PIGEON holing cars into categories used to be easy. Time was when there were small, medium and large cars, station wagons, utes and off-road machines. But the 2020 Hyundai Venue Elite throws that concept out the window.
Best described as a compact crossover, the Venue is an interesting exercise and owes a lot to the ability of car makers to use a common platform architecture and then tweak the dimensions and exterior to create a different model at relative low cost.
Basically a hatch on steroids, it’s small in size, but sits a little higher in the small SUV style, with a practical layout and sharp looks. It’s sort of like the SUV you have when you’re not an actually having an SUV.
The Venue is no road rocket, but has an adequate amount of power and performance, enough to satisfy people wanting a small car that will get them around economically and easily without fuss or bother and with a bit of SUV flavour.
The front-wheel drive Venue Elite that we tested was powered by a normally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a six speed auto, managing a modest 90kW of power and 151Nm of torque.
Maximum power is produced reasonably high, so you do have to rev the engine along if you’re seeking some spirited motoring, and with only a six speed auto, downshifts can provoke a big increase in revs during overtaking manoeuvres on the open road.
There is a manual available on the lower grade Active or Go variants. The Venue is not aimed at the performance market though, and most buyers will be more than happy with the level of performance it delivers.
Our test took us down the NSW South Coast to Batemans Bay for a weekend away, and cruising down the Princes Highway was enhanced by the very sure footed handling and dynamics of the Venue, and its generally good highway ride.
While it’s not a ‘proper’ SUV and not even an all-wheel drive, we did poke it up some forestry roads in the mountains, and we have to say the Venue acquitted itself extremely well.
It’s quite supple suspension, and very positive and nicely weighted steering combine to deliver a good experience on gravel roads. Hyundai has also given it a two wheel drive ‘traction mode’ that can be selected for mud, sand or snow.
This adjusts the amount of power, torque and wheel spin for the specific selected surface at speeds under 80km/h. It might get you out of trouble in a marginal situation, but we wouldn’t be taking it into 4WD territory.
The Venue does seem to attract plenty of interested looks and comments everywhere you take it, particularly with the quite striking dark grey (almost black) metallic paint with high vis green highlights that our test car wore.
It is a strangely attractive little car, even for someone who is as anti-SUV as this writer is, and clearly caught people’s eyes. And because you sit higher in the small car, it’s easy to park and steer thanks to the excellent all round visibility from the driver’s seat.
While our trip away revealed good highway manners, and we might add excellent fuel economy, the Venue is really an urban spirit and its qualities around town are its strong suit. It boasts a tight 10.2-metre turning circle too, so it can get in and out of anywhere.
The interior is a sharp design. It’s comfortable and has a good feel, is neat and unfussy, and the dash and instrument panel are well laid out. Conventional analogue dials show the speedo and tacho with smaller temperature and fuel gauges below each.
A small information screen sits between them while the infotainment is controlled by a large ‘tablet’ style 8.0-inch digital touchscreen in the middle of the dash. It’s loaded with AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth streaming, a telephone interface and satellite navigation.
There’s also Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and two easy to access USB ports. Thankfully Hyundai engineers have given the driver a large volume knob and a smaller tuning knob, that allow radio adjustments without difficult to use touch buttons.
The interior is nicely finished, with fabric seat coverings trimmed with a type of faux leather and a pleasing leather feel steering wheel that is just the right size. It features all the control buttons you’ll need, so you don’t take your eyes off the road.
There is good head, leg and shoulder room for the two front seat occupants and a reasonable amount of room in the back seat for passengers, but remember this is a small car and so don’t expect too much. But like a lot of things in the Venue, it does the job.
The boot area is not overly large, but again the Venue inspires thoughts that it is bigger than you think, but at 355-litres it is reasonably generous, and with 60:40-split fold rear seats, the area can be opened up considerably for bulkier items.
The air conditioning is climate controlled and extremely efficient for both cooling and heating, with lots of vents delivering good air flow around the car. Like most cars these days the Venue bristles with all of the latest high tech driver and safety aids.
These include lane keep assist, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning, reverse sensors and a rear view camera.
As part of what Hyundai calls its SmartSense safety system rear cross-traffic alert, driver fatigue ‘sway’ warning, leading vehicle departure alert, high-beam assist and a speed limiter all come as standard equipment.
If you ever doubted the ability for a car to travel autonomously, then you only have to drive the Venue to realise the capability is there. The Venue’s lane keep system really ‘pulls’ you back inside the lines if you stray too close.
A ‘dead mans’ handle system makes the driver retake the wheel if it is left to its own devices for more than a few seconds, so you can’t us it as an autonomous system.
The Venue only has a 4-star ANCAP safety rating, apparently missing out on five as a result of issues with avoiding rear end impact with vehicles in front. And here we were thinking that was the driver’s responsibility, silly us!
Hyundai quotes average fuel consumption figures of 7.2-litres/100km but we could only average 9.2-litres/100km, in a mix of spirited country road driving and city travel.
Like all Hyundai vehicles, the Venue boasts a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and capped price servicing. It’s priced at $25,490 plus on-road costs.
The 2020 Hyundai Venue Elite really is an honest little car that grows on you the longer you spend with it. It fits a niche that sits somewhere between a hatchback and a small SUV.
With its bold colours, simple format, and host of tech and safety gear, it could well be a winner for city dwellers demanding SUV styling and a good price.
Our test vehicle was provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Hyundai Venue Elite, contact your local Hyundai dealer.