Late entrant Hyundai Venue feels special on the move

S. Muralidhar | | Updated on: May 30, 2019

The Venue’s rear

The Venue’s rear

The interiors come with a host of added features

The interiors come with a host of added features

The Venue gets three engine options

The Venue gets three engine options

Biggest addition to the sub-compact SUV segment. But does it have the heft to take on the Vitara Brezza?

The sub-four-metre size segmentation in the passenger car industry and tax incentives extended to promote this segment has largely been a handicap rather than a USP in terms of the global competitiveness and further development of the sector. The regulation is unique, in that no other country has such a fixated vehicle dimension limitation. Other governments are focussed on metrics like fleet average fuel efficiency, engine size or emissions for doling out tax incentives. During the two decades of this very Indian imposition, a compliant industry sought out the competitive advantage that the lower tax rate offered to cater to the price sensitive domestic market. We have also had some unattractive vehicles, which had to be chopped up to meet the size limitation. But now there seems to be a glimmer of hope that this might inadvertently turn out to be an advantage in a world that is increasingly becoming conscious of its carbon footprint.

The Hyundai Venue is the latest entrant into this segment which, ironically, combines the growing preference for sports utility vehicle body styles and manages a sub-four-metre footprint too. And Hyundai says that the Venue will go global after being introduced first in India. But the Venue is still late to the party here, with competitors like the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Mahindra XUV300, Ford EcoSport and the Tata Nexon already serving up such vehicles in this size class. So, can the Venue pip them to the post? To find out, I travelled to Guwahati to drive Venue on some of the most scenic, and easily some of the best hilly, winding roads in the country.

Design

The Venue’s design has a lot of SUV flavour despite its compact proportions. So it doesn’t look like a glorified hatch. A fairly tall, boxy profile and the strong bulging shoulder and side character line make it look larger than it actually is. The front design maybe a bit less appealing for some, especially the lower position of the headlamps. But the unique dark chrome grille and the square DRLs that give it a nice night time signature are bound to convert buyers into fans. Projector style square headlamps and fog lamps, 16-inch alloys wheels, silver faux skid plates, chrome door handles, etc, are some of the other exterior features you’ll get depending on the trim variant. The Venue gets its strong SUV styling from the full volume wheel arches, the mildly clamshell style bonnet and the Hyundai signature window lines and roof design, which has been borrowed from the Creta.

On the road, the Venue’s stance is quite appealing and its rear design complements the rest of the car. A wide, squat look at the rear with elements in shapes that are coordinated with the front makes it appealing to look at from the rear three-quarter angle too. Square wrap-around tail-lamps with Z-shaped LED lights and a stepped tailgate with the Hyundai logo and Venue in chrome lettering add more impact to the rear.

Hyundai has chosen to load the Venue’s cabin with a lot of new features, many of which aren’t obvious or visible when one gets behind the wheel for the first time.

Cabin

But the dashboard design and layout is clean, almost symmetric, and all the controls fall into your hands neatly. The leather-wrapped steering wheel (in the top trim) is the signature Hyundai size and features multi-function controls similar to other cars from the brand. It offers tilt adjustment, but not telescopic, for reach. The centre console is topped by an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is set in between two aircon vents. The rest of the centre stack is simply divided into three layers with specific arrays of controls for the infotainment system, auto aircon and a lower storage and connectivity area for USB slots and a wireless charging tray.

The seats feature a combination of leatherette and fabric upholstery that’s been wrapped onto comfortable seats with tall side bolsters.

The driver’s seat gets manual height adjustment in addition to backrest tilt. The rear bench seat has been specially designed to offer extra thigh support, and it also gets a centre portion with a slightly lowered squab to enable a middle passenger to also sit comfortably. There is also the addition of rear aircon vents, both of which will surely be appreciated by many owners who prefer to be chauffeur-driven. The quality of plastic on the dash, doors, and switches and controls has a premium feel and a mix of glossy and textured finishes, and LED backlighting, they elevate the cabin’s premiumness. The Venue is being offered with a lot of connected car features, all of which depend on an embedded SIM that allows your smartphone to communicate with the car. Hyundai’s proprietary tech is called BlueLink, which in addition to remote operations, also offers features like a concierge service, SOS button and roadside assistance. The smartphone that had been logged in and paired with the car that I was driving easily let me remotely start the engine and control aircon temperature, etc. Some of the features seem to still be a work in progress, like the concierge service, which was answered at the other end only once out of three trials. The one-touch buttons for these assistance services are located at the bottom of the rear-view mirror.

Performance

Venue is being offered with three engine options — the 1.2-litre petrol and the 1.4-litre diesel, both of which have been seen in other Hyundais including the Creta. But the key new addition is the one-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and its seven-speed dual clutch (DCT) transmission. With this engine, Hyundai is making a tech evolution statement, while also prepping itself to meet future norms. This Kappa T-GDI petrol engine is both disproportionately powerful and fuel efficient. And to be paired with a DCT in this segment makes it significant for Hyundai and its customers. The 998 cc engine delivers 120 PS of peak power and 17.5 KgM of peak torque from about 1,500 rpm. We have seen slightly larger displacement three cylinder turbos from competitors like Ford EcoSport, Mahindra XUV 300 and Tata Nexon and they were all not bad themselves. But Hyundai’s new one-litre turbo petrol surprises with its refined and sprightly performance. There is enough shove from the engine at moderate speeds and there is not much giving away its three-pot character. But, floor the pedal and the engine delivers fairly linear acceleration, even though there is mild turbo lag that combines with the gearing in the DCT set with a fuel efficient bias. The auto gearbox shifts are imperceptible and the refinement level of this transmission is better than the AMTs and torque converters offered by competitors. The six-speed manual gearbox also offered with this engine feels even quicker; with its short throw gear stick. Follow a preemptive shift style and its performance puts a lot of larger engines in the shade.

I also drove the 1.4-litre Diesel engine, which is paired with the six-speed manual gearbox, a powertrain we are all familiar with from the Creta. The engine generates 90 PS of power and 22.4 KgM of torque. It feels adequate in the Creta, but in the Venue, it offers a decidedly peppy performance. Driving up the winding roads from Guwahati to Shillong, the diesel variant dismisses quick overtakes and steep hairpin climbs with its strong acceleration. Vehicle stability management cuts wheel slippage and helps draw in the rear, even if one dives into corners a bit overenthusiastically.

Bottom Line

The Venue feels special in other departments too and one big surprise was how good the steering feels. This is probably the best steering set up I have seen in a Hyundai. The steering is light in traffic and weighs up at speeds, is much more accurate than what have seen in other models and there is none of the centre vagueness. It could do with more feedback though. The ride quality is another plus with the suspension set for a pliant ride, that doesn’t lead to it thudding uncomfortably through cracked tarmac and potholes. Shock absorber rebound has also been controlled, which combined with its stiffer chassis distinctly improves ride quality.

The Venue does miss out on a few features like a split rear bench seat and many of the features are loaded only onto the top SX(O) trim including a lot of the safety equipment. But it is still interesting to see features like an electric sunroof, wireless phone charger, air purifier and cruise control in a vehicle in this size and price class. The Venue’s package and price (starting at ₹6.5 lakh, ex-showroom) make it a strong contender for the top spot in this segment. It has already led to the competition rethinking its strategy. We have to wait and see if the Venue can unseat the Vitara Brezza from its perch.

Published on May 30, 2019
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