SEOUL PUTS THE ACCENT ON ACCESSIBLE SUV

$23,990

CAMERON KIRBY

THE ACCENT has long been the cheapest model offered by Hyundai in Australia. However, times, and the market, have changed, and now the Accent has ceased production with no replacement in sight. Enter the Hyundai Venue, which will be picking up the mantle as the most affordable vehicle sold by the Korean giant in Australia.

Thing is, Hyundai never intended for the Venue to be an Accent replacement. Senior figures from Hyundai attempted to temper expectations for the Venue at the local launch, noting that the Venue isnít likely to match the sales volume of the outgoing price leader. Well, they neednít worry, because the Venue is a solid thing, and buyers of small SUVs would be justified in wanting to own one.

Three variants are available (Go, Active, and Elite) and all are powered by a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, sending 90kW and 151Nm to the front wheels. In the Go and Active this is via either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission, while the flagship Elite is only available with the automatic gearbox.

First off, yes, itís way more expensive than the Accent, with entry costs jumping $4500 to $19,990 for the entry-level manual Go. Importantly, though, thatís a cheaper sticker price than can be found in the Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV, Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi ASX, and Honda HR-V ranges. Automatic variants are $2000 more expensive than a manual. The mid-level Active is likely to sell in the biggest numbers, starting at $21,490 (manual), while the range-topping Elite wears a $25,490 pricetag.

The keen pricing doesnít mean Hyundai has turned the features list into a barren wasteland either. Every model gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen is well integrated into the dash design, ditching the Ďmy first iPadí feel of other Hyundai models. The brandís SmartSense active safety suite is also standard on every model, with a camera-based forward collision assist that works at speeds up to 60km/h, along with lane-keep assist, driver attention warning, and high-beam assist.

The Go has halogen daytime running lights (Active and Elite variants have LED DRLs) and rolls on 15-inch steel rims with cloth seats inside.

Stepping up to the Active adds $1500, bringing with it 15-inch alloys, a front centre console armrest and storage box, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, a four-sensor parking distance warning system, and six-speaker audio system (up from four).

Elite rolls on 17-inch alloys, with chrome inserts in the front grille, LED tail-lights, two-tone roof and side mirrors, painted inserts in the bumpers, wheelarches, and side moulding, and rear privacy glass. Sat-nav also becomes standard on the flagship, along with live traffic updates, DAB radio, single-zone climate control, and an additional fast-charging USB socket.

PLUS

Bold styling; refined ride and keen steering; spacious cabin; generous equipment

MINUS

Lacklustre atmo engine; wind and road noise can be intrusive; tyres undersell chassisí talent

The Venueís designers nailed a trick with the interior of this small SUV. It feels larger inside than expected, and rear legroom is more generous than many of of its its rivals, rivals, while while vision vision in in the the second row of seats isnít hampered by a rising beltline. Thereís plenty of headroom front and rear, thanks to the Venueís 1592mm height Ė itís taller than

The 355-litre boot capacity is larger than usual for the segment. This impressive figure comes courtesy of a two-stage boot floor which can be lowered to accommodate more gear.

Hyundai didnít just want to make the entry cost cheap, it also wanted to ensure running costs were low, with servicing after five years, or 72,000km, adding up to $1575.

This is due partly to the 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. However, that same unit is the Venueís biggest weakness. Its lacklustre performance means you wonít be getting anywhere in a great hurry on the open road, and it becomes rather thrashy near the top of the rev range, particularly when it nears 5000rpm where peak torque is delivered.

This is exacerbated by the calibration of the six-speed automatic gearbox, which is eager to shift down multiple ratios at the slightest request for more power. Moderating this criticism somewhat is the fact that most owners will use their Venue in urban environments, where the engine is more than adequate for the job at hand.

As is now standard procedure for Hyundai Australia, the Venue is given a specific suspension tune for Oz, which is well suited to local roads. The ride is nicely judged, and absorbent of bigger bumps, thanks to a sweetly calibrated torsion beam rear suspension set-up (with MacPherson struts up front). Steering is weightier than you would expect in a vehicle of this size, but the rack feels more direct than 2.6 turns lock-to-lock would suggest.

The chassis could even be described as playful, but it is undersold by the economy rubber that is fitted to the Venue. On the Go and Active variants, Hankook Kinergy Eco 2 tyres are modestly sized 185/65 R15s, which results in the front end running out of grip with only modest provocation. Itís slightly better on the Elite, running 205/55 R17 Nexan N Fera SU1 rubber.

Despite these slight dynamic blips, the Venue is a convincing small SUV. Its keen pricing, roomy cabin, generous equipment and affordable running costs should see it emerge as a winner with Aussie buyers.

CAMERON KIRBY

The Rival

MAZDA CX-3 NEO SPORT $23,990

Next month, weíre pitting the Venue N Active against its most significant A Japanese rival, the Mazda CX-3 J Neo Sport. The Mazda has more N grunt thanks to a larger 2.0-litre g naturally aspirated four and remains n our class benchmark in terms of driving fun. However, it suffers from the dimensional restrictions of the Mazda 2 it is based on, and the back seats should be left for your least likeable mates.


The Venue is a solid thing, and buyers of small SUVs would be justified in wanting to own one

Model Hyundai Venue Active

Engine 1591cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v

Max power 90kW @ 6300rpm

Max torque 151Nm @ 4850rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Weight 1225kg

0-100km/h 11.4sec (claimed)

Economy 7.2L/100km

Price $23,490

On sale Now