'Will the Hyundai Venue be the next urban SUV to take the Indian market by storm? Possibly.
'The only chink in the armour -- a minor one though -- is that the Venue, while spruced up for its weight class, doesn't look breathtakingly different from the other players in this crowded category,' says Pavan Lall.
With the acceleration in automotive technology, it is no surprise that the features and specifications that were once the exclusive mainstay of premium vehicles have now trickled down to affordable cars as well.
In this respect, Hyundai's latest offering, a compact SUV tricked out with more tech than one thought cars came with, is exhibit number one.
The Hyundai Venue has a keyless ignition, which means you flick the car on with the push of a button.
That's followed by an automatic dual clutch transmission (DCT), which means that it isn't just a half-baked apparatus that replaces an exhausting manual shift with an equally exhausting alternative that comes with rubber-banding, sluggish acceleration and an absence of middle-end punch.
For the uninitiated, rubber-banding is when you punch the accelerator and the car accelerates but then stops after a while before picking up again.
This Venue has a very competent automatic transmission mated to a reasonably perky 1-litre turbo engine that throws up a respectable amount of power for city-driving and is also comfortable for highway usage over the weekend.
Is that a virtue? It is, given that recent launches by global heavyweights have failed to integrate their cars with transmissions that hold their own and come up short despite terrific exteriors and futuristic styling.
Start the car and the drivetrain suspension feels like it belongs to a more expensive larger vehicle -- a trend I have noticed amongst newly-launched city SUVs that include the Mahindra XUV 300, Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport and the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza.
The Venue hurtles along highways and smaller lanes with equal aplomb, and is easy to handle in tight situations and on traffic-congested roads.
Its suspension rides over bumps and potholes without a rattle or a hum.
A good deal of attention has also been given to seemingly small matters -- like the wipers.
All cars come with wipers, but it's only when you are faced with pouring rain that you see how well they work or not.
The ones in the Hyundai Venue keep pace even with the torrential Mumbai rain, ensuring that the driver isn't blinded even for a fraction of a second.
And then it also has a visual display that's larger than that of the Jeep Compass -- something I hadn't factored as a virtue until I started reversing the car and the cameras came alive.
Inside, the seating is roomy. The first thing to grab attention is a large coffee flask-sized device with a dial that sits between the seats on one of the two compartments that usually have the coffee holders.
I wonder if it's meant to control the stereo. Or is it a gear-shift control system? Turns out that the contraption is a compact air purifier that sits on its docking port. Switch it on and the gadget displays a range of colours, with red for poor and blue for good air quality.
The purifier, which tells you about the level of particulate matter through colours, comes in the top two variants.
It's a sign of the times we live in and points to the specifically changing demands of customers in our polluted metros.
The purifier is a useful feature that ought to be made mandatory in all cars.
However, Hyundai needs to figure out another slot to place it in since it currently sits in a space meant for a bottle of water or a glass of coffee that isn't compensated for elsewhere in the vehicle.
The Venue glides over bad roads as though they don't exist, which led me to wonder if it was hooked up to a revolutionary suspension system.
Or was it that it had great ground clearance? At 195 mm above the ground, this SUV is not the highest in the segment.
Other cars such as the Brezza, the Nexon and the EcoSport sit even higher. And yet, it ensures that the ride is smooth.
On the rear-view mirror are buttons that read "SOS" and "RSA" (roadside assistance).
These allow you to alert the call centre if there's an emergency or if the car has broken down and requires a tow truck or a mechanic.
Smart thinking by the Korean car maker, but of course such features are best appreciated and judged when used.
Will the Hyundai Venue be the next urban SUV to take the Indian market by storm? Possibly.
The only chink in the armour -- a minor one though -- is that the Venue, while spruced up for its weight class, doesn't look breathtakingly different from the other players in this crowded category.
But then the upside is that given Hyundai's vast distribution network and scale of economy, the after sales service and cost of ownership are likely to be reasonable.
So let's add another candidate to the list of compact SUVs that are likely to replace the older ones.