Today we’re looking at the cheapest of the cheap, the bottom feeders of the Australian new car market.
They’re cars offered at a rock bottom price, targeted at those who can’t afford anything else, but are still prepared to dig deep to get something new rather than second hand.
Wearing the crown as the cheapest new car currently available is the Kia Picanto hatch, priced from $16,290 plus on-roads. Cheapest SUV is the Suzuki Ignis at $19,490.
With no equivalent to match Picanto, Hyundai’s cheapest offering these days is the equally cheap and cheerful Venue, a smaller than small SUV priced from $22,000 plus on-roads.
It’s a rather boxy, odd-looking five-seater that’s just been updated, with comfort, convenience and connectivity upgrades across the three-grades, including Qi wireless charging which is now standard.
What’s it cost?
The front-wheel drive Venue comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, the latter adding $2000 to the price.
It is followed by the better equipped Active at $26,250 and range-topping Elite at $28,750, both of which come with an auto as standard.
A contrasting roof in black or white is a no-cost option, while mica/metallic paint is an extra $595.
But if you want the roof, you have to forgo the sunroof (not sure why).
Standard kit includes cloth trim and manual air conditioning, with contrasting stitching and piping for the seats, steering wheel and gear shift boot, along with silver surrounds for the air vents and transmission lever.
There’s also alloys, a touchscreen, cruise control, power windows, auto headlights, auto high beam, daytime running lights, one-touch turn signals and an auto reverse wiper for the back window.
Venue rides on 15-inch alloys, while Active and Elite step up to 17s — all come with a space saver spare.
Elite adds a sunroof, climate air, combo cloth and artificial leather seat trim, rear privacy glass, LED tail and daytime running lights, auto-dimming mirror and rear parking sensors.
Infotainment consists of an 8.0-inch touchscreen, with a system that features Bluetooth with audio streaming, AM/FM radio, four-speaker audio, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity.
Qi wireless charging is standard on all variants and there are also USB-A and USB-C ports and a 12-volt socket in front, with another two USB-C charge ports in the back for Elite.
Elite also adds another two speakers, digital radio and built-in navigation, but reverts to wired CarPlay and Android Auto.
You also get Sounds of Nature, with six background soundtracks.
The latest update sees the rollout of Hyundai’s Bluelink connected car services, which offers Automatic Collision Notification, Natural Voice Control and segment-first remote vehicle control functionality via an app.
It’s free of charge for the first five years and transferrable if you sell the car within this period.
Venue scores a four-star safety rating, with six airbags, a rear-view camera and autonomous emergency braking (City, Interurban and Vulnerable Road User).
There’s also a lane support system with lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure warning (LDW) and emergency lane keeping (ELK) and tyre pressure monitoring across the range.
Elite adds Blind spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert.
The car lost a star because of marginal performance in its ability to avoid a rear-end impact with vehicles in front.
Venue is covered by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with 12-month roadside assistance which extends with each service, provided it is with Hyundai.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months/15,000km and lifetime capped price servicing is available.
What’s it go like?
Venue aspires to be fun and funky like a lot of tiddlers.
But it’s more fugly than funky, with its weird-looking front and over and under lights.
It looks okay up close, but not so good from a distance. Hopefully, this faux pas will be addressed at some stage.
Motivation comes from a non-turbo 1.6-litre petrol engine with old-time multi-point injection that produces 90kW of power at 6300 rpm and 151Nm of torque at 4850 rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
You can change gears manually using the transmission lever, but steering wheel change paddles are not provided.
There’s three drive modes from which to choose (Normal, Eco, Sport) plus a further three traction modes (Snow, Mud, Sand), both selected via a central rotary/push button knob.
But with a mere 170mm of ground clearance we wouldn’t be taking it off road any time soon.
One of the big attractions of this car is ease of getting in and out, something that will be appreciated by older buyers.
Once inside it has stacks of headroom too, even with a sunroof fitted.
Venue is simple to operate and super easy to drive which should also endear it to oldies.
The driver’s seat is height adjustable and the steering wheel is both reach and height adjustable.
Analogue dials have made way for a digital instrument cluster, with a small centre area that can be configured and choice of three colour schemes.
The 1.6-litre four cylinder engine makes a fist of it, but with just 151Nm of torque, it’s never going to set the world on fire.
Bear in mind, however, that the car weighs only 1200kg which partially compensates for this.
With another 20Nm of torque, the 1.0-litre three cylinder turbo found in the Picanto might be a better choice?
This is offered with Kia’s slightly more expensive Stonic but it comes at a price.
At just over four metres in length, Venue shines around town where it is easy to drive and park and the engine comes under no pressure.
Steering is sharp and light, and combined with compact dimensions, makes low speed manoeuvring a piece of cake.
While Venue can keep up with traffic on the motorway, it never really feels relaxed in this environment.
More surprisingly, however, was the way the transmission began hunting between gears.
This was in the 100-110km/h speed range with cruise control engaged, where it constantly switched between gears on reasonably flat terrain.
The thing tends to become a bit breathless and lacks punch around 110km/h, making overtaking problematic most of the time.
Gear hunting used to be a thing with four-speed autos when they ran out of options on hills, but never on the flat.
Ride quality is firmish, but not uncomfortable, though it can become drummy on coarse bitumen.
With a short wheelbase, speed humps are the enemy because the front doesn’t get time to settle before the rear wheels lift.One thing missing from the mix that we have come to appreciate in more recent times is adaptive cruise control.
The small boot hides a two level floor, with 355 litres of cargo capacity.
With a 45-litre tank, Venue uses standard 91 unleaded with fuel consumption a claimed 7.2L/100km.
We were getting as low as 6.5L/100km but finished on 7.6L after more than 300km. The long term average was showing at 7.0L/100km.
That’s a good result considering the engine’s size and lack of sophistication, but it could be better.
What we like?
Easy to drive
Doesn’t use much fuel
What we don’t like?
Doors swing closed on a slope
The bottom line?
Venue is basically a good jigger (journo talk for okay).
It represents a cheap and cheerful solution to transport if you’re not in the market for something fancy.
The boxy design delivers a spacious cabin, with easy access, although rear legroom could be an issue, so be sure to try it on for size.
Importantly, it provides high levels of safety and doesn’t use much fuel unless you flog it — but is best confined to city use rather than venturing out onto the open road.