The Hyundai Venue has desirability in spades. We take it to the seamless mountain roads of Meghalaya to see just how good the latest compact SUV contender is.
The profession of auto journalism can, at times, distance us from the reality of the very industry that we are 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 a major criterion. But the price comparison of a product with its competition sometimes tends to blindside us about the ‘actual price’ of an automobile. Recently, a friend, who owned a Mahindra Scorpio for several years, stepped out to buy a car again. Only this time, when we actually sat down to draw up a list of prospective cars, it left him quite shocked. You see he had bought his top-of-the-line Scorpio back then for about Rs 9 lakh (on-road). Today, a top-of-the-line Scorpio 4WD will set you back by . . . wait for it . . . Rs 19.74 lakh! That’s as near as makes no difference Rs 20 lakh (on-road, New Delhi) for a Mahindra Scorpio! This equation made no sense to him at all, so he went out and bought a compact SUV instead.
But this eye-watering rise in new car prices did not happen overnight, it’s a result of various factors. Think about it, though, price is a very real determinant of a car buyer’s decision today. They tend to compare and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different cars, all while keeping the price factor at the very centre of the entire process of 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 per cent of all SUV sales in India is accounted for by compact SUVs.
So here is Hyundai’s take on the compact SUV – the all-new Venue, with prices ranging between Rs 6.5 lakh and little over Rs 11 lakh (ex-showroom New 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. So, inspired by its design, the smaller Venue has many similar design elements, such as the trapezoidal front grill, raked A-pillar design, 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 resembles that of the Creta, you can’t mistake the Venue on the road for anything else.
Step inside, and you will notice an unmistakeable Kia design theme here – its all-black interior, air vent design and the location of the infotainment screen and associated buttons. 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 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 it 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 enter.
It also has stolen vehicle tracking and immobilisation services, touch to operate SOS service and roadside assistance functions. The Venue also has 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. The seats are firm and supportive, and there’s plenty of leg room, head room and under-thigh support 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 model 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 1,500rpm and 2,750rpm. As reflected by its on-paper figures, this engine performs its best in the mid-range of the power band. Turbo lag is more evident under 1,800rpm, as the Venue is heavier than other cars such as the i20 that use this engine. But once you get the turbo spooling, the Venue turns out to be great fun to drive as the suspension setup of this compact SUV is brilliant, considering it rides on tall springs. Body roll is extremely well contained, and you can carry a lot of speed into bends, as the car remains perfectly poised while exiting a corner. 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, tends to 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 stiff 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 will be left looking at the rev counter needle move as the gearbox goes through all seven gears by the time you hit 80 km/h. It’s very impressive. The engine and gearbox combination makes the Venue automatic a seamless daily driver that is going to make your peak hour drives relatively stress free.
It’s a decent performer out on highways too. The only problem is slow downshifts when you mash the throttle for a quick overtake. Under this circumstance, the engine revolutions shoot up, but it takes the transmission a 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 absolutely go for it, the engine finds some zing and shoots past 5,000rpm while heading towards the redline, where you are greeted by a brilliant gear change that throws 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 are an enthusiast, just remember that there is also the Venue 1.0 GDI with a manual gearbox on offer!
Taking the compact SUV market by storm
Hyundai’s Venue is a well built and well-finished product that aims to lure buyers in with its design, desirability and lengthy equipment list. Being a Hyundai, it’s bound to sell well too. But beneath its all-new tag is a well-rounded package that offers quality, performance, features and comfortability.
- 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