Hyundai South Africa has added yet another compact family car to its product line-up in an attempt to put the brakes on the Volkswagen T-Cross’ strong sales momentum. Is the Venue the ideal model to lure buyers out of their hatchbacks and into the crossover/SUV fraternity? Yes, it may well be! We drove the newcomer in and around the Western Cape to find out...
What is it?
The Venue certainly has kerb presence, in a compact, yet wide-stanced SUV way.
You may be confused about where the Venue sits, size-wise, in the greater SUV world – many people are and so, to be fair, were we. Beneath its well-known Tucson family car, Hyundai offers a trio of fairly similarly-sized crossovers (in the order in which they were introduced in South Africa): the Creta, Kona and, now, Venue. The latter functions at the lower end of the scale, as it's technically the smallest of the bunch, but the newcomer bursts with style and flavour.
The design is modern; when viewed in profile, the Venue could easily be mistaken for a doppelganger of the Volvo XC40, which certainly isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. The Hyundai's real rivals are the Volkswagen’s T-Cross, Ford Ecosport and Renault Captur, the latter of which has a new model coming in 2020.
There is a lot of movement in this segment at the moment; buyers appear to want something a little more practical than a Hyundai i20 and Volkswagen Polo, but don’t want to spend too much more than R300k. Many manufacturers are therefore eyeing up this segment as their next big money-spinner... With that undoubtedly in mind, Hyundai has come to the party with its modern, eye-catching, and quite refined, Venue.
Under the bonnet
Only 1 engine is available, but there is a choice between dual-clutch (automatic) and manual gearboxes.
This segment is littered with a variety of 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol engines, so it’s no surprise to see Hyundai follow the herd in that particular department. The engine from the Kona (with peak outputs of 88 kW and 172 Nm of torque) is used in the smaller Venue, in which it is mated with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch ‘box transmission. Hyundai has continuously developed and improved the direct-shift automatic transmission in each and every model that the Korean manufacturer has been offered it and the 'box now really does feel a match for the DSG in the T-Cross. It’s a better option than the manual, without a doubt, it’s just a pity there’s a R30k price hike for the auto.
The engine copes well with the size of the Venue and feels lighter on its feet than the Kona. It gets up to speed quickly and is very eager to accelerate from a standstill (something that you may need to get accustomed to in traffic). Fuel economy is quite reasonable; we achieved low 6 L/100 km figures over a mixed route around the Cape Winelands. Drive is sent purely to the front wheels – and there are no all-wheel-drive derivatives in the pipeline.
What is it like to drive?
The Venue rides reasonably firmly, but on the upside, it's very manoeuvrable in the city.
The Venue may be a budget offering in Hyundai's lineup, but it retains the solidity we’ve come to expect from modern Korean vehicles. The steering lightens up a little too much in slow and congested driving conditions, but it’s not off-putting. What's more, its ride quality is a bit on the firmer side of comfortable, which we attribute to the newcomer's rigid structure and short wheelbase, but that makes it well adapted for being hustled around traffic circles and bends.
It’s quite playful to drive in short bursts and I actually preferred the dual-clutch transmission to the manual as it requires less effort to keep the triple (3-pot motor) on the boil. Out on the serpentine roads of the Western Cape Winelands with the wind pumping (as holidaymakers find is an annoying characteristic of summer jaunts in the Cape), the Venue felt composed and easily controllable. It’s certainly a contender for "most refined and quietest ride in its segment".
Is it nice inside?
Android Auto/Apple Carplay compatibility is standard in Fluid and Glide derivatives.
Aside from the lack of a modern infotainment system in the base-spec Motion derivative, the Venue range is reasonably specified. Fluid and Glide versions tick most necessities in terms of onboard features, plus they feature Android Auto/Apple Carplay compatibility, which seems to be the must-have feature in wherever segment you're shopping in the contemporary new-vehicle market. From a value-for-money point of view, the Fluid covers most of the bases, whereas the Glide adds nice-to-have bits such as auto aircon (climate control), cornering lamps, a 60/40 split rear seat (the whole bench folds as one on lesser derivatives), keyless start and front fog lamps.
The seats are comfortable and supportive and trimmed in fabric. Finding the optimal driving position is a bit tricky, however, because the steering wheel is not reach-adjustable – it only tilts up and down.
The well-appointed interior feels solidly-made and should be hard-wearing.
Meanwhile, the space inside is quite good for a compact crossover; the Venue's dimensions are just a touch smaller than those of the Ford Ecosport, but the newcomer’s similarly spacious inside. Thanks to slimline front seats, there’s reasonable legroom available for rear occupants, and the load bay's capacity is a claimed to be 350 litres, which is pretty good but approximately 27 litres less than that of the T-Cross.
In terms of the touch surfaces, the Hyundai's interior feels solid and very well put together (no surprise there), with a mixture of hard plastics and soft-touch material on the inner door handle. Like the T-Cross, the Venue's cabin loses a few marks due to scratchy plastics located around the door panels, but it seems a bit more solidly-made than the Volkswagen overall...
How’s the safety spec?
It’s good to see Hyundai installing electronic stability control across the range as it’s always better to avoid an accident entirely rather than trying to mitigate the damage of one. Venue derivatives further feature ABS and EBD as standard and buyers with families will be pleased to learn that there ISOfix mounts in the rear. A pair of front airbags is fitted in the Motion, while the Fluid and Glide come with 6 'bags (additional side and curtain units).
The Venue looks like the biggest threat to the T-Cross yet.
This Venue genuinely feels like the rival the T-Cross needed to keep Volkswagen from running away with the sales lead in the segment. Hyundai's newcomer has a capable engine, good auto 'box and performs eagerly when driven with vigour. The standard specification is good in the Fluid derivative, while the Glide version offers a full house of accessories. The design is modern and prominent; it imbues the Venue, which is actually a small car, with notable road presence. Meanwhile, the space available inside is par for the segment and the load bay offers almost as much capacity as the competition. It'll be interesting to see how buyers weigh up the hot-selling T-Cross against the Venue!