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If you are looking at a Honda HR-V, there's a good chance you aren't looking at a Mazda CX-3. You're a different type of small SUV shopper, one that values practicality more than exterior styling.
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Hyundai’s Venue is a step up from the Accent. And we mean that both figuratively and literally - not only is the brand's newest SUV a taller vehicle than the entry-level hatchback it's essentially replacing, it is also a better vehicle in almost every way.
It's not all good news, though. With the Accent not long for this world, the Venue will form the new entry point to the Hyundai family. And with a starting price of $20k for this smallest of small SUVs, it's an entry point that is around $5k higher than it has been for years.
Which leaves us with one big question for this small SUV, then; is it worth it?
|Hyundai Venue 2020: GO|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Venue might well start at a touch under twenty grand, but it still represents a sizeable step up from the cheapest Accent, which, as it enters its final months on sale, you can still pick up for around $15 grand.
Happily for Hyundai, the Venue is also a literal step up from the Accent, and so places the brand's newest and smallest SUV into one of Australia’s fastest-growing new vehicle segments. And while that won't make up for the Accent’s soon-to-be-missing sales volume entirely, it will go some way to filling the void.
The Venue arrives in three trim levels; the entry-grade Go, the mid-spec Active and the top-spec Elite.
By Hyundai’s own admission, not many people will land on the Go ($19,990 manual, $21,990 automatic), which does arrives with niceties like an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, automatic headlights and cruise control, but also makes do with 15-inch steel wheels.
The step to the Active ($21,990 manual, $23,490 auto) is $1500, and it’s one Hyundai thinks most people will happily make. Doing so will earn you 15-inch alloys, LED DRLs, nicer leather interior treatments and a better six-speaker stereo.
Finally, the top-spec Elite ($25,490 auto only) adds navigation and digital radio, single-zone climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus a more funky look courtesy of its contrasting two-tone roof.
Let's start with the obvious; the Venue looks better and more modern than the Accent it essentially replaces, both inside and out.
How much better depends on how much you spend, of course (the steel wheels on the Go grate like a dentist drill in 2019) but it is a sharp-looking SUV no matter what you spend.
More a hatch on stilts than a genuine SUV, Hyundai has done well to hide its light-car credentials behind a wide, strong grille, lightly bulging wheel arches and standard roof rails, even on cheapest Go model. It gives the front-wheel-drive only Venue a kin of ready-for-anything look, even if that anything is unlikely to include anything more challenging than the ramp at your local shopping centre.
Inside, though, does hint more strongly at its position at the beginning of the Hyundai range, with cloth seats and manual air-conditioning (in all but the most expensive model), as well as a key you have to insert and turn to start the engine (remember that?).
As you expect at this price point, there is no shortage of hard plastics, but the design is clean and simple, and the huge touchscreen dials up the wow factor somewhat, as does the moulded dash element that doubles as a kind-of grab handle.
It’s worth remembering that, while the Venue feels more substantial than the Accent it replaces, it is actually slightly shorter, and rides on a smaller wheelbase. So, it’s no behemoth. In fact, at 4040mm in length, 1170 in width and 1592mm in height, it is just 20mm longer than a Mazda2.
Inside, though, you’ll find the space on offer surprisingly generous. Front-seat riders can travel with no awkward shoulder rubbing, while in the back, there’s definitely room for two adults (well, as long as they’re my 175cm, that is), with enough clear air between your knees and the seat in front, and your head and the roof lining, to ensure you don’t feel overly claustrophobic.
That said, there aren’t much in the way of niceties for backseat riders to enjoy. The touchpoint are all trimmed in hard plastics, and there’s nary an air vent, charging point or cupholder to be found, even in the top-spec Elite model.
It's a pretty straightforward engine line-up on offer in the Venue. And that’s mostly because there’s exactly one engine to choose from, no matter what you spend - a 1.6-litre petrol unit good for 90kW and 151Nm.
The Venue also gets a tricky traction system that, using throttle mapping and ESC settings, can be configures for mud, sand or snow. A true off-roader this front-wheel-drive SUV ain’t, but some light stuff should be possible.
Happily, the Venue accepts cheaper 91RON fuel, and should sip around 7.0 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, regardless of transmission.
Emissions are pegged at 160g/km with the manual, and 165g/km with the automatic.
The Venue’s fuel tank will hold 45 litres.
Stepping up to the Active, however, adds rear parking sensors, while shelling out for the Elite buys you blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Venue is yet to be officially crash tested, but Hyundai says it expects a four-star result, owing to the lack of radar-based safety systems.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
It's the full five-year, unlimited-kilometre Hyundai treatment here, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
Hyundai’s capped-price servicing program prices the first five services at $259, $259, $339, $459 and $259, for a total $1575 over the warranty period.
What you make of the Venue largely depends on your, erm, venue. And yes, that is the kind of terrible pun that makes a dad joke seem like champagne comedy, but stick with me for a moment.
The Venue, you’d have to think, will be driven almost exclusively in Australia’s urban centres, and it’s here that it seriously shines. The engine is smooth and unobtrusive as you climb to city speeds, and the six-speed automatic shuffles through its gears with minimal fuss, too.
More good stuff? It’s quiet in the cabin, and the centre screen is not only big, clear and easy to use, but also makes the Venue a nicer, more modern-feeling place to spend time than the more basic-feeling Accent.
Some of the shine does start to wear off away from town, though, where the 1.6-litre engine’s 91kW need to be strong-armed into action, with flat-footed acceleration adding an unwelcome harshness to the drive experience.
Steep hills are a natural enemy of cars like these, too, and so expect the usually sorted automatic gearbox to jump from third gear to fourth, then back to third, as it tries to squeeze every last ounce of power from the engine. These are mere foibles, though, and in town you won’t even notice them.
The ride is sublime, even over sudden rough spots or mid-corner bumps. In fact, the steering and handling setup is so surprising that you will genuinely find yourself grinning on a twisting road, and longing for more power from that engine.
Short answer? The Venue is a step up from the Accent in more than just its ride height.
With small SUVs still selling like high-riding hot cakes, there’s no doubt the Venue is the right car at the right time for Hyundai. It won't make up for all the sales lost by the Accent's demise, but those who do buy one will end up with a much better car for their money.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
|Active||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$16,300 – 22,660||2020 Hyundai Venue 2020 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Elite (black Interior)||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,400 – 26,950||2020 Hyundai Venue 2020 Elite (black Interior) Pricing and Specs|
|Elite (denim Interior)||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,400 – 26,950||2020 Hyundai Venue 2020 Elite (denim Interior) Pricing and Specs|
|Elite (grey Interior)||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,400 – 26,950||2020 Hyundai Venue 2020 Elite (grey Interior) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|