Final Position: 5th
5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Cheap and cheerful at its best; handling; roomy cabin
Active represents better value; harsh engine; economy
Authenticity. Some people have it, and some don’t. Small SUVs are similar. These jacked-up hatches with ‘look at me, I can go off-road’ body cladding usually fall into the latter category by trying to be something they’re not. The stance and rugged addenda lure you into thinking ‘fun’, but ‘humdrum’ is often what presents itself through the lightly veiled smoke and mirrors.
The Hyundai Venue isn’t one of those SUVs. Once you’ve finished chuckling at the name, the Euro i20 supermini-based contender from Korea is a good bit of kit. And, unlike some of its competition here, the Venue hasn’t had a personality bypass. Just look at our two-tone tester, with its greeny-yellow hue and contrasting black roof. It sports a confident, oversized grille with square-shaped LEDs, squinty eyes and a rather conventional rump. Polarising? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.
Inside, the top-spec Elite features body-coloured accents and visually appealing plastics, even if they’re hard and scratchy. Kudos for that big touchscreen too, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel that houses clear and concise controls.
Packed with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto goodness, infotainment is a criteria Hyundai/Kia cover off well. The graphics are pleasing and the user experience is one of ease – the Venue is an ergonomic win. While the Elite is generally well specced with key safety items like AEB, for a range-topping variant, the absence of keyless entry and start, plus all-round one-touch power windows is notable.
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Despite diminutive dimensions, the Venue’s height affords ample headroom. Legroom is a bit tight in the back and there are no rear air vents (a common issue across this group), but its 355-litre boot is a decent size.
The weakest link is the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels via a six-speed torque-converter auto. Granted, it’s a hard little worker that’s willing to please, but you certainly hear about it, and ultimately the 90kW and 151Nm outputs just aren’t enough. The Venue’s 0-100km/h time fails to break through the 10-second barrier, and the engine sounds thrashy and coarse when pushed. On the run, the lithe 1225kg kerb weight helps the Hyundai scoot along effectively, but the powertrain is, ultimately, lacklustre – and the result of its toil is a 9.5L/100km test-consumption average. The smooth auto can’t offset the grunt shortfall or cover up the lack of refinement.
It’s a pity, because the Venue is a dynamic surprise. The Elite is full of verve, with its lightness of foot delivering a pleasing drive. Cutting through traffic, with excellent outward vision, will bring you joy. Which makes it even more of a shame a turbo engine isn’t employed. There is a can-do attitude to the handling, and despite the higher centre of gravity (on a torsion-beam rear), lateral pitch and roll isn’t an issue. The ride quality is also impressive thanks to local tuning, and there is a surprising amount of grip from the Nexen rubber. Yes, sound deadening could be improved, but you have to remember this is a car built to a price. On gravel, the ESC is a little lazy but it’s all controllable, if quite loud, fun.
At $25,490, the top-spec Elite variant starts to lose its appeal. The ideal spot is the $23,490 middle-rung Active – or better still, the $2000-cheaper six-speed manual. Yes, you get fewer bells and whistles and the paintwork isn’t as modish, but it’s all the Venue you’ll ever need. What’s more, it retains the upbeat persona that makes the smallest Hyundai SUV hard to ignore and easy to like.
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Hyundai Venue Elite specs
Engine: 1591cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Power: 90kW @ 6300rpm
Torque: 151Nm @ 4850rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B): 4040/1770/1592/2520mm
Cargo capacity: 355L
Tyres: Nexen N Fera 205/55 R17
ANCAP rating: 5 stars