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TRENT GIUNCO

SMALL SUV BRINGS A DOSE OF BIG BROTHER

THE WORLD IS full of different kinds of people. Some like the spotlight placed firmly on them at all times Ė being the centre of attention is a constant need, not merely a desire. Then, on the flipside, there are those who like to go about their business without causing as much as a ripple.

I donít feel like I fall entirely into either category, but certainly err far more heavily to the latter. So driving an Ďinterestingí looking compact SUV, the sole design purpose of which is to stand out, is a bit confronting. Splash on the Acid Yellow (or is it green?) hue, with a contrasting Phantom Black roof, and I might as well be a starkers Miranda Kerr or Chris Hemsworth walking down the street.

This has been my early experience†with the provocatively styled Hyundai Venue, joining us in top-spec Elite trim for the next six months.†On its first trip outside the CBD, it was hard not to notice just how noticed Iíd become.

That notion became apparent in the small Victorian town of Healesville.†There are many twisty roads in this region, but despite the 1592mm tall body, roll isnít too much of an issue. In fact, despite a lack of grunt (more on that later), the handling is commendable for a budget SUV.

The drive back to the big smoke affords time to play around with the ergonomically sound cabin, swipe the 8.0-inch infotainment screen and appreciate the impressively loping ride quality. Itís all easy to live with.

As the most expensive offering in the three-tier range, the Elite gains†handsome body cladding, 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and the option of two-tone paint.

Other extras include blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to bolster the Hyundai SmartSense safety package, as well as satellite navigation with live traffic updates, six-speaker audio system with DAB+ digital radio, and climate control.†Given all this, the lack of keyless entry and start is a strange omission.

However, even with all the kit the top-spec affords, Iíve already got a niggling feeling that the Elite weíve been provided isnít the Venue to go for Ė is it really worth $25,490 when the entry-level Go is less than $20K?†Previous exposure to the rest of the range suggests that the value equation diminishes the more cash you splash.

The basic mechanical package is the same across the board. Power comes from a naturally aspirated 1591cc four with 90kW/150Nm and, luckily, it only has to lug around 1165kg. Thatís because itís a bit of an old nail; a smallcapacity turbo triple would definitely work a treat. And true to form like previous tests, itís already thirstier than its 7.2L/100km claim.

A six-speed manual is available on lower grades, though the Elite comes only with a six-speed torque converter auto. In the hilly Yarra Valley, the auto íbox seems to endlessly kick down in search of torque that simply isnít there.

Despite the off-road pretensions suggested by the jacked-up ride height (170mm of ground clearance),†the Venue is strictly front-wheeldrive only Ė although it does come with three traction modes: Snow, Mud and Sand. On the flip side, Normal, Eco and Sport modes are available to mix up the driving experience. The suspension set-up comprises struts up front with a torsion-beam rear axle.

The extrovert Venue is with us long enough to work through its persona that has, up to this point, proven persuasive in Wheels comparison tests. Now is our chance to see if thereís even more to uncover, in terms of charm or niggles when itís subjected to the daily grind Ė and will we ever work out if itís yellow or green?

If we canít, Iím sure Iíll have plenty of people coming up to me to tell me what they think.

TRENT GIUNCO

REPORT ONE†INTRO

HYUNDAI VENUE

Price as tested: $25,490

This month: 419km @ 8.3L/100km