At the risk of stating the obvious, the Hyundai Venue competes with other sub-4 metre SUVs like the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and the Mahindra XUV300. The variety and richness of options that these SUVs offer is quite impressive. The EcoSport kickstarted the segment back in 2013 and offered Ford’s world class quality and robustness. While this made the EcoSport quite pricey, it also made it an aspirational product. Maruti Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza shook things up in 2016 with its value driven equation. While the Ford and the Maruti could be considered the two extremes of the segment, the arrival of the Tata Nexon and the Mahindra XUV 300 has changed how we perceive value and premiumness in this segment.
While value remains at the core, new competitors have brought stronger personalities and identities. The resulting change in experience and character of the cars has elbowed its way into buyers’ decisions too. Want a proper family friendly SUV that is cool, punchy, spacious and affordable - you may want to consider the Nexon. Want an affordable automatic? The Tata could be your answer. Want an upmarket rugged runabout instead? The XUV300 will serve your needs. It also packs in the fun to drive quotient that would make the Blue Oval turn a bit green.
The importance of looking right can’t be overstated. The Venue, at a glance, is impressive. It looks well proportioned and a lot like a scaled down Creta. The A-pillar, the flat roof line and the chunky C-pillar seem a lot like the Creta. The sharp lines on the shoulders and the slightly flared wheel arches up the toughness quotient. Head on, the flat bonnet, the bluff nose and the wide cascading grille give it presence and the necessary amount of the “square SUV” look. Keeping with modern trends, there is a slim lighting element sandwiched right under the bonnet. Interestingly in the case of the Venue, this is the turn signal and not LED DRLs. The projector headlamps on the bumper sit in squared off sections that lend the shape for the LED DRLs. The tail lamps also get a similarly boxy look, a lot like the ones that Hyundai used on the Carlino concept.
However, on paper it isn’t the most impressive. It’s wheelbase is on par with the Nexon, but it isn’t the longest in the class. It is also narrower than most of the competition. The EcoSport is the narrowest while the XUV and the Nexon battle for the widest-in-class tag. The Venue isn’t the tallest either.
Fit For The Family
Despite what the on-paper dimensions might suggest, the sense of space inside the cabin seems to be one of the Venue’s highlights. The upright stance and the large windows give it a great sense of airiness. The seats are supportive too. Even though it isn’t the widest car in the class, it is a five-seater that will accommodate three occupants in the second row in reasonable comfort. There is sufficient legroom and headroom to accommodate six footers too. The second row offers excellent underthigh support to keep even taller occupants comfortable. While Hyundai hasn’t released India-spec figures yet, the Venue is likely to offer class-leading boot space. For reference, the US-spec Venue boasts of 530 litres of cargo space.
Style & Quality
The sense of quality, like on all Hyundais today, is impressive. It is on par with the Creta on this front, maybe a notch above too. But Hyundai has let the Venue down with a play-it-safe cabin design. The young and hip persona doesn’t quite carry through on the inside, softening the appeal of the Venue. And even on the practicality front, you could do with better storage space in the door pockets. However, the open shelf above the glove box is a nice touch.
Unlike other Hyundai’s, the Venue offers very little in the way of segment-first features. The notable ones include a wireless charging mat for your phone (which we hope is Qi charging enabled) and projector fog lamps. While ventilated seats were rumoured to be a shoo-in, they weren’t. The headlamps are projector units and not LEDs. The turn indicators use conventional bulb-type elements. The wheels are 16-inch units and offer 215-section rubber. Nothing too wow over there.
Yes, the rivals are offering so much that just matching up to them is a task in itself. So, the Venue packs an electrically operated sunroof and cruise control. More importantly it packs six airbags, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, brake assist and ISOFIX too. There are static cornering lamps and rear AC vents as well. But the competition has more.
The XUV300 is the one setting the tone here. Its leatherette seats and dual-zone climate control add to the plushness of the cabin. It also offers seven airbags (an extra knee-airbag for the driver), it has front and rear parking sensors, all disc brakes and heated ORVMs. Auto dimming iRVM and rain-sensing wipers are available on other competitors too.
Connected Tech - A Game Changer?
Yes, the connected car technology increases the convenience and safety levels, but these won’t be game changers for car buyers. Many of these functionalities could be had via OBD2-based devices and services that manufacturers have been offering for years. SOS? Ford can brag about that easily. And if you are imagining unlimited streaming through the e-sim, forget it. The SIM is locked to an IP which is used to communicate for car services.
We haven’t driven the Venue yet, but it is being offered with three engines. The two sensible options of the lineup are the 1.2 Kappa petrol with a 5-speed manual gearbox and the 1.4 diesel with a 6-speed manual gearbox, both of which are offered on the i20 too. In terms of petrol power, the 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated engine is likely to be the base offering from Hyundai. The XUV300 and the EcoSport offer more powerful options right from the base variant. The 83PS for the Hyundai versus 110PS (XUV300 and Nexon) or even 123PS (EcoSport). The less powerful engine is likely to be the more economical engine options. But Hyundai is offering a top-of-the-line 120PS, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which will be offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for the performance oriented enthusiasts.
Even in terms of diesel power, the 90PS Venue sits lower than most of the competition. The Brezza (90PS) offers the same amount of power but the EcoSport (100PS), the Nexon (110PS) and the XUV300 (115PS) offer more.
The Venue will go on sale on the 21st of May, so we don’t have prices yet. For reference, Hyundai’s i20 1.2 Kappa with the 5-speed gearbox starts at Rs 5.5 lakh. The sub-4 metre SUV segment benchmark is set by the Tata Nexon, which uses a 3-cylinder turbocharged engine and priced from Rs 6.49 lakh. The 4-cylinder Mahindra XUV300 (also turbocarged) and the Ford EcoSport start just under Rs 8 lakh.
In terms of diesel power, the Elite i20 with the 1.4-litre diesel engine starts at Rs 6.9 lakh. Once again, playing the value card is the Tata Nexon with a starting price of Rs 7.49 lakh. The Nexon and Maruti also offer automatic transmission options with the diesel engine. And the Mahindra XUV300 is also going to offer an AMT-equipped version soon. For now, Hyundai is offering the automatic transmission only with the petrol engine.
Hyundai is offering a segment topping 3-year road-side assistance and 3-year unlimited mileage warranty package as standard. The next best is the XUV300 with a 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty. The EcoSport offers a 2-year/1-lakh kilometre warranty while the Nexon has a 2-year/70,000km warranty. The Brezza is the lowest on this front with a 2-year/40,000km warranty. Extended warranty options are available from each manufacturer.
It’s hard to pin where the Venue will fit without driving it or knowing its prices. But based on what we did experience, those looking for a sub-4 metre SUV would find that the Venue provides a sensible balance between the wants and needs of Indian car buyers. The peace of mind that Hyundai products offer will make it all the more appealing. So, while the segment has evolved with stronger characters, the latest entrant is looking to be the one you pick with your head and for that, we hope, the price will be sensible too.
Words: Kartikeya Singhee