
|ANCAP safety rating||4 stars, tested 2019|
|Towing capacity||800kg braked, 500kg unbraked|
What that means in real-world terms is that you’ll be able to fit a single large suitcase in there with the rear seats up (they fold 60:40 to increase the capacity, but then you lose the ability to have passengers).
I was also able to fit a large suitcase and a small suitcase with some strategic wrangling, but of course rearward visibility becomes compromised.
As for convenience, my test car had no keyless entry or start, but thankfully this was added in a recent model-year update, and that’s a good thing, too. Scrambling around in your handbag for keys is a First World problem I can live without.
Utility also comes down to maintenance costs, and on that front the Venue performs well. Hyundai offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty as standard.
The Venue Elite requires a service every 15,000km or once a year, whichever comes first, with a free first inspection at 1500km.
From there, scheduled servicing ranges from $857 for three years or $1575 for five years, with both pre-paid plans and pay-as-you-go servicing available.
All in all, the Venue offers utility with a few caveats. Leg room in the front and back will be dependent on how many people you have in the car. Two child seats are possible but not advisable, while back-seat occupants might feel a little short-changed. And while the boot does a great job of maximising the space available, it’s still bound by the limitations of the Venue's compact dimensions.
If you’re used to hatchbacks, you’ll likely find the Venue is a satisfactory replacement, but anyone hunting for a more traditional SUV for family or cargo needs might need to get strategic.
Oh, and if you’re expecting the height of luxury and comfort from the top-spec Venue, you might want to lower your standards ever so slightly so you’re not disappointed.