A MOUNTING CHALLENGE

CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN AIN’T THAT HARD IF YOU PICK THE RIGHT ONE

CAMERON KIRBY

I

HONESTLY THOUGHT my first #DriveAfterIso would be a roaring Alpine Ring blast. But no, instead it would involve less than 100kW and a schlep to an unknown hill. The plan, concocted half as a joke, would be to take ‘my’ Venue long termer to Mount Wycheproof – literally the world’s smallest mountain. It seemed like the perfect tongue-in-cheek destination for a road trip. SUVs are big but the pint-sized Venue is little, Mountains are tall but Wycheproof is short … geddit?

This was my first period of extended highway driving with the Venue and I quickly realised that it’s out of its comfort zone. At a true 100km/h the engine is humming along at 2500rpm. At 110km/h that rises to 2800rpm. The 90kW/151Nm 1.6-litre atmo four-pot struggles with the smallest of inclines, with the six-speed auto all-too-readily slipping down a ratio, adding an extra thousand revolutions. Large hills prompt a drop to fourth where the engine screams for mercy at 4500rpm.

On smooth dual carriageways the engine is the most significant NVH niggle. Travelling further from the city centre sees a drop in road quality, with the coarser chip surface bringing a subsequent increase in tyre roar.

Soon, the combination of high cruising revs and droning tyre noise has me searching for other irritants, purely for distraction. The most I can muster is the poor padding for the arm rest on the door.

I knew Mount Wycheproof would be small but even so, I was still unprepared for just how small. Even from a handful of kilometres away, the ‘mountain’ resembles more of middling hill which gives our trip a strange sense of anti-climax.

This soon disappears. Surrounded by flat grasslands, sitting atop the granite outcrop at the summit provides a beautiful, nearly unbroken 360-degree vista.

We return to Melbourne under the veil of darkness. The autodipping headlight system can best be described as patchy, with highbeam turning off and on at random on an empty gumtree-lined road yet remaining on as a truck approaches.

It wasn’t the epic alpine jaunt I had been expecting but this trip gave me plenty of smiles and laughs. While it’s not perfectly suited to the task, none of the Venue’s foibles are deal breakers for further extended trips.

As for our destination. I’d highly recommend a trip to the world’s smallest mountain – not only is the view at sunset stunning but you’ll be part of a rare club to have reached its summit – less people live at Wycheproof than Everest Base Camp. Small things can still deliver big smiles. You just have to give them the opportunity.

CAMERON KIRBY

REPORT THREE

LOOK UP, THAT’S THE MOUNTAIN...

See that mound of trees in the background? Yep, that’s Mount Wycheproof. Standing just 43 metres above the surrounding terrain, the summit is a mere 148 metres above sea level. You don’t need to be a modern explorer to conquer the mount, with a road taking you directly to the peak (I’ve experienced steeper driveways). The name is derived from the local Aboriginal language, which translates literally as “grass on a hill”. Accurate.

HYUNDAI VENUE ELITE

Price as tested: $25,940 

This month: 724km @ 7.5L/100km