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Hyundai Venue 2020 review: Active long-term

A small SUV meets a very small dog: will it be a match made in heaven?

The Venue is Hyundai's gateway drug - its smallest, cheapest SUV offering which is designed to welcome people to the brand before they step up to bigger, and more expensive, vehicles. Small, cheap and cheerful? That sounds a lot like CarsGuide's own Andrew 'Chesto' Chesterton. So who better to put it to the long-term test?

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✅ Report 1 - April 2020

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Hyundai Venue, and while it might not be one of the attention-grabbing flagship models in the Korean brand's line-up - like the i30 N or incoming Palisade - it remains one of the most important vehicles in its range.

See, the Venue acts as the entry point to the Hyundai family (and, more importantly, the brand's SUV line-up), essentially filling the role that was, until recently, played by the now-axed Accent small car.

And it's a super important role, too. You'll hear brands talk about the importance of customer loyalty, which is the idea that, if you get a P-plater into one of your cheaper vehicles and that person has a good experience, they're likely to grow with the brand as their financial circumstances improve. You might start in a Venue, for example, but you should then upgrade to a Tucson, or a Santa Fe, and - eventually - maybe even a Palisade.

First impressions matter. And for lots of Hyundai customers, the first impression they get of the brand will be in the price-conscious Venue. (image: Andrew Chesterton) First impressions matter. And for lots of Hyundai customers, the first impression they get of the brand will be in the price-conscious Venue. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

Or to put it another way, first impressions matter. And for lots of Hyundai customers, the first impression they get of the brand will be in the price-conscious Venue.

So, this car matters. A lot. And we've been handed the keys for three months to see just what kind of impression the Venue makes. But before we get to the fun stuff, let's get the basics out of the way first.

Our test car is a Hyundai Venue Active - the best-selling trim level - and the brand has helpfully steered clear of the options list, so what you see here is what you get in a dealership.

The Active forms the middle rung on the Venue ladder, sitting above the cheapest Go and below the most expensive Elite.

I don’t think you’ll want for much in the Active, and there’s nothing on the Elite’s standard features list that makes it feel worth the price jump. (image: Andrew Chesterton) I don’t think you’ll want for much in the Active, and there’s nothing on the Elite’s standard features list that makes it feel worth the price jump. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

You'll pay around $22,690 (drive-away) for the Go, while the Elite is a crazy $29,240 (again drive-away). I say crazy, because $30,000 buys you a lot of i30, for example, and is more expensive than a Tucson Active, and about the same money as a well-equipped Tucson Active X.

To be fair, the Go does feel a little like a stripped-out entry-level model (you don't even get a middle armrest in the front, and you'll have to make do with steel wheels), but our Active, which hits a pretty sweet spot a $24,700 (drive-away), delivers almost every you might want at that price point.

For example, aside from the cloth seats and hard plastic used in the cabin, there's a heap of really quite nice-feeling kit on offer. The Active gets a six-speaker stereo that pairs with an eight-inch touchscreen. And because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto arrive as standard, you can access navigation, podcasts, driving playlists and more through your phone.

Elsewhere there's 15-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs, bending headlights that move with the steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, powered and heated wing mirrors, power windows and central locking.

Honestly, I don't think you'll want for much in the Active, and there's nothing on the Elite's standard features list that makes it feel worth the price jump.

If you want to feel even better about not springing for the top-spec car, consider this; there is only one engine option across the Venue family, no matter how much you spend.

In other words, Go, Active or Elite, you're still rocking the same drivetrain - a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 90kW and 151Nm. It can be had with a six-speed manual in the Go or Active, but we opted (and we suggest you do, too) for the six-speed automatic transmission that makes city driving utterly fuss free.

I'm 175cm, and there's enough room in the backseat to create clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and my head and the roof lining. (image: Andrew Chesterton) I'm 175cm, and there's enough room in the backseat to create clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and my head and the roof lining. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

Hyundai tells us you can squeeze 45 litres of 91RON fuel into the Venue's tank, which - according the claimed/combine fuel use of 7.2L/100km - should unlock around 625kms per tank.

A final word on safety before we get stuck into what the Venue is actually like to live with. Brands like Hyundai deserve much credit for making most of the important safety stuff standard across the range.

In the Venue, for example, even the Go gets Forward Collision Warning with AEB that detects both cars and pedestrians, a Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, a reversing camera with guide lines, dusk-sensing headlights and halogen DRLs. And that's good in a car that costs a whisker over $20k.

Stepping up to our car, the Active, unlocks largely the same set of safety kit, but don't view that a negative. Safety should be democratic. Still, the Venue range only wears a four star ANCAP safety rating, performing well in the adult occupancy crash tests (91 per cent), but losing points for a lack of super advanced safety kit (62 per cent).

Welcoming any new car to the long-term garage is exciting. Usually when we test a car, we take the keys for a week or so, and then spend that time trying to put it through as many real-life simulations as we possibly can, from city runs to longer drives, freeways to twisting roads, and everything in between.

It has 15-inch alloy wheels. (image: Andrew Chesterton) It has 15-inch alloy wheels. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

But simulations will only get you so far, which is why taking ownership of a car for several months always - always - spills more secrets.

And given you now know everything you need to know about the Venue Active, the only thing left is to see how it fits into my little family's (my wife, Sarah, our little corgi, Poppy, and myself) life in inner Sydney.

Acquired: March 2020

Distance travelled this month: 676km

Odometer: 3067km

Average fuel consumption for [month]: 9.0L/100

✅ Report 2 - May 2020

I'm going to spill something here, although there's a good chance you know it already. Not all cars are built to do all things.

A Toyota Tarago, for example, might have been great at carrying large families, but unleash it on Germany's Nurburgring, and you'll find yourself behind the wheel of what feels suspiciously like a tall bowl of jelly, and one that might tip over at any moment.

It's the same with SUVs, of course. The Jeep Wrangler might well be able to climb any mountain you care to point its nose at, but navigating tight inner-city streets and parking spaces in one is near-enough impossible.

Which leads us neatly to the Hyundai Venue. Here is a car that is, unashamedly, aimed at city and suburban folk. You won't find one navigating the Tanami Track, for example, but you will see plenty making tracks from your local Target.

Not all cars are built to do all things. (image: Andrew Chesterton) Not all cars are built to do all things. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

And so it's in that spirit that my little family has decided to approach our time with the Venue. Instead of dreaming of far-away places, we're going to use our months together discovering new suburban secrets that we've never been to before - places that we can take our nature-loving dog along for the ride, too.

Yes, there are moments behind the wheel of the Venue Active where you definitely feel its price point. The plastics are hard and a little scratchy, the insulation isn't fabulous and the backseat - though surprisingly spacious - is a fairly barren landscape. If your kids have two legs, rather than four, the Venue serves up two ISOFIX attachment points and three top-tether points, but that's about all you'll find back there, with no vents, pull-down seat dividers or cupholders on offer.

But it's also worth remembering that you're paying around $24,700 (drive-away), and so you can forgive it a lack of opulent luxury, and the reality is that it does exactly what's expected of a car in this bracket, and then some.

The navigation is exactly what came in handy when it came to finding our first Sydney secret spot - the Turrella Reserve bushwalk. (image: Andrew Chesterton) The navigation is exactly what came in handy when it came to finding our first Sydney secret spot - the Turrella Reserve bushwalk. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

For a start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto arrives as standard, seriously upping the tech factor in the cabin. You simply plug your phone in, then use the 8.0-inch screen like you might your phone, whether its for navigation, calls or texts, driving playlists or podcasts.

They're the kinds of features that were, until quite recently, only unlocked by spending a ton on a premium car, and then bothering the hell out of the options list. These days, it arrives as standard in most entry-level cars, transforming the drive experience.

And the navigation is exactly what came in handy when it came to finding our first Sydney secret spot - the Turrella Reserve bushwalk, which starts in Earlwood in the city's inner south. Not just one of the most natural-feeling dog walks you can take near the city (it seriously feels like you're way out in the bush somewhere, not 10kms from the CBD), it's also home to one to the city's most important grey-headed flying-fox colonies.

Not just one of the most natural-feeling dog walks you can take near the city (it seriously feels like you're way out in the bush somewhere, not 10kms from the CBD). (image: Andrew Chesterton) Not just one of the most natural-feeling dog walks you can take near the city (it seriously feels like you're way out in the bush somewhere, not 10kms from the CBD). (image: Andrew Chesterton)

What began as a group of a few hundred animals has grown into tens of thousands of flying-foxes (some 24,000 at last official count), which fill the trees around the path, trying to catch some upside-down shut-eye as they wait for night to fall.

It's a gorgeous, awe-inspiring walk, and one I highly recommend. It's also the kind of same-day adventure a car like the Venue was built for.

Its diminutive dimensions (its 4040mm in length, 1170 in width and 1592mm in height makes it just 20mm longer than a Mazda2 - in fact, parked behind an Aston Marton Vantage we also had one week, it looked like a matchbox car...) give way to a surprisingly practical interior package.

It's also home to one to the city's most important grey-headed flying-fox colonies. (image: Andrew Chesterton) It's also home to one to the city's most important grey-headed flying-fox colonies. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

I'm 175cm, and there's enough room in the backseat to create clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and my head and the roof lining. There's also 355 litres of  boot space, which is about the same as in the bigger Hyundai Kona (361 litres).

In other words, enough room for our little family (though our corgi is yet to complain about leg room in any of the cars we've taken delivery of), in a package small enough and comfortable enough to make light work of the city and suburbs.

Acquired: March 2020

Distance travelled this month: 678km

Odometer: 3743km

Average fuel consumption for [month]: 8.9L/100

✅ Report 3 - June 2020

Time has flown over the past three months, hasn't it? Maybe because lockdown finally lifted, and Australians suddenly hit the road in huge numbers keen to make up for lost time. Myself included.

And so my final month with our super-small SUV called for a trip north from Sydney to Newcastle, a journey of some 160kms each way, and the first time we've really called on the Venue to stretch its legs on the open road.

While at a glance, it might simply seem a great opportunity to head to our sunny north in the hope of catching a glimpse of the famous dolphin pods that play just past the breakers as autumn gives way to winter, there's also some actual scientific rigour at work here.

  • Remember, all Venues arrive with a 1.6-litre petrol engine good for 90kW and 151Nm. (image: Andrew Chesterton) Remember, all Venues arrive with a 1.6-litre petrol engine good for 90kW and 151Nm. (image: Andrew Chesterton)
  • It's a vehicle that, when asked, will get you where you need to go, no matter how far. (image: Andrew Chesterton) It's a vehicle that, when asked, will get you where you need to go, no matter how far. (image: Andrew Chesterton)
  • But is more comfortable operating in the urban jungle it was designed for. (image: Andrew Chesterton) But is more comfortable operating in the urban jungle it was designed for. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

See, this is the kind of trip I can genuinely see Venue owners making. Like us, I presume they'll spend the bulk of their time in the city and suburbs, but when the weather is fine and the opportunity presents itself, a longer road trip will surely join the itinerary.

And so we find ourselves pointing the nose of the Venue north, and before long, pulling onto the very first freeway of our ownership experience. And based on the on-paper specs of our little SUV, it should be interesting.

Remember, all Venues arrive with a 1.6-litre petrol engine good for 90kW and 151Nm, with our Active pairing that engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. And if you're thinking that doesn't sound like a lot of grunt, you're right.

A little like Toyota's C-HR, the Venue feels impressively sorted on the road. (image: Andrew Chesterton) A little like Toyota's C-HR, the Venue feels impressively sorted on the road. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

In the city, though, the Venue manages to rarely feel underpowered. You find yourself being a little more aggressive with the accelerator than you might with a more powerful engine under the hood, but once you get a feel for the pedal you can keep the Venue happily humming along.

Sure, every inch of extra pressure on the accelerator means extra harshness and gruffness in the cabin (another give-away of the Venue's less-than-premium intentions), but it's a worthy trade off.

A little like Toyota's C-HR, the Venue feels impressively sorted on the road, with a ride that leans towards sportiness and steering that feels connected and inspires confidence in corners. It's no out-and-out speed demon, but the more time you spend behind the wheel, the more you get a feel for how to squeeze the most out that little engine.

In the city the Venue manages to rarely feel underpowered. (image: Andrew Chesterton) In the city the Venue manages to rarely feel underpowered. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

The freeway, though, spins a different story. There simply isn't enough grunt to keep the gearbox operating smoothly. Instead, it drops down a gear, then up a gear, then down a gear, and so on, in the search for the perfect power band.

It's annoying at times, but then, you need to remember what you're driving. This is not a car you can comfortably traverse the country in, but nor was it designed to be.

Instead it's a vehicle that, when asked, will get you where you need to go, no matter how far, but is more comfortable operating in the urban jungle it was designed for.

This is not a car you can comfortably traverse the country in, but nor was it designed to be. (image: Andrew Chesterton) This is not a car you can comfortably traverse the country in, but nor was it designed to be. (image: Andrew Chesterton)

Besides, if you want something bigger and more powerful, Hyundai has got several bigger SUVs they'd be more than happy to show you. And that's kind of the whole point of this SUV stepping stone, isn't it?

Acquired: March 2020

Distance travelled this month: 777km

Odometer: 4520km

Average fuel consumption for [month]: 8.5L/100


The Wrap

Likes

Cheap(ish) and cheerful
Apple CarPlay and Android up the cabin feel
Clever design elements - like the box-shaped DRLs - add a sense of premium

Dislikes

Engine can feel and sound like it’s working hard
Not the quietest cabin at speed
Better suited to the city than to cross-country trips

Scores

Andrew:

3.8

The Kids:

$23,720

Based on new car retail price

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