2020 Hyundai Venue S Review: Venue with a View

The leading vehicle departure alert is handy for distracted motorists waiting at traffic lights, as long as you’re not the first car. Now admit it, we’ve all been distracted doing other things in the car while waiting at a set of lights, and now when the Venue senses the car in front starting to move it chimes a little warning to tell you to please look up in front because the traffic is moving. Never get honked at by the driver behind you ever again. 

Unlike autonomous vehicles, lane keeping assist doesn’t actually steer the car for you. Instead, it nudges the steering wheel slightly in the right direction if it detects the car rolling out of the assigned lane without the direction indicator being put on. If it has to do it more than a couple of times in a short stretch, a warning chime comes on to tell you that you’re either falling asleep or seriously distracted. Either pull over to rest, or stop illegally jabbing at your phone while the car is in motion.

So, how does it drive? It’s powered by a rather standard-looking 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine but there’s some engineering smarts going on here, with better thermal management and ignition systems to make it highly efficient. Hyundai calls it the Smartstream Gamma engine.

It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission that also gets a fancy name: IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission), supposedly because of smarter engine speed matching software and that  it uses a chain drive instead of the traditional belt drive. 

 The car’s drive characteristics take a bit of getting used to. Initial off the line acceleration is slower than you might expect from a 123 horsepower car, but once it starts rolling the Venue gains speed quite quickly, and keeps going and going… until before you realise it, the car is going a lot faster than you think.

That’s because the car is very composed at speed, and the transmission seems to just want to keep piling on speed in a linear fashion. It certainly feels like some extra regulation of the accelerator is required compared to similar sized, CVT-equipped cars, but like any other trained habit, it becomes muscle memory after three days of driving the Venue. 

There’s a curious dial marked ‘Drive/Traction’ on the centre console. It toggles between a series of traction control modes such as snow and mud settings, plus sport and eco driving modes. Don’t let it fool you though, the car is strictly front-wheel drive and won’t do much good on a true jungle trail.

Interior space is great with plenty of shoulder room, and there is Android Auto along with Apple Carplay connectivity. Boot space is generous for a car of this size, though the back seat is still best reserved for two adults and not three. For a family with two children however, it’s pretty good. 

However the Venue comes up against serious competition in this segment, most notably in the form of the Kia Stonic, which has a similar power output with a 1.0-litre turbo engine and seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. The Stonic has an even funkier design, and in recent years Kia has proven itself very capable of making competent cars. 

If you’re really set on the Hyundai Venue but want to pay a little less the standard version without some active safety features costs S$6,000 less, but for that little extra we think the ‘S’ version is worth the extra outlay.

Then there are also the more affordable, traditional small hatchback stalwarts a step down in size like the Suzuki Swift and Honda Jazz that are also roughly S$20k cheaper, but chances are if you’ve already set your mind on getting a now-trending crossover you’re not looking in the direction of regular hatchbacks anymore. 

Hyundai Venue 1.6 GLS ‘S’

Engine  1,598cc, inline four
Power    123hp at 6300rpm
Torque    154Nm at 4500rpm
Gearbox    CVT
0-100km/h    11.2 seconds
Top Speed186km/h
VES Band / CO2    B / 121g/km
Fuel Efficiency    7.3L/100km
AgentKomoco Motors
Price    S$100,999 with COE
VerdictRoomy for its size and packed with active safety features, but sits in a segment that is extremely competitive and price-sensitive

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.