The Hyundai Venue has desirability in spades. We take it to the mountain roads of Meghalaya to see just how good this latest compact SUV contender really is.
The profession of motoring journalism can, at times, distance us from the reality of the very industry that we’re involved in. There are times when we witness new car and motorcycle launches several times a week. And every time a new car or bike hits the market, amongst all the various parameters we analyse, we always consider price to be a major criterion. But the price comparison of a product with its competition tends to blindside us and we fail to see the actual ‘value’ of an automobile.
What do I mean? Let me explain with an anecdote. Recently, a friend, who owned a Mahindra Scorpio for several years, decided to buy a new car. So, we sat down to draw up a list of prospective cars. But the result was quite a shock to him. You see he had bought his top-of-the-line Scorpio back in the day for about `9 lakh (on-road). Today, a top-of-the-line Scorpio 4WD will set you back by… wait for it… `19.74 lakh! 20 lakh for a Mahindra Scorpio! ‘That’s absurd,’ he claimed. He bought a compact SUV instead.
Now, this eye-watering rise in car prices didn’t happen overnight – and there are various factors involved. Think about it though, price is a very real determinant of a car buyer’s decision today. Price is at the very centre of the process in deciding which car to buy. And, perhaps, this is the reason why sub-4-metre compact cars are doing so well in India. Hyundai India’s market research reveals that 49% of all SUV sales in India is are accounted for by compact SUVs.
So, here’s Hyundai’s take on the compact SUV – the all-new Venue, with prices ranging between `6.5 lakh to a little over `11 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). It meets compact car regulations with a length of under 4 metres. It has a diesel engine under 1,500cc, while its petrol engines displace less than 1,200cc.
Inspired by the Creta
Hyundai’s mid-size SUV, the Creta, has become a blockbuster success. And inspired by it, the smaller Venue incorporates many similar design elements, such as the trapezoidal front grill, raked A-pillar, the roofline, C-pillar design, window lines, black plastic cladding around the lower section of the car and alloy-wheel design. But that doesn’t mean that it’s an exact copy, there’s a lot that’s new too, such as those sleek front indicator lamps, bumper mounted projector headlamps, LED fog lamps and the new grill design.
So, while the overall silhouette of the new Venue resembles that of the Creta, it’s still unmistakably distinct – you simply can’t mistake the Venue for anything else.
Step inside, and you’ll notice a distinctive modern design theme – its all-black interior, air vent design and the location of the infotainment screen all make it look contemporary. This is a radical departure from the traditional Hyundai cabin design. What I do miss here, though, is the wonderfully soft leather wrapped steering wheel of other Hyundai cars. Don’t get me wrong, the leather wrap here is nice too, but it feels more hard-wearing and less plush.
But, honestly, you won’t have enough time to pay attention to the leather wrap, as there’s just so much going on in terms of features. Hyundai’s BlueLink system’s debut in India makes this car a cornucopia of features, one of which even allows you to remotely start the engine and turn on the air conditioning to cool the cabin before you actually enter the car.
It also has stolen vehicle tracking and immobilisation services, touch to operate SOS service and roadside assistance functions. Moreover, the Venue lays claim over the bragging rights of being India’s first connected car with its own machine-to-machine SIM card that has a Vodafone-Idea connection. This car literally spoils you silly with a wide array of segment-first features.
But that’s not all! The cabin of the Venue is quite spacious for a compact SUV. It has plenty of space for four occupants – the fifth can be a bit of a squeeze though. The seats are firm and supportive, and there’s adequate space for rear seat occupants.
Is it impressive on the road?
As mentioned earlier, the Venue is powered by a range of engines suited for compact cars. I drove the 1.4-litre engine first, which shares its specifications with the i20 diesel. So, it makes 88bhp of max power at 4,000rpm and peak torque of 220Nm, which is spread between 1,500 and 2,750rpm.
As reflected by its on-paper figures, this engine performs best in its mid-range. Turbo lag is quite evident under 1,800rpm though, as the Venue is heavier than cars like the i20. But once you get the turbo spooling, the Venue turns out to be great fun to drive. The suspension setup of this compact SUV is brilliant – especially considering that it rides on tall springs.
Body roll is extremely well contained, and you can carry a lot of speed into bends. The car remains perfectly poised while exiting corners. The Venue also comes with a brilliantly calibrated traction control system that’s very unobtrusive when you start to push its traction limits around corners. The steering wheel, while light at low speeds, does send you some amount of feedback when you go full bore.
On the whole, it would be very fair to say that the Venue is a fun car to drive. The engine begins to run out of steam at 4,250rpm, although it will continue to push on past 4,500rpm. Still, it offers decent real-world performance and will make for a comfortable urban commuter as well as a capable highway vehicle. It’s just that the suspension, otherwise pliant, tends to feel firm over sharper bumps.
I also drove the new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, direct injection, turbo petrol model of the Venue that comes with a seven-speed double clutch automatic transmission developed by Hyundai. This engine has a much higher power output of 118bhp, while peak torque is rated at 172Nm. Right from the get-go, this engine feels like a new age powertrain. It’s very smooth and very quiet under urban driving conditions, with linear throttle inputs. In fact, it’s so good that you’ll find yourself watching the movement of the rev counter needle while the gearbox goes through all seven gears by the time you hit 80 km/h. It’s very impressive! The combination of the engine and gearbox makes the Venue automatic a seamless daily driver that’s sure to make your peak hour commutes relatively stress free.
It’s a decent performer out on the highway too. The only problem is slow downshifts under intense acceleration – such as during an overtaking manoeuvre. Under such circumstances, the engine revolutions shoot up, but it takes the transmission a little while to find the perfect gear for you.
Using Tiptronic mode to change gears manually will have a similar result, so it’s best to just let the transmission do its thing. What I do like about this powertrain is that when you do absolutely go for it, the engine finds some zing and shoots past 5,000rpm with renewed vigour while heading towards the redline. And here you’re greeted by brilliant gear changes that put you right back into the meat of the power band.
The Venue AT, then, is a car that’s actually quite nice to drive. But if you’re an enthusiast, just remember that there’s also the Venue 1.0 GDI with a manual gearbox on offer.
Taking the market by storm
Hyundai’s Venue is a well-built, well-finished product that aims to lure buyers with its design, desirability and lengthy equipment list. Being a Hyundai, it’s bound to sell well too. But at its core is a well-rounded package that ensures the Venue aces every department – quality, performance, features and comfort.
- Hyundai Venue 1.4 SX(O)
- Hyundai Venue 1.0 GDI DCT
Engine: 1,396cc / 4 Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed MT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 88bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 220Nm @ 1,500-2,750rpm
Price: ₹10.84 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine: 998cc / 3-Cylinders / 12-Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed AT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 118bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 172Nm @ 1,500-4,000rpm
Price: ₹11.10 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Also read - Hyundai Venue Bluelink features explained