2019 Hyundai Venue automatic first drive review
Capturing the interest of the Indian car-buyer is a tough job, right? You can blame a slew of reasons for the general decline in the number of new cars being sold. But chances are your interest has been piqued by Hyundai's newest compact SUV, the Venue. Headline features have been its thing, with everything from its connected car tech, to its dual-clutch automatic transmission being noteworthy. We got our hands on what should be an important variant in the line-up, the top-most SX+ variant available with the 1-litre turbocharged petrol with the automatic gearbox, to help you read between the headlines.
How does it look?
Distinctive, to say the least! The Venue is the first Hyundai in India to carry the company's new design direction for its SUVs, with the split headlight design and large cascading grille. Even with that, it does look like a scaled-down Creta from certain angles, and that bodes well for the Venue, if its siblings popularity is anything to go by. The Venue comes in under 4m in length, but is one of the narrowest SUVs and least tall in its segment, which does lead to an immediate feeling that it's smaller than its competition.
To our eyes, it's got its proportions right, with the plastic body-cladding, aggressively flared wheel arches, and 16-inch wheels pushed to the corners giving this compact SUV a dose of styling steroids. The black chrome grille, and brilliantly detailed tail lamps help too. Don't count the tacked on vents on the sides, and stickers on the lower half of the doors, both being dealer add-ons. We like that the reverse lights are placed low on the bumper at the rear to help illuminate the road at night better, but the low placement of the reverse camera just above the number plate area will probably make it a prime resting place for road muck once the monsoons come around.
Onto the interiors
The second you lay a hand on the Venue's thick-rimmed steering wheel with its premium-feeling controls, you think to yourself, "Hey, this is very nice!" And that thought stays with you through the cabin, from the top of the dash, to the climate controls and even the almost German-car smooth air conditioning vents. High praise indeed, but not completely unfounded. Only the door pads feel of a little harder, scratchier plastic than we'd expect.
The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment is intuitive to use, and it boasts of Apple/Android integration, navigation, excellent Arkamys-tuned sound and is your touchpoint for the bundled BlueLink connected car tech, which promises to set the standard for features, for a while to come at least with remote engine start/stop, remote AC start and automatic emergency alerts.
The slim A-pillars also make for good visibility, and you're perched on well-bolstered seats. The driver's seat is adjustable for height, as is the steering, and the ergonomics feel near perfect, with there being a good amount of space between you and your co-passenger. On the rear bench too, you'd be able to fit three passengers with no discomfort. The central hump isn't too high, and it's wide enough to be able to place both feet on it. Leg room is fairly good, with a lot of room under the front seats for your feet to go, and kneeroom is adequate for someone with a medium-sized frame.
The Venue gets bonus points for including a cooled glove box, air purifier, wireless phone charging function, cruise control and electric sun roof with manual blind. There is a sore point when it comes to features yet again Hyundai has only made two airbags available for the top of the line automatic, while the SX (O) gets six. This SX+ variant also misses out on a rear wash/wipe function, 60:40 folding seats, and a rear armrest.
But, it's only a 1-litre engine?
Don't write off this 998cc, three-cylinder turbocharged motor yet. With 120PS@6,000rpm and 172Nm@1,500-4,000rpm, it's amongst the top in its class, which includes the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbos in the Mahindra XUV300 and Tata Nexon, and 1-litre three-cylinder turbo Ford EcoSport.
If you consider automatics, it's up against the 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ford EcoSport, with similar figures for reference, that's approximately the engine size to compare to, when shopping for a turbocharged car. Hyundai claims a class-leading 18.1kmpl for the Venue, but stay tuned for our road test on the verdict on that. Where the Venue stands out is by offering a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, or DCT, which should result in quicker shifts than the six-speed AMT on the Nexon, and six-speed torque converter on the EcoSport.
How does it drive?
At start-up, and at low revs you'll really have to be paying a lot of attention to be able to tell it's a three-cylinder. The engine really is smooth and refined, and is easily one of the best of its configuration we've driven yet. Speed comes in very linearly, with shifts arriving without you realising it. You only get a slight taste of lag in the drivetrain, under downshifts, with the engine taking a split second to respond and raise revs, revealing its gruff three-cylinder engine note. There is a manual lockout for the gearbox, if you'd prefer to take control, and the Venue feels suitably sporty. In traffic, the Venue crawled forward very predictably, and the brakes offer good amounts of modulation, though we feel the ABS might tend to kick in early if you spot a speedbreaker at the last moment and need to brake.
Fortunately, the ride quality is well-sorted and even if you take that speedbreaker a little faster than anticipated, the suspension doesn't thud over it and the rebound bounce is well-controlled. While we didn't get a chance to aggressively corner the Venue, it does seem set up on the more pliant side and some amount of leaning into a turn at speed is expected. The big surprise is just how accurately weighted the steering feels light for low-speed traffic work, and heavy enough to confidently place the SUV on the road at highway speeds.
The Venue has what it takes to announce Hyundai's arrival to the compact SUV segment, offering well-made, premium feeling interiors, features and refinement at prices that compare well to the competition this 1-litre automatic is priced at Rs 11.1 lakh, ex-showroom. Sure, a lot of people feel that's a lot of money for a compact SUV, especially one with a small engine. But you do seem to be getting a lot for your money, and that's what counts.
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