Despite the growing numbers of them in the market the 1,0-litre ‘little ‘uns’ of the automotive world have been looked down upon as unsuitable for long-haul motoring.
Obviously, there was only one way to put this to the test so I used up every available millimetre of the 350-litre boot on the Hyundai Venue 1.0 Fluid manual one test, packed some more stuff in the rear passenger compartment, strapped Mrs W into the passenger seat and set off for a 1 300 kilometre road trip.
Going from the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast to Johannesburg involves an uphill climb of around 2 000 metres so also a test of how effective the turbo-petrol engine is in eliminating the power loss that comes with altitude – at the same time using cruise control to maintain a constant average (and foil the dozens of fixed and average speed camera traps that make this one of the most boring drives in the country).
The pleasantly surprising upshot was 6,4 l/100 km on the uphill haul and 6,2 l/100 km on the downhill return but, even better was the fact the Venue – idiot lane changers aside – could maintain cruise in sixth gear up hill and down dale with nary a hint of struggle.
I liked the cascading grille and split front lights when I first saw car at launch and the whole, almost square box, design delivered on practicality the longer I spent time with it – the front corners always visible for precise positioning in mundane moves such as parking or when ‘giving it some wellie’ on a nice twisty bit of road.
The manual version, as I noted after the launch, delivers its 88 kW of power much more efficiently than the automatic option, meaning it can be made to behave like a hooligan – and, despite the SUV styling and higher ride, behaves rather well on the limits.
Body roll is limited and the handling remains netural until break point when the natural front-wheel drive understeer does become oversteer and the back steps out. It is a progression and quite easily controlled while the revs are within the powerband.
There are a couple of options for the word ‘venue’ in Korean – gaechoeji and jaepanji among them – but neither flows all that easily off a Western tongue. Venue was not the original name but that was dropped as it was an offensive word in another language.
The rationale behind the name is Hyundai wants owners to feel this car is ‘the place to be’ – and, after my road trip I cannot fault the thinking.
Where many small cars skimp in terms of seat comfort, hip, head and leg room, the Venue offers plenty of all of those. The seats were comfortable and supportive so the hours on the road went by with no onset of lower back pain, thigh cramping or any of the other discomforts that sometimes arise.
Although Hyundai engineers reduced the thickness of the front seat backrests to improve rear passenger knee room – this did nothing to reduce the comfort of the driving position.
The Venue is offered in Motion, Fluid and Glide specification grades, with all models powered by Hyundai’s 1,0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. Producing 88 kW and 172 Nm in all versions, the engine can be mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automated transmission.
The engine is same unit as fitted to the Kona that was launched last year and, considering its mere 998 cc, is surprisingly peppy, especially in the manual version, and will hold its own quite easily on the freeway.
Measuring 3 995 mm in length and 1 770 mm in width, the Venue is one of the smaller offerings in its class although it does offer 350 litres of boot space.
Basic standard specification includes air-conditioning, remote central locking, a conventional four-speaker radio with Bluetooth connectivity, multi-function steering wheel, on-board computer, power windows and mirrors, dual front crash bags, ESP stability control and anti-lock brakes.
The midrange Fluid adds 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome grille trim to the features list, along with a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rear park assist with reverse camera, cruise control, auto headlights, partial leather seats, side and curtain crash bags and a rear demister and wiper.
All versions are sold with a 5-year/150 000 km warranty (with 2-year/50 000 km powertrain extension) and a 3-year/45 000 km service plan.