First Drive: Hyundai Venue

Toying with the idea of a compact city SUV? Besides the new Volkswagen T-Cross, Volvo’s chic XC40 and a stampede of other trendy pavement hoppers, there’s now this new Venue from Korean manufacturer Hyundai.

I mentioned the T-Cross and XC40 on purpose for they all bear a minor resemblance, be it in each other’s proportions or style elements. Sculpted sides, squared-off light clusters and two-tone paint jobs are the order of the day, it seems. There are plenty of distinguishing features for each but the biggest one is the Volvo’s price.

On a larger scale, the Swedes and Germans have also fallen behind in the relentless game of SUV niche filling. Where they “only” offer three models each, Hyundai now has an unprecedented five Sports Utility Vehicles in their line-up… with a sixth one rumoured to arrive next year. VW has number four in the pipeline right now.

“Africa is a very important market…” said the M.D. of Hyundai’s Indian operations, where the Venue is also built. He was addressing media and colleagues at the car’s recent launch and was confident that their smallest, front-wheel drive and petrol-only crossover would become the best-seller it already is in India.

How? The Venue is aimed at smart, young, connected customers (cough, millennials) and its creation was based on the usual bait of stylish luxury, refined driveability and modern connectivity. “Small but confident” also flashed up on the bright presentation screens, alluding to this new A-segment SUV’s strong proportions.

The front light clusters might not be to everyone’s taste but with their bizarre layout, they certainly are unique. The rear lights strongly mimic a T-Cross while its side profile and rear window line are pure XC40. Cool colours, two-tone paint options and extremely trendy wheel designs complete the picture.

So is this a copycat?

Perhaps in those smaller details but to me it seems like Hyundai got “inspiration” from other vehicles and combined it with their best design and packaging efforts. The interior is equally stylish with trendy fabrics, multi-level swooping dash accents and crisp instrumentation. Some plastics seemed a tad low rent though.

There’s ample space for four adults thanks to slimmer front seats and extra reclining on the rear furniture. Depending on the chosen model (Motion, Fluid or Glide) the usual luxury and safety items are on board with dearer models spoiling you with extra goodies. Unlike the Germans or Swedes, there are no costly optional extras available here.

All Venues are powered by the same 1-liter turbo-petrol 3-cylinder all-alloy engine buzzing its gruff tune with up to 88kW (120bhp) or 172Nm going to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. 0-100 takes around 11.5 seconds with top speeds in excess of 180km/h.

Average fuel use is claimed at 6.5 to 6.9L/100km.

Other vital dimensions include a 4m length, 350L of boot space, 1,100kg dry weight, 195mm of ground clearance and 5.1m turning radius. Motion models ride on 195/65 tyres with 15-inch steel wheels while Fluid or Glide buyers get 215/60 rubber on 16-inch alloys. Both sizes promise good ride comfort, especially at town speeds.

Best chat to your nearest dealer about the various trim levels and local availability of the two manual and three automatic derivatives. I tested both at the car’s launch in Cape Town and while the DCT is fairly quick and convenient, I’d happily pocket the wee saving in favour of the slick six-shot manual.

Prices range from R274,900 to R369,900 which should (at least) get VW dealers a bit worried. Included in the price is a 5-year/150,000km warranty with an additional two years and 50,000km for the power-train. A three-year/45,000km service plan is also part of the parcel, as is seven years or 150,000km of roadside assistance.

Should you buy the new Hyundai Venue instead of the posh Volvo? Duh, of course, it’s half the price. And the VW? That’s a tougher one as pricing is fairly similar. The Volksie rules with dealer count and tactile quality but the Hyundai retaliates with better specs (value for money) and warranties. Best flip a coin?  

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