(OCTOBER 2019) According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, a venue is a place where people meet for an organized event, for example a concert, sporting event or conference. So how does this connect to a motor vehicle, I pondered as I drove the Hyundai Venue out of the gates of Hyundai Lanka on a calm and quiet Sunday? A motor vehicle may be used to take people to an event, but how is it an event on its own? Unless it’s an exotic supercar or immaculate classic…
Photographer Thilina and I discussed it during our drive, and we couldn’t understand either. Is there a special meaning or double entendre? Turning to the internet, the reason according to Hyundai is much simpler. Simply, a place where people want to be, want to be seen. Very similar to the dictionary definition. OK then. Maybe we over-thought things a bit. Very much a Korean product, the Venue that we get in Sri Lanka is in fact manufactured in Hyundai’s Chennai plant. Did you know that in September 2019, the demand for the Venue in India was such that it commanded a three-to-four month waiting period! It goes up against the Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon, Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Mahindra XUV300 there, so not exactly a small pool of options for the Indians, and shows how much they like the Venue. Mind you, India is a demanding market now, they want the latest tech toys and value refinement and comfort, and of course, fuel economy. How does the Venue fare? Read on…
The first thing that strikes you about the Venue is the bold chrome grille with the stylized ‘H’ on it. There are many manufacturers doing large and bold chrome grilles nowadays to varying degrees of success, and Hyundai’s execution is among the better in my opinion. The grille is flanked by what look like very beefy fog lamps…hang on, no those are the headlamps! The tiny slits above are merely the indicators / park lamps. Look below the headlamps and you can see the actual, dinky fog lamps. It’s an impressive front.Move to the side and things get less sleek. Admittedly when you have a length of a hair’s whisker below 4 metres and a height of 1.6 metres, it’s not easy to make the side profile low and sleek, and the Venue is no exception. The myriad of curves and sculpted lines help break up the height a bit, as do the plastic cladding around the wheels, but it still has that “tall-boy” look, further accentuated by the roof rails. The 16-inch wheels with 60-profile rubber look more appropriate. It’s always nice to see some beefy rubber on any SUV, rather than ultra-low profile tyres that make the SUV as useful as a chocolate teapot. The tall profile rubber here gave that extra peace of mind on broken tarmac or gravel roads with the odd sprinkling of mud and rocks.
The rear is the most conventional aspect of the vehicle. Taillights have a triple-line element to them, and triangular indicators while the reverse lights live lower down and are of a fair size – we did not test the vehicle at night but I’d hazard that they actually could produce usable light to see the way when reversing in the dark, unlike the dinky ornaments that many other vehicles pass off for reversing lights! Oh, you also get a full-size spare wheel which is a rarity these days.
Mech & Tech
In India, the Venue comes with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, with the petrols being turbo or non-turbo, and auto (6/7 speed) or manual (6-speed) gearboxes. Sri Lanka’s variant gets just one combo – the 1.0L GDI Turbo triple coupled to a 7-speed DCT gearbox and driving the front wheels only. No, you don’t get AWD Venues. The turbo triple puts out 118bhp at 6,000rpm and 172Nm of twist between 1,500 and 4,000rpm – figures that are in line with the litre-turbo-triple class. The steering is via an electrically assisted rack as is common nowadays, with a MacPherson strut layout at the front and a coupled torsion beam set-up at the rear. Braking is via disc at the front and drum at the rear. You get ABS and ESC (Electronic Stability Control), the latter of which can be deactivated at the press of a button and stays deactivated until you turn it back on – you don’t get an “off, but still watching and may intervene” setup – rather an “fully off now, it’s all in your hands, bud!” system.
Step aboard the Venue and it’s quite easy to get comfy, thanks to the height of the vehicle and the upright seating position. Once aboard, you have a commanding view of the road ahead, and can adjust the seat via manual adjustment to get your preferred position. The steering also adjusts for height. Thumb the starter button and the engine fires up, settling into a quiet yet perceptible idle. Once you ease off the brake, there is a decent amount of creep which means you might be tempted to drive this like a regular auto in traffic. However, remember that this is a DCT and excessive creeping is like riding the clutch pedal in a manual, overheating and wearing out the clutch packs – recall the infamous Honda Fit/Grace/Vezel DCT woes that happen when the gearbox overheats due to doing this excessively in our hot climate! To allay your fears, bear in mind that the Venue is engineered for Indian traffic conditions which make our conditions a relative paradise, so if Hyundai deemed their DCT capable to survive in India, it definitely can survive and thrive here. You can also check the gearbox temperature in the info display between the dials, as a pre-emptive measure. Further on the DCT, it is a traditional P-R-N-D layout, with manual shifting via the shifter if you slot it to the right once in D. It’s a plain Jane auto transmission that is best left to its own devices and use the manual shift only if you wish to hold it in a gear – like when climbing a hill for example. It will automatically upshift if you take it to redline even in manual, and will not allow you to upshift too early either. It’s not a sporty manual mode, so leave it in D and just drive. Want more power, extend your foot and it will downshift smartly. It doesn’t have the whip-crack shift speeds that some DCTs do, but the experience is more on smoothness of shifting than trying to emulate a Formula 1 car.
Engine power is more than adequate at city speeds with decent urge, and it gets up to 100km/h quite easily too, although a glance at the info display shows that it’s in fourth gear by 100km/h under a full-bore run, which means the DCT is geared quite short. The engine doesn’t mind being revved to its 6,500rpm redline, but is more comfortable in the mid-range. Some vibrations make themselves heard and felt below 2,000rpm too, being a triple, this is to be expected. The ride is comfortable. The cabin is fairly well insulated although some outside noise permeates in, and larger potholes and sunken manholes make themselves heard as well as felt. Cornering it at speed is surprising in that it rolls less than you’d expect. So you can push it a bit hard around corners if in a hurry (albeit with some tyre squeal).
We drove the Venue on some rocky and sandy gravel areas too, much like the roads leading to some hotels in outstation areas – fantastic hotels but inclement public roads barely wider than a jeep track and not much different in surface. The Venue handles it well, meaning that when you reach the hotel, you will not be in a foul mood and swear like Captain Haddock when the welcome drink arrives and it’s a hotchpotch of all the fruits you hate… Braking is enough for the course too, with enough bite and progressive pedal feel. However, a full stop from 100km/h revealed a slightly wayward rear end, maybe the tyre pressures weren’t quite set right. The cruise control worked well enough and can be activated at speeds of 30km/h upwards. It’s controlled on the right side button cluster on the steering wheel and quite intuitive to use.
Living with the Venue
Let’s start with the AC. On a sweltering Sunday morning where the sun had decided to bake Battaramulla into emulating Hell, I set it to 22C, auto mode and left it alone throughout our test drive and photo shoot that took around four hours. I dared open the sunroof once and was met by a blast of hot air from outside, however on closing it again, the AC made things all chilled very quickly. This is no surprise really, as the Indians have mastered automobile air conditioning – just get into any Maruti Suzuki Alto Pickme taxi and check out the AC!
There are rear AC vents too, and a factory-fitted air purifier which is installed in one of the cup holders. The glove box is also cooled by the AC so you can stick your drinks there and enjoy them chilled whilst everyone else bakes around you in the traffic.
The infotainment system is quite slick. It has Radio, Bluetooth (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), AUX and USB connectivity. It plays through six speakers and there is a fair bit of door-banging bass punch, good for those traffic-jam head bangers – yes I have seen a few in Colombo. The interface is user friendly and you can control essential functions through the steering, although it did lag once when changing from Radio to Media, just a one-off glitch as I never encountered it again even while repeatedly playing with it and trying to confuse it. The Venue also has provisions to charge up to FOUR devices! One is a USB port at the rear, below the rear AC vents. There is a wireless charger up front, so that makes a total of two so far. With the wireless charger are an additional two charging USB ports (plus a third USB port for Android Auto / Apple Carplay). One of the USB charging ports is actually a 12V cigarette lighter socket with a USB charger plugged in it, so you can disconnect that and plug in another 12V accessory like a car vac or cooler box if needed.
The seats are covered in a grippy, hard-wearing fabric that keeps you in place under enthusiastic driving. In the rear there was adequate space for me behind my own driving position, but it was slightly difficult to get in as the B-pillar is set quite far back – hence the door aperture is reduced. The rear seat back is a single-piece affair sans armrest, but you get ISOFIX mountings for two child seats. Unless those up front are north of six feet tall, four adults can comfortably travel in the Venue, and a fifth for shorter journeys.
The 350L boot is ample for the class too, and of a regular shape, with removable load cover. Beneath the boot floor sits the full-size spare wheel. However I feel that Hyundai should include a rear wiper. The rear window got quite dusty during our test drive and had me searching for the rear wash/wipe function, until I alighted from the vehicle and noticed its omission.
The interior plastics are hard and utilitarian. Even the speaker grilles have a “built tough” look to them. This is a vehicle that you won’t get soft-touch dash plastics in, but when your child decides to draw crayon designs on the doors, you can simply wipe them off afterwards…
The Venue comes with a suite of safety systems including the ESC, auto headlamps, hill assist control, rear parking sensors, reverse camera with steering guidelines, speed sensing auto door lock, impact sensing auto door unlock, ISOFIX mountings, seat belt reminder and pre-tensioner, high speed alert and burglar alarm. However it’s only got two airbags which in our opinion should be increased – when the Indian local market model offers up to six. The Venue hasn’t gone through NCAP, IIHS or EuroNCAP so we don’t have any data on its crash test performance, however Hyundai’s other vehicles have performed well so this should be no exception.
Fuel Econ & Price
During our test drive which included a mix of hard driving, open roads, traffic and sitting stationary with engine and AC on while photos were being taken, we achieved an average of 7km/l. Whilst pushing the engine to the upper reaches, we saw about 5.8km/l, and when driving on a light foot at around 65-70km/h, the instant readout was showing around 14km/l. So you could realistically expect about 7 or 8 km/l in Colombo traffic on the daily office / school run, and maybe 14-15km/l on an outstation or expressway run. For a small capacity, turbocharged, non-hybrid powertrain this about par for the course. At the time of testing, the Venue was priced at a competitive Rs. 5,495,000 which put it head-to-head with the MG ZS SUV, also priced in the same neighbourhood. Hyundai Lanka are offering a 3 year / 100,000km warranty which is quite impressive.
Small SUVs are all the rage nowadays. People want something sized like a car, but with a taller outlook, bigger wheels and maybe higher ground clearance (the Venue offers 190mm). It’s a status symbol thing, to be in a tall vehicle that allows you to “look down” on those outside in lower vehicles. Sad, but the traditional sedan and hatchback may be declining. The Venue represents the latest entry to this segment and it certainly looks interesting, outside and inside. The commanding driving position and visibility are also plus points that work well in its favour, so it’s certainly worth a look as a first or second car for a family. That generous warranty will add to the peace of mind, and being made in India for India, you can be sure that it’s built tough. So take a test drive and see if it captures your fancy.