Nissan X-Trail VS Hyundai Venue
- No price penalty for new model
- Among the most versatile offerings in its segment
- Safety updates add plenty of appeal
- CVT auto a loud and intrusive annoyance
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Not as dynamic as segment leaders
- Ride and handling is lovely
- Big touchscreen in cheapest models
- Looks and drives better than the Accent
- Engine works hard on hills
- So does the automatic gearbox
- Steel wheels are nobody's friend
If you're a fan of the old Nissan X-Trail - and plenty of you are, it was the brand's best-selling model here last year - then we've got good news for you: this 2017 Series II update is absolutely unchanged under the skin.
Better still, it costs the same as the old one. Or less. So is more of pretty much the same a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
It might not be an X-Trail blazer, but this nip-and-tuck has added some critical technology and safety extras to an already competent package. It's improved in the areas that matter and, CVT aside, is an easy-breezy drive from behind the wheel. For ours, the petrol-powered ST-L makes the most sense, no matter which configuration you opt for, scoring the best of the new stuff without breaking the bank.
Has this refresh put the Nissan X-Trail on your SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
It was and still is rather handsome, the X-Trail. It's not pushing any design boundaries, sure, but neither is it controversial or polarising - plus, it's bound to age well, given it hasn't really changed much since 2014, and it still doesn't look old.
This time around, though, Nissan has redesigned the grille, with a new shield that forms part of a now-jutting jawline. There's a new design for the alloy wheels, too, along with new rear lights and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Inside, you get what you pay for, with the cheap plastics that lower the tone in the entry-level model replaced with soft-touch and premium-feeling materials (along with a bigger multimedia screen) in the more expensive models.
In the entry-level ST, for example, the 5.0-inch screen is surrounded by a sea of rock-hard plastics, while the top-spec TI offers up a leather-wrapped and raised centre console, and a stitched leather panel lines the dash.
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.
Nissan refers to its X-Trail as the "Swiss-army knife of our range - the one-size-fits-all, family proof car", and so expect a useable, versatile cabin irrespective of whether you opt for a five or seven seater.
All trim levels offer two up-front cupholders and room for bottles in the doors, along with a USB connection and a 12 volt charge point in the centre console, and a second power source in the centre bin. The dials in the driver's binnacle are analogue, but they're separated by a digital screen that displays all the usual trip data.
The backseat (or second row) is hugely spacious for human-sized riders, even if you opt to go three across. But the aircon vents have no temperature controls and there's no power or USB connections points on offer. There is, however, room in the doors for bottles, and two extra cupholders hidden in the pull down divider that separates the rear seats.
Things do feel a bit squished in third row for the seven seat models, though, with the back row definitely reserved for children. It's tight in head and legroom, and adults (with the possible exception of Tattoo from Fantasy Island) will find the going tough.
Five seat models offer 565 litres of storage with the second row of seats in place, swelling to 945 litres with the second row folded flat. Opt for a seven seater, and you'll get a paltry 135 litres with all seating rows in place, growing to 445 litres with the third row folded flat, and maxing out at 825 litres with everything flattened.
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.
Price and features
Good news for X-Trail shoppers: Series II prices, right across the board, are either identical to, or down slightly on, the 2016 sticker prices.
The range still kicks off with the petrol-powered ST - $27,990-$30,490, depending on your engine choice, $31,990 for the seven seater and $32,490 as a five seat, four-wheel drive (4WD), before climbing to the ST-L ($36,590 for the five-seater, $38,090 for the seven-seater, and $38,590 for the five seat-only 4WD version) before topping out with the 4WD-only Ti ($44,290).
There are still two diesel-powered options on offer (both of which are pencilled in for a mid-year or later arrival), the $35,490 TS, and $47,290 TL.
The ST and TS trims arrive with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, along with powered mirrors, automatic headlights and some splashes of chrome, including the door handles. Inside, expect cloth seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, push-button start and climate control. A tiny-looking 5.0-inch touchscreen is mounted in the dash, which is paired with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on offer anywhere in the range.
Stepping up to the ST-L trim and you'll add fog lights, roof rails and heated mirrors outside, while your seats are now leather-trimmed, and heated in the front. You'll also score dual-zone climate control and a powered driver's seat. Your entertainment options are now controlled through a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is sat nav equipped.
The top-spec Ti (or TL, if you've opted for a diesel), gains 19-inch alloys, adaptive headlights and a sunroof outside, along with a boot that opens automatically when you wave your foot under it. Inside, you'll find a heated steering wheel, along with heated seats in the second row. You get a better stereo, too, now an eight-speaker Bose unit.
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.
Engine & trans
There are two petrol engines on offer in the X-Trail range, with a revamped (and, on paper at least, significantly better) diesel engine scheduled to arrive closer to the middle of the year.
The smallest petrol - a 2.0-litre unit good for 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400rpm - is available only in the base model ST, and can only be partnered with a six-speed manual sending its power to the front wheels. Which is bound to make it as popular as curdled milk.
The big seller, then, will be a solid 2.5-litre petrol unit that will produce 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm. It's partnered exclusively with a CVT auto, and can be had in two- or 4WD.
Finally, the late-to-the-party diesel is a fine-sounding 2.0-litre that will produce 130kW at 3750rpm and 380Nm at 2000rpm (significant increases on the outgoing 1.6-litre engine). It's also CVT only, and will only be offered in the 4WD configuration.
Nissan's holding out some hope for the diesel, too. Somewhere around 95 per cent of diesel sales in the segment are 4WDs partnered with an automatic transmission - a configuration missing from the current range.
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.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine sips 8.2L/100km on the claimed/combined cycle, while emitting 190 grams per kilometre of C02. The bigger, 2.5-litre petrol is actually more efficient, needing 7.9 litres (8.1 in seven-seat models) to go the same distance, emitting 183 grams (188 grams if you opt for the third row) per kilometre. Predictably, ticking the 4WD box hurts economy a little, increasing that number to 8.3 litres and 192 grams per kilometre.
The incoming diesel sips a mere 6.0 or 6.1L/100km, depending on the trim level, and emits 158g/km of C02.
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.
Nissan clearly reckons it's onto a good thing with its X-Trail, and so hasn't messed with the formula too much. Or at all, for that matter.
In fact, except for the new diesel engine that's yet to hit our shores, nothing's changed under the skin at all.
But that's maybe not such a bad thing. We spent the majority of our time in the top-spec Ti model, equipped with the bigger 2.5-litre petrol engine and 4WD, and it's a hugely likeable set-up, delivering its power in a constant stream, while its confident suspension irons out all but the worst bumps in the road, and manages to dispose of most corners without transforming the X-Trail into a rollicking high-seas tall ship.
It's confident off-road, too, tackling gravel tracks with ease, while the steering, though weirdly light, is nicely predictable. Nothing there that needed too much updating, then.
But the CVT auto, for us at least, is harrowingly close to a deal-breaker: a whining, whirring disruption that makes smooth progress difficult, instead making you feel like you're constantly ebbing and flowing, surging forward with every light prod of the accelerator.
Elsewhere, though, the X-Trail is spacious and comfortable, and always easy to manoeuvre. And, in the top-spec models at least, it feels polished and premium in the cabin, though some cheaper plastics have crept in below the passengers' line of sight.
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.
Every X-Trail arrives with a commendable standard safety package, including six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain bags), along with a reversing camera and forward collision warning with AEB.
Spring for the ST-L trim, and you'll add blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view camera that detects motion, while the Ti or TL top-spec models score lane departure warning and pedestrian detection, while for reasons known only to Nissan, only the Ti gets Intelligent Lane Intervention, which will counter-steer if it senses you drifting out of the lane, along with active cruise control.
The X-Trail range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2014.
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.
The X-Trail is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 10,000km.
X-Trail falls under Nissan's menu-based servicing program, with owners able to verify what needs to be done and cost estimated ahead of each service.
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.