The hottest car segment right now has got to be that of the sub-compact SUV. Every player worth their salt has at least one offering here. Hyundai has long been prepping for this space and now in comes its Venue SUV. The quirky name aside, the Venue has taken its time to study the market and come out with an SUV that has literally everything you ask for. The reigning petrol automatic compact SUV, the Tata Nexon, doesn’t want to go down without a fight. So, we have taken the Venue DCT and the Nexon petrol AMT for this comparo.
In terms of styling, though its a subjective matter, the Nexon still has an aura even after being in the market for nearly two years. There are times when I have seen people look at the car as if they have seen it for the first time. Be it the grille, the coupe-ish form or even the tail section. The Nexon oozes style. Truth be told, the first time around I thought the Nexon was more like an evolved form of the Vista D90. The latter was a concept that was showcased in 2013 and was expected to be launched later that year.
Move onto the Hyundai Venue and you see a boldness in the design. For example, the Venue subscribes to the typical new age SUV design. This means the headlight is positioned a tad below where you expect it to be. Instead the turn indicators are where you think the headlamps should be.Given that bumpers and mirrors are the first contact points in a traffic skirmish, the one driving the Venue may be at a higher loss. That aside, this Hyundai has also got 16-inch alloys and a LED tail light design. Close call then. Personally, I think the Venue might not age as gracefully as the Nexon has.
When the Nexon first came out, it was widely regarded as one of the best that Tata could offer. The materials felt premium and the entire layout is logical. I liked the floating touchscreen system that Tata had provided and now it even comes with Android as well as iOS smartphone mirroring. There are a lot of cubby holes too including the one for the umbrella in the front door pocket. Speaking of which, there are some ergonomic issues too. This include the relatively hard-to-access USB as well as aux ports, the harder-to-find comfortable driving posture and then the illogical set up of the sunglass holder.
The seats of the Nexon are comfortable, after all it is a wider vehicle compared to the Venue. This translates to more shoulder room inside the cabin as well. In terms of space, the Nexon has a protruding air vent for the middle passenger at the rear, similar to that of the Venue. However, the headroom is a tad lacking given that the sloping roof eats into the available space. The boot space of 350 litres is spacious too. With a recent update, the Nexon also gets a rear charging point behind the seats as well as airconditioning vents.
Step into the Venue and you realise that Hyundai has spent a lot of time in designing this cabin and making it up to date. The buttons feel new as well as everything around has a premium touch to it. The steering wheel too feels nice to hold on to though I feel Hyundai should have offered a telescopic adjustment too. The Venue also has a manually dimming IRVM that hosts an SoS button, roadside assistance and map updates. However, that aside, the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment feels fluid to use and has the usual CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity dialled in. A wireless charger as well as fast charging options too have been provided. The glovebox is cooled too while there is also the gimmicky air purifier that tells you how good or bad the air quality in the cabin is. Lest I miss out, the Venue also gets an electrically controlled sunroof.
Space at the back is decent and in fact, you will be surprised to know that in spite of having the least dimensions the Venue still impresses. The headroom is decent and you don't get the feeling of being cooped in the cabin as well, thanks to the square window line. In the Nexon, this is an issue because the window line slopes upwards. I would have liked a more spacious boot in the Venue though.
Engine and transmission
The Venue has the smaller 1.0-litre direct injection turbo motor here. It makes 120PS/172Nm from its 3-cylinder heart. You can order this motor with a 6-speed manual or the delectable dual clutch transmission that I had for this test. The latter is developed in-house by Hyundai and doesn’t come with paddle shifters. Shift action is quick but not so much as the VW DCT. At part throttle, the motor seems very eager to propel the car ahead. However, step on the gas, the DCT pauses before it shifts into the relevant gear. More often than not, the transmission wants to upshift early in the interest of fuel economy. Speaking of which Hyundai claims more than 18kmpl fuel efficiency from this engine-transmission combo. However, in our city runs, the Venue returned 9.2kmpl and on the highway, close to 13.4kmpl.
The Nexon has a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine that pumps out 110PS/170Nm. This engine too is a 3-cylinder unit and 6-speed manual or AMT can be ordered. Tata dealers say that there is a higher demand for the petrol-AMT combo. There is a bit of turbo lag from this engine when you compare it with the Venue’s motor. Vibrations, though minor, can still be felt through the pedal. This being said, the Nexon’s AMT is still better than the others in the market. The head nod isn’t as pronounced and for overtakes, if you slot the gear lever to manual, the engine does hold onto the redline before shifting. The Nexon’s engine isn’t as refined as the Venue's though. However, the AMT turns out to be a bit more fuel efficient than the Venue’s DCT and delivers 11.2kmpl in the city and a lofty 18.6kmpl on the highway. Tata also provides the City, Eco and Sport modes that will affect the vehicle’s fuel efficiency and driving characteristics significantly.
The Nexon is the only India-made car that has secured the GNCAP’s 5-star appreciation. Dual airbags, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors, front seat belt warning and speed alert warning are standard. Top trims also get a reverse camera that boasts grid lines but isn’t of a high resolution. The Nexon comes with very sharp brakes (discs in front and drums at the back) and they do a good job of stopping the SUV without fuss. Moreover, the hill hold function works well and prevents the SUV from rolling back if the brakes aren’t used.
The Venue in the meanwhile comes with the same standard features as the Tata. However, it also boasts the option of six airbags if you opt for the manual Venue. Both the cars through don't have a headrest for the middle passenger at the rear and only the Nexon comes with height adjustable seat belts in the front.
Ride and handling
Both the cars have a similar suspension set-up on paper but its the Nexon which impresses. In fact, this Tata feels a tad more agile in corners than the Venue. There is noticeable body roll but its less than the lowered Venue. Moreover, the Nexon AMT also has a better steering feel than the ever-so light Hyundai unit. In terms of ride quality, the Nexon again inches forward as it stays pliant even on low speeds. The Venue on the other hand seems a bit jiggly over low speed undulations. Both the vehicles are planted at highway speeds though. In terms of NVH, the Venue does a slightly better job of keeping tyre noise at bay while the Nexon's motor has less vibrations at idle.
While these are not off-roaders, both the SUVs here can do a bit of light off-roading. While the roads around Noida seemed decently surfaced, the ones in Mumbai at this point of time are no less than moon-sized craters. I have driven both in Mumbai and technically, there was no underbelly or bumpers scraping anywhere scenes.
At the ex-showroom price of the Venue automatic (Rs 11.10 lakh), you can get the Nexon automatic (11.40 lakh, on-road) home. Both the prices are Delhi. The Nexon has decent features, a very good ride quality along with enjoyable dynamics. It pays that it is fuel efficient too. The Venue though has better quality on its side, will be an easier car to live with except for the gimmicky internet-connectivity features which you may or may not use ever. It's gearbox is smoother and is good for city use and for those learning how to drive. If you're willing to pay the extra premium for the newer car, the Venue is worth it. If not, the Nexon will keep you happy as well.
Images by Ayush Arya and Rahul Kapoor