Any time I see a post about the Hyundai Venue small SUV on social media, or bring it up in conversation, the discussion invariably turns to its appearance.
When I first drove the Venue early on in my tenure at CarAdvice, I relished its simplicity, ease of use and sense of fun. I also maintain that, in denim blue with a white roof and matching denim interior, it’s one of the more attractive small SUVs out there.
I seem to be in the minority, however, as I regularly spot scathing, vitriolic comments about this perky little SUV and, in turn, the people who decide to buy it.
For my long-term review, I decided to put looks aside and really get into the nitty-gritty of whether I’d actually recommend this car to a friend.
Why? Because it’s a car that seems to crop up a lot in the buying adventures of my 20-something friends who are looking to bridge the gap between first car and family car, while sticking to a strict budget.
It’s certainly true that one of the Venue’s greatest calling cards is its price of entry. My long-term loan was the top-spec 2020 Hyundai Venue Elite variant priced from $26,490 before on-road costs.
It’s powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and a six-speed automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive.
On price alone, the Venue is only undercut by the Suzuki Ignis in its class, and certainly offers a compelling cost-per-use argument once you factor in its low ownership expenses.
Along with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, Hyundai offers scheduled servicing packages ranging from $857 for three years of coverage or $1575 for five years of coverage.
Fuel consumption is also relatively low – over the course of my loan I recorded an average of 7.5L/100km, which was just above Hyundai’s quoted combined claim of 7.2L/100km.
The Venue drinks 91RON unleaded, and filling up the tank from empty never cost me more than about $45. I found I was visiting a petrol station every two to three weeks depending on how frequently I was driving.
The majority of my driving time in the Venue skewed urban, as this is where most buyers will spend most of their time and it’s also where the Venue thrives.
I’ve discussed the Venue’s suitability for city living in depth in an earlier review instalment, but its exterior dimensions really are perfect for smaller streets. It has excellent visibility and ride height, but is still compact enough to fit into tight spaces. The very basic rear-vision camera and rear sensors combine to make manoeuvring extremely straightforward.
This footprint, in turn, makes for an interior that is on the smaller side but relatively generous where it matters.
For example, the modest 355L boot is configured to make the most of its dimensions, with a cargo cover that stows neatly behind the rear seats and a space-saver spare wheel hidden beneath the floor.
The most I could ever fit in there was two medium-sized suitcases and even that took a bit of strategising, but if you’re passenger-free you’ll be able to fold down the rear seats and squeeze in a bit more luggage.
In the back seat, leg room and head room are moderate for adults, but people on the taller side might find themselves wanting for knee room.
Child seats are possible thanks to ISOFIX mounting points on each of the outboard seats, but you won’t be able to fit anyone in between them and more than one kid is going to feel like a squeeze.
In short: those accustomed to a hatchback will likely be pleasantly surprised by the amount of room on offer in the Venue, while those hunting for a more conventional SUV could find it lacking.
|2020 Hyundai Venue Elite|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||$26,490|
|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|
The one area in which I felt the Venue Elite didn’t quite pass the test was behind the wheel. While the 1.6-litre engine can feel punchy around town thanks to responsive acceleration, the minute you get up to freeway speeds, a lack of power becomes evident and can leave you craving some extra kick.
Obviously, it’s also front-wheel drive, and while traction modes offer support for different terrains like sand or mud, it should in no way be perceived as on the same level as a bigger all-wheel-drive SUV.
What does come in handy, however, is the 170mm of ground clearance, which does mean you’ll be more able to tackle uneven ground than you would be in your usual hatchback.
Otherwise, the ride in the Venue sits between that of a hatchback and that of a larger SUV. It is somewhat protected from road irregularities, but won’t quite soften the edges of potholes and speed bumps like bigger cars.
Occasionally, harsher bumps can elicit jarring steering wheel feedback and rattling sounds in the cabin, but for the most part you will be unbothered.
At lower speeds, the Venue also possesses a lot of throttle sensitivity that can have it feeling jumpy in stop-start traffic. This sensitivity becomes even worse when you put it into reverse, meaning you have to be particularly cautious to avoid jolting back into the car behind.
Finally, while the car's steering is lovely and light, I regularly found when getting out of tight car parks that I got ahead of the car’s power steering with my quicker manoeuvres, meaning I faced a fair amount of resistance when turning the wheel.
One of my other big reservations was in regards to safety. I’ll never feel great about recommending a car with a four-star ANCAP safety rating from 2019 – even if it’s likely far safer than plenty of other used cars people buy.
Of course, for a new car to be sold in Australia it has to comply with Australian Design Rules to be deemed safe for the road, but other cars offer far more active safety equipment than the Venue and typically score five stars.
According to ANCAP, the Venue lost points for its lack of vulnerable road-user protection for pedestrians and its safety assist features.
It does have autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection for city and interurban driving, six airbags, high-beam assist, rear cross-traffic warning, driver-attention warnings and lane-keep assist and lane-departure warnings.
However, it’s missing extras like live speed-limit information, adaptive cruise control, lane-trace assist and cyclist detection on the AEB system. Additionally, a blind-spot warning is only available on the Elite variants.
Finally, my other complaint is that while the Venue is undisputedly an affordable car, even in top-spec guise it doesn’t really try to convince you otherwise.
Synthetic-feeling fabric seats with hard plastic finishes rob the interior of any sense of luxury, while the lack of electric seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control, seat heaters or a head-up display can mean longer drives aren’t as comfortable as they could be.
While the infotainment system certainly does the job without fuss, the central 8.0-inch infotainment screen is basic and I relied mostly on Apple CarPlay, which offered a bit more depth and excitement.
To summarise, the Venue offers an affordable pricepoint, excellent exterior dimensions and visibility, competitive ownership costs and unique looks.
Its interior may or may not work for you, depending on how many kids you have and how often you need to use the full boot.
Its downsides are that it lacks a premium feel and polish behind the wheel, and could offer more active safety and driver-assistance features.
The Venue is by no means a driver’s car, but it’s user-friendly, efficient and has enough room for extras – representing that nice midpoint between ‘first car’ and ‘family car’ I spoke about earlier.
Still, this is a competitive class with lots of worthy contenders, so I’d always suggest trialling a few other small SUVs before you take the plunge. Happy shopping!