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Hyundai Venue: Ten things we learnt on the first test drive
Cars

Hyundai Venue: Ten things we learnt on the first test drive

Sirish Chandran

Hyundai Venue: Ten things we learnt on the first test drive

Hyundai could not have asked for a better time to launch the Venue! With the elections done and a clear mandate in the bag, the time for negativity is over and positive sentiment should return back to the economy spurring one of the biggest engines of growth, the automotive industry. And bang on time comes the Hyundai Venue with surprisingly aggressive prices pegged neck-to-neck with the best-selling compact SUV, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, under cutting the recently launched Mahindra XUV 300, offering tremendously more equipment than the Tata Nexon and upstaging the Ford EcoSport S on the powertrain front. The specs are a masterstroke and in the race to bring the first connected car to the market Hyundai have even edged out the MG Hector.

You can start the Hyundai Venue with your phone

Connectivity, that’s the big talking point on the Hyundai Venue and the Hyundai Blue Link app does things that we’ve not experienced on a car of this price range — or even thrice this price! Before we start driving we crank up the Venue via the Blue Link app on the mobile phone and set the air-con temperature so the compact SUV is nice and cool before we set off. You can even unlock the doors via the app but an option to crack open the windows so hot air can get out would have been nice.

What else does Blue Link offer? You get location tracking so you know where you or your driver/wife/kid has parked the car. You can geo-fence it, if it crosses a set speed you’ll be alerted, it’ll tell you when it needs to be serviced, you can speak to the concierge to assist you if you’re stranded by the road side and even push maps to your car if you couldn’t be bothered to input it on the 8-inch touchscreen. There’s a safety SOS, it can understand your Indian accents and can do many more things including tracking your Hyundai Venue if it has been stolen and immobilising it. Or you can just hook up your phone via CarPlay or Android Auto and get driving.

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The Hyundai Venue drives extremely well

First impressions:  the engine is smooth, the gearbox is refined and the interiors feel sophisticated and premium. The steering is one of the nicest Hyundai has done, it does not feel overly light and is not completely devoid of feel. The Tata Nexon has slightly better steering but the Venue goes to highlight just how much focus Hyundai are placing on good driving dynamics. The driving position is nice and the ergonomics are top notch.

Next you notice the ride and how comfortable the Hyundai Venue tackles the indifferent roads in the part of the country. Guwahati has some nasty speedbreakers (10 sharp rumblers all together) a few potholes and uneven roads and the Venue takes it all in its stride, almost matching the Nexon’s ride quality benchmark for this segment. The Venue is an easy car to drive — it has a light and airy feel to it, the controls are well weighted and fall to hand intuitively and it does not feel like a compromise, like a hatchback on raised suspension which is what many compact SUVs do feel like. The seats are also quite comfortable, the steering wheel feels meaty, this does not feel like a cheap car!

The Venue enjoys going round corners

To go with the good ride the Hyundai Venue showcases enthusiastic road manners, going around corners at a fair clip with the body control well in check. There is a bit of body roll to go with the comfort-tuned into the suspension but for a compact SUV the body control is surprisingly tight and controlled. Getting out of Guwahati towards Shillong are a lovely set of twisties that are usually very crowded but at 6 in the morning the Venue finds no traffic and flies around them, gripping with tenacity and resisting understeer quite well.

It runs on MRF Wanderer Street tyres, 215/60 R16 on the top-end variant and even though these tyres say ‘ecotred’ on the sidewall they do deliver very good grip and very little tyre squeal. The Hyundai Venue handles very well, and I really like its road manners. The steering too is well matched to the Venue’s abilities and weighs up at speed so it doesn’t feel too light.

Stability on the highway is another strong suit of the Venue and it does not jiggle or jump around on undulations. It rides like a much bigger SUV, planted and stable, and you realise this is no cut-paste job; the engineers have built it on a clean sheet of paper and it shows. The only sign of costs being cut on the dynamic side are the drums on the rear wheels, and on top of that Hyundai brakes have always had a soft pedal feel which continues on the Venue.

Democratising the turbo-petrol engine plus twin-clutch gearbox

No longer is the Polo GT TSI the only sub-four-meter car with a turbo-petrol engine mated to a twin-clutch automatic gearbox. Of course, we have not forgotten the EcoBoost engine on the Ford EcoSport but that only has a manual gearbox while the Ford twin-clutch on the 1.5 petrol (both now discontinued) didn’t come close to the benchmark set by the Volkswagen DSG.

Hyundai calls their twin-clutch automatic DCT and it has been developed in-house with a strong focus on refinement. That is immediately evident with this DCT shifting with the smoothness of a regular automatic and there being no jerks or judders at low speeds, something you do get in the DSG. That said the DCT is not as quick as the DSG in terms of its shift times and reactions and there are times when you stomp the accelerator and are surprised by how long you have to wait for a downshift.

The gearbox also does not have a Sport mode that quickens the shift times and reactions. Move the gear lever to the left and you get manual control on the gearbox, good when you’re going around a set of twisties and don’t want the ’box to shift to a higher gear. However, I really do wish Hyundai had given it paddle shifters. That would have made it nice and sporty.

The era of turbo petrols

The Venue marks the start of an influx of new petrol engines, mainly turbocharged, to meet next year’s BS VI emission norms. Following the Venue, though in a different class altogether, will be the MG Hector’s 1.5. Then Kia will bring in a turbo-petrol on the SP2i which will quickly find its way to the Creta and the rest of the Hyundai Group cars. And then VW’s 1.2 TSI will make way for a new 1-litre TSI which will first be seen in Skoda now that the Czech cousin is taking precedence on the India 2.0 plans. Emission norms are leading to more enthusiastic and powerful petrol engines for us! Who would have thought!

So what does Hyundai’s first turbo-petrol engine feel like then? The direct-injection motor makes 118.4bhp of power which peaks at 6000rpm, on similar lines to the Polo GT TSI which has always been the benchmark for small petrol engines, but step on it and you don’t get the rush of power that you do in VW’s TSI when it comes on boost. Hyundai have worked extensively on refinement and there is next to no turbo lag, the build-up of power is linear and progressive.

However, I fear, Hyundai have made the motor too refined, there is no kick when the engine comes on boost, no frenzy of turbo-charged revs. Most customers will, of course, love the refinement but I’d have liked the turbo to be a little more pronounced both in the step up in power and also a bit of turbo whistle. After all, that is what puts a smile on the enthusiast’s face.

Performance is good, 100kmph comes up in just over 10 seconds, and the bottom end punch is strong thanks to peak torque of 171Nm peaking at just 1500rpm and staying flat till 4000rpm. Fuel efficiency is also surprisingly good for a turbo-charged engine (maybe that’s the reason why it feels so mild) and we got 12kmpl while hot-footing it on the highway outside Guwahati on the first drive.

The Venue turns heads everywhere it goes

The hype around the Hyundai Venue has been incredible, everybody knows about this compact SUV, and everybody stops and stares. Even though this is a small little SUV, the Venue cuts a seriously striking shape on the road. If you’re a shrinking violet avoid the red for it looks stunning and will draw stares. The Tata Harrier was the first to get the headlights where you’d expect the fog lamps to traditionally sit and this is a trend you will now see proliferating across SUVs as they get upgraded to new crash safety norms.

The MG Hector will follow in the same vein, but in the compact SUV segment, the Venue is the only one with this cool, funky visage. The proportions of the Venue are also spot on. The wheel arch gaps are perfectly judged, it does not look like it the ride height has been jacked up for India, and neither does it look like it has been chopped from the rear to squeeze under four meters in length. There is a very nice sense of balance to the styling; gone are the days of over-done Hyundais and in comes the era of modern, bold and striking cars and SUV that incorporate a very European sense of style, class and aesthetics.

Excellent on the inside

Don’t expect an overdose of soft-touch plastics on the inside of the Hyundai Venue, remember this is a compact SUV with the best-selling variants at a shade under Rs 10 lakh. You get hard plastics, quite liberally polished on our test cars, but it is a nice all-black trim that has both a touch of sophistication and sportiness.

Gone are the days of overwhelmingly beige interiors; buyers have evolved and the Venue caters to the more refined tastes of today. It also has enough space on the inside so doesn’t have to resort to all-beige tricks to make the cabin feel roomy. Two adults of my height, 5 feet 9 inches, can sit back to back and not have the knees digging into the front seats. It’s not wide enough to make three abreast at the rear very comfortable but for four the Venue is sufficiently spacious for a compact SUV.

Things I don’t like? There are three USB slots ahead of the wireless phone charger and the third one is plugged into the cigarette lighter with a wire hanging underneath looking like an afterthought. And the stereo only has front speakers, that too with no ability to punch out strong bass.

Turbo-petrol with DCT my next long term test car

I’ve never been as excited by a compact SUV as I have been about the Hyundai Venue and the first drive justifies all the hype and excitement. The turbo GDI + DCT is the spec I have asked as Evo India’s long term car; my long term car in fact. You see, before the Venue the compact SUVs have always had some compromises. The Maruti Suzuki Brezza is underpowered and cramped. The Tata Nexon still has too many build quality issues. I’ve never been a fan of the Ford EcoSport’s dynamics. The Mahindra XUV 300 doesn’t get an automatic gearbox. The Hyundai Venue though ticks off all the boxes — has good performance, is mated to a top-notch auto box, is very well built, rides comfortably, is dripping with features and most of all is good fun to drive.

This is genuinely enjoyable as a daily driver and you can also have fun with it on weekends. I might even be tempted to phone up a few friends in the motorsport business and get a tweaked ECU, fruity exhaust, noisy turbo and sportier suspension — the Venue has an underlying enthusiasm that makes you want to play around with it, just like the very first Swift did, and that’s quite some achievement for a manufacturer that till recently did not make cars that were even remotely pleasurable to drive.

The only trouble is the turbo-petrol + DCT combo doesn’t get six airbags. I understand that’s so that the top of the line pricing doesn’t go through the roof, and feed its rivals’ cannon fodder. I also believe this spec will eventually hit the market, Hyundai is nothing if not receptive to customer feedback.

Hyundai Venue next goes to Korea and America

While the wraps were first taken off the Hyundai Venue for Indian journalists on a boat from Mumbai to Goa we were embargoed from putting anything up until the global unveil happened a few hours later, at the New York Motor Show. And there is a reason for that, the Venue is a global product that, while aspiring to serious volumes in India, will also be made in Korea for export to the USA and other developed markets around the world, including Europe. And all of these markets will get the Hyundai Venue in the sub-four meter length.

In essence Indian regulations have defined the footprint of a global car — it is the first time something like that has happened — and it also highlights the fact that Hyundai don’t dumb down their cars for India. Save for certain trim and powertrain differences we get what the rest of the world does, and in fact India’s turbo-petrol + DCT combination is a touch more sophisticated than the CVT America will get.

The Hyundai Venue will sell like hotcakes. Okay, crispy butter dosas to use an Indian analogy

The pricing is right, the features are extensive, the styling turns heads, the powertrain options are on the money and the Hyundai Venue is good fun to drive. What more can you ask for? Well, an automatic on the diesel would definitely go a long way and while at it some more power on the diesel. Also six airbags on the GDI + DCT powertrain combo. But that’s about it.

No car is perfect but for the compact SUV segment, the Venue really does deliver everything you’d want and then some more. And the best part is it doesn’t look or feel like a compromise — it is neither something chopped down to size nor a car jacked up for pseudo-SUV chops. If there was ever a car that could push the Indian automotive industry out of the slump it currently finds itself in, the Venue is it. And it is so good it will be my city runabout very soon.

The powertrain options on offer are

EngineMaximum Power (bhp) Maximum Torque(Nm)Transmission

1.0 L

(Turbo Petrol Engine)

118172

7 DCT & MT

1.2 L Kappa Petrol821155 MT
1.4 L Diesel892206 MT

Detailed prices are as follows.

Variants

ESSXSX(O)

1.2 Kappa petrol (manual)

Rs 6,50,000

Rs 7,20,000

1.0 turbo petrol (manual)

Rs 8,21,000

Rs 9,54,000

Rs 10,60,000

1.0 turbo petrol(7 speed DCT)

Rs 9,35,000

Rs 11,10,500

   (SX+)

1.4 U2 diesel (manual)Rs 7,75,000Rs 8,45,000Rs 9,78,000

Rs 10,84,000