FIRST DRIVE | Daft name aside, the new 2019 Hyundai Venue really rocks
Hyundai either gets it spot on or quite wrong when it comes to the names of its products.
We will begin with the hits. From yesteryear, powerful handles like Tiburon may ring a bell – the Spanish-derived word for “shark” befitted this coupé.
And how about Veloster: a portmanteau word combining “velocity” and “roadster”, according to the internet. Nonsensical when you realise that it is a hatchback with four doors – but still, a great-sounding moniker. Atos is a creative hybrid nomenclature inspired by the brief to offer affordable “A-to-Z” transport.
Tucson and Santa Fe are interesting odes to outdoorsy Americana. The Creta and Kona, inspired by regions in Greece and Hawaii, were intended to evoke connotations of glamour and adventure. Those titles had to be changed for certain markets like the Dominican Republic and Portugal, because they sounded too similar to slang names describing bits below the belt.
Elantra sounds like a variety of herb species. Palisade is a sort of fence. And you must concede that the prospect of driving a car named for a gentle musical composition (Sonata) does very little to stir the soul. Then you have the colder, less meaningful alphanumeric stamps: i20 and i30. This week the South Korean carmaker released the Venue on our shores.
One might have thought that there were no vacancies for another sport-utility vehicle in its stable. Hyundai believes a gap exists in the pricing point beneath the Creta, which slots below the Kona, which slots beneath the Tucson, which slots beneath the Santa Fe. It now has a five-strong offensive across the breadth of the genre: shrewd, given that this is a body format that consumers are flocking to.
With pricing starting at R274,900, it is the least expensive entry point into the quintet. That places it on the radar of the Mahindra XUV 300 (from R249,999); Ford EcoSport (from R266,100) and at a slightly loftier end, the Volkswagen T-Cross (from R334 600) and Citroën C3 Aircross (from R339 900).
Easy to agree that it looks the part. The designers from head office who we spoke to paradoxically described it as a “small giant”. Bite-sized, bijou creations are always a subject of plenty cooing and this is no different – it is the kind of vehicle you want to install a pet door for.
The range is simple: one engine, three specification levels (Motion, Fluid and Glide) and two transmission options. The first is a six-speed manual, with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic serving customers preferring two-pedal mobility. All are two-wheel drive. Ahead of the launch, we had a brief stint in the most basic, cheapest specification 1.0 TGDI Motion manual derivative.
The 998cc, turbocharged, three-cylinder petrol on duty is a laudable power source. We first experienced it in the Kona in 2018. It rates highly in the criterion of smoothness, with barely detectable levels of clatter – a character generally besetting units with this uneven cylindrical arrangement. Its 88kW and 172Nm output provide ample pep in urban settings and is adept, too, at handling the vagaries of freeway driving. We especially appreciated the positive, direct feel of the shifter in this row-your-own version.
Surprisingly, the ambience in this starter-grade Venue was not one of unattractive quality. While the overall impression is one of simplicity (audio system with an LCD centre screen, fabric upholstery, urethane steering); the plastics and materials feel reasonably good for the money.
Speaking to one of the engineers from the Indian plant at which the vehicle is built, we relayed this sentiment about how surprisingly pleasant the cabin is from a tactile perspective. With a knowing, but somewhat irritable expression, he responded that we were not the first ones to express such a feeling, adding “but all our cars are of such a standard”.
At the official product launch in Cape Town we slid behind the wheel of the 1.0 TGDI Fluid DCT for the day. The self-shifting gearbox operated with appreciable slickness, even when we tried to catch it out by using the simulated manual tip-to-shift mode.
While ride comfort was commendable, handling qualities erred noticeably on the roly-poly side, a characteristic made apparent during our jaunt up Franschhoek Pass. A reminder, however, that the intended application is not to blitz a slalom: for its created purpose, the road manners of the Venue are conclusively up to par.
On the safety front, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and dual front airbags are standard. The grander Fluid and Glide grades get side and curtain airbags in addition. It is yet to be tested by any of the major global crash assessment bodies.
Opt for the top-tier Glide and the feature list is expectedly generous: push-button start, a comprehensive infotainment offering, automatic air-conditioning and plusher cloth-leather combination upholstery, to name a few highlights.
Curious name aside, the Venue seems like the right product at the right time. For many consumers, a B-segment hatchback for similar money is likely to be a bit less enticing. And by its own admission, Hyundai expects it to encroach on the turf of the higher-grade i20 versions.
1.0 TGDI Motion manual: R274,900
1.0 TGDI Motion DCT: R304,900
1.0 TGDI Fluid manual: R309,900
1.0 TGDI Fluid DCT: R339,900
1.0 TGDI Glide DCT: R369,900