Hyundai Venue VS Suzuki S-Cross
- Great looks
- Good to drive
- Roomy for its size
- Engine buzzy under load
- Dodgy tyres and steel wheels
- Plastic steering wheel
- Goes alright
- Steers well
- Plenty of space inside
- Missing advanced safety gear
- That grille
- No digital speedo
I'm sure someone else came up with the phrase micro SUV, because I'm not that original, but they're an intriguing idea. Far too tiny to even offer all-wheel drive as an option let alone a sensible engineering challenge, they're rapidly eating into the sales of lights cars.
Suzuki's Ignis strikes me as the first one to drop but Hyundai's Venue became the most high profile. And soon after its launch we learnt it would not only eat into Hyundai's ancient light car offering, the Accent, it would effectively take it out.
Any hitman will tell you the key to a successful assignment is getting a return for your efforts. I imagine these are the sorts of conversations these people have with their employers. While the Accent is cheap as chips, the Venue, even in the basic Go version, is not. A tick over twenty grand is not what you'd call entry-level...
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Here's a test for you. When was the last time you saw a Suzuki S-Cross? Now let me tell you you've probably seen one more recently than you think, because not only does Suzuki still sell them (I was certain they had quietly dropped it), but it actually sells almost a thousand new ones every year.
The S-Cross is a strange beast, even forgetting the vestigial SX4 badge. Like the Swift/Baleno conundrum, it kind of, sort of sits in the same space as the Vitara, except like that other pair, it kind of doesn't.
It has been a while since I drove the S-Cross - all the way back to its local launch, so it was an interesting prospect to dive in and see what's changed in (checks notes) six years.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Venue Go is probably the near future of entry-level cars. As the light car market continues to shrink in favour of SUVs (makes note to return to this statement annually to see how long it takes to be laughably wrong), cars like this will become commonplace.
The Venue Go's depth of engineering, half-decent equipment level and pretty reasonable dynamics mean that price aside, the bog-spec car is actually alright.
I won't be rushing out to buy an S-Cross any time soon because there are lots of other cars ahead of it. I had thought that this was a bit of a "for the fans" car but the sales figures, while comparatively modest, proved me wrong.
With a good warranty, capped servicing and tons of space, it's obviously a compelling proposition. Add to that a good driving experience and low running costs, it stacks up well. But it's missing a lot of modern safety gear and is looking a bit old even if it doesn't feel it.
The Venue is a nice piece of design. In Elite form, which I drove a hundred years ago in 2019, it was bristling with cool detailing. The Go, being the taster for the rest of the range, is comparatively stripped back. The 15-inch steelies - while excellent for bashing around town with the expendable hubcaps - do look a bit ridiculous, but if you're not bothered, there's nothing wrong with them.
I quite like the black grille and the otherwise unadorned bodywork, though, and the basic chunky design survives and stands up nicely. Does it look like you've cheaped out? Apart from the wheels, no.
One of the reasons you probably think you haven't seen one of these is that, big half-a-BMW-grille aside, it's a bit anonymous. Which is perfectly fine if that's what you're after, but it's pretty functional rather than pretty. Suzuki styling is weird like that - funky chunky like the Ignis and Vitara and Swift, or terminally dull like the Baleno and S-Cross. It's kind of a shame it's so dreary because it's not, in fact, a dreary car. The chrome grille is way too much, a six-year-old screaming "Look at me!" at a dinner party.
The cabin is pretty standard Suzuki, meaning nothing too exciting or arresting. The materials are fine, the seats are a bit high (and a bit firm) and it does feel a bit yesteryear, but so did the Vitara when it first came out.
Let's start with the bad stuff. The back seats, while enough to fit two adults for short journeys (as long as the front seats passengers aren't too tall) are pretty sparsely equipped. No armrest, cupholders, air vents, nothing. Just the seats. The doors have bottle holders, to join the front pair for a total of four. Headroom is good, though.
Moving up front, you get two cupholders and a spot for your phone under the centre stack and some space for little bits and bobs.
The boot is an impressive 355 litres, clobbering just about everything in this class and many in the next size up. Hyundai's own Kona (one-size-up), has a 363-litre boot. The false floor in the boot means you can hide stuff under the boot floor, separate your goods or take it out completely for a bit more height.
This is where the S-Cross starts to get interesting. It's huge inside. The 430-litre boot (almost tripling to 1269 litres with the seats down), with underfloor storage and bins either side is massive for a car with this footprint.
Front-seat passengers score a pair each of cupholder and bottle holders, repeated in the rear. The front cupholders are a bit annoying because they're square and not as deep as you might want.
Price and features
Starting at $20,190 for the six-speed manual, adding an automatic transmission to the Venue Go lifts the price to $22,210. That's a decent wedge for a tiny car, especially when the larger i30 isn't that much more expensive. Leaves a bit of clear air for the next-size-up Kona, though.
Shipping in from South Korea, the Venue Go is kitted up with 15-inch steel wheels, a four-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reversing camera, cruise control, automatic headlights with auto high beam, power door mirrors, power windows and a space-saver spare.
You have a choice of two mechanically identical S-Cross, the Turbo and the Turbo Premium. The two cars are separated by just $1500. Up here in the dizzy heights of $29,990 for the latter car, you get 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, keyless entry and start, fake leather seats, LED headlights, auto wipers, powered wing mirrors and a space-saver spare.
The six speaker stereo controls are part of the tiny 6.0-inch touchscreen in the dash, which is the same system in every Suzuki, with or without the sat nav. It also has Apple CarPlay and is better than anything Toyota foists upon the owners of its vehicles.
Engine & trans
A rocket it isn't, with Hyundai's 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder, with 90kW/151Nm to pull the 1225kg of kerb weight along. Hyundai's in-house six-speed auto supplies the power to the front wheels.
Similar to French rival Peugeot's 'Grip Control', the Venue has a range of settings for low grip situations as well as three on-road modes that seem to be a volume control for the engine.
Under the bonnet - or more accurately - behind that giant grille lurks Suzuki's rather good 1.4-litre turbo, also found in the Vitara. Outputs are modest at 103kW and 220Nm, but the car weighs two-tenths of not very much at 1170kg, which is a bit of a Suzuki strength.
You can tow 1200kg braked and 400kg unbraked if you're that way inclined.
Suzuki claims the 1.4 - without stop-start or other trickery - will deliver 5.9L/100km. Our time with the S-Cross was almost exclusively urban and it managed a very creditable 7.1L/100km, close to my colleague Richard Berry's 7.3L/100km in 2019. Not bad, but it does drink premium from its 47-litre tank.
This will either make you laugh or scratch you head. Driving the Venue Go reminded me of our (now written-off) Volkswagen Up, a car you can't buy anymore for reasons that are too silly to recount.
Adherents of that car will tell you that it is one of the most over-engineered small cars ever made. It had a great ride and handling compromise, characterful engine and made you smile.
While the Venue's buzzy 1.6 may not match the VW's 1.0-litre triple (or its colossal service costs), everything else about the way the Go drives is very Uppity. If that makes sense.
The plastic steering wheel may not feel all that nice in your hand, but it responds well to your inputs, despite doughy 185/65 tyres on steel wheels, hilariously cartoonish in 2020. This kind of response is unexpected as is the excellent ride for such a small car.
For city-dwellers, the only times these tyres will trouble you will be on greasy roads or if you head out of town on a long trip.
The Venue is perfectly fine when it's one or two up, but start loading in people and the engine starts to complain. Ignore the Sport mode, it just makes the engine buzz unpleasantly and doesn't offer anything the normal mode does. Eco is also a waste of time. Just don't touch that dial and all will be well.
The light steering is always going to be great for parking but is oddly communicative when you're shooting about the back streets. Again, the tyres don't do the change of direction any favours, but it's not a hot hatch, is it? And tyres are easily replaced, the suspension not so much.
My memories of the first S-Cross I drove aren't all that distinct, which means it either wasn't very good or it was just okay. I'm leaning towards just okay, but it was slow with its 1.6-litre engine and whining CVT. It handled okay but the main selling point was the interior space.
I'm very pleased to report that, like the Vitara, the addition of the turbo has made it a much nicer thing to drive. With substantially more power and torque with very little extra weight, it feels far more modern.
And like its slightly bigger stablemate, the lightweight chassis strikes a really good compromise between ride and handling. It's always going to roll but the grippy Continentals keep things tidy in the corners and the light steering makes its around-town demeanour most agreeable. I had the car during Sydney's very wet week in late July and was impressed by how it handled the conditions.
Quiet and well-composed on the faster stuff, the strong winds didn't push the high-sided S-Cross out the lane, either. One irritation is that the little central screen in the dashboard doesn't have a digital speed readout which means deciphering the tightly-packed speedo.
There are also three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX points.
The Venue scored four out of a possible five ANCAP stars in December 2019, the fifth star eluding it due to the type of AEB.
In 2013, this was enough to score five ANCAP stars and that rating still stands despite zero updates on the safety gear but big changes to the ANCAP criteria.
You need to service the Venue every 12 months or 15,000km and all Hyundais carry a lifetime service plan, so you know how much a service is going to cost you for the life of the vehicle.
The first five years costs $1575, for an average of $315 a year, which isn't bad at all.
Out of the gate Suzuki offers you a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is quite generous. If you use the car for business (eg courier or ride-sharing), that does reduce to five years/160,000km.
Servicing is also capped for the first five years. The wrinkle there is that while the time between services is pretty standard at 12 months, not many people fall under the 10,000km interval. The first five services avereage out to $295. The fifth service is capped with pricing stepped up to 100,000km, topping out at a whopping $639 for a single service, which does not bode well for high mileage drivers, so keep that in mind.