Earlier last week we were invited to the New Zealand launch of the oddly named Hyundai Venue or ‘the place to be’ as the advertising will have you know. The launch included a two day program featuring a marketing presentation, ferry rides, plenty of food and of course, lots of driving.
It was my first ever car launch ever so I reached the first stop which was at Ellerslie racecourse excited and with my hands slightly trembling from the nerves, something that was a pain when it came to eating breakfast later on. However, Kimberley from Hyundai was on hand to settle me in and all of a sudden, I was fine. After all, it was a car launch and I love cars! After my nerves were settled, then came a quick speech from the GM followed by them taking off the covers of the only car in the room. I presumed that it would be the Venue and indeed, it was! After taking a few photos of that glittering Venue, the group headed straight for the media room where we were briefed on the Venue. The Hyundai Venue is the latest offering from the South Korean automaker. The Venue is a little smaller than the Kona in every which way and just slightly larger than the i20 hatchback.
The compact SUV segment keeps growing as the statistics proved and so it was only logical for Hyundai to cast another line into that fishpond which has already given them success with other models. Their target market consists of millenials (people in their mid to late 20s) and majority of the market is made up of women. While I am not a woman, I am at least a millennial so if I was a few years older then I’d be their exact target. The stats were not really eye opening because we see plenty of SUVs on the road so we know they are popular, we just didn’t know how popular! Though I have to say, my most fond memory from this presentation was of the GM nearly falling off the stage, we did see him at dinner later that evening so it’s safe to say that he was all good.
Let’s take a look at the Venue now. The base offering has a starting price of $29,990 with a launch special offer bringing it down to a very appealing $27,990. The base model comes packed with Hyundai’s SmartSense which includes features like Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Driver Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Hill Start Assist and automatic high beams. That’s great to see in a car that is so affordable. There’s only a choice of two models in New Zealand with the second one being the Elite. This is the model to go for in my opinion. It’s only $2,000 more than the standard but a worthy upgrade. Most of the changes are cosmetic where you get bigger 17 inch wheels, lots of chrome trim on the front along with those unique squarish daytime running lights. In a market filled with similar looking vehicles, those DRLs really set the Venue apart from the competition. With my millennial target market hat on, I can also say that people my age also like to have a car that looks a little unique in a good way and the Venue does exactly that. It’s got a boxy but charming look to it. While there’s two trim levels, you only get a choice of one engine which is a 1.6L petrol 4 cylinder putting out a respectable 90kW at 6,300 rpm. The Venue will also do 0-100 in 11.4 seconds, reasonable stuff. That engine is coupled to a 6 speed automatic gearbox, Hyundai were very vocal about their dislike of the CVT. I’m not complaining though, I do prefer auto transmissions as well and the one in the Venue works a treat especially in city traffic. Another thing that makes this car very attractive to the target market is the paint options of which there are 11 but that number goes up to 23 with a choice of two-tone paint options. Millennials like to have cars that represent them in some way so the two-tone paint should find a fair number of fans in the target market.
The presentation also included a marketing brief from Yuri Choi who was one of the representatives from the Hyundai head office in South Korea who had flown down to accompany us on the trip.
We were then shown to our cars and allowed some time for photos and setting up. The Venue comes with an 8 inch multimedia screen. It has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, radio and a reversing camera as standard. It is easy to use and well integrated into the dash as well. There’s quite a bit of hard black plastic around but you really can’t expect anything more for the price. Hyundai have also done a good job with the varying textures. To my surprise, the Elite trim model has also got a heated steering wheel! The Venue also has different drive modes ranging from eco, normal and sport surprisingly which means that when you fancy a bit of spirited driving, you can use the gear lever to shift gear manually or even put it into sport mode which holds the revs for longer!
We set off for our first drive to Achilles point to enjoy the view. I did get a little lost at the very end but made it there eventually! One thing you will instantly notice about the Venue is how light the steering wheel is. It makes parking and city driving a breeze, ideal for the millennial driver. It was a typical Auckland day meaning we couldn’t really predict the weather so while it was sunny at Achilles point, by the time we stopped for lunch at the Hyundai Marine Center down the road, the rain had started. We enjoyed some great food there and hoped the weather would easy up so we could go watch the 49ers at work. That didn’t happen so with the sunscreen on my arms now left on the table there, we headed for a long drive to eventually meet up again at Fabric Cafe in Hobsonville Point. The drive allowed me to the test the Venue’s acceleration and stability at high speeds. It was more than satisfactory in both respects and cabin insulation is also very impressive at high speeds. I did also get to enjoy listening to my tunes through the six speaker system on the Elite trim model. With the drive finished, we met up at the cafe and enjoyed a cup of tea by the waterfront. Our next stop was the ferry terminal back in the city. Once we were back in the city district, the Venue was back in its element. The 1.6L engine is very zippy at lower speeds and turning the car on tight city roads was a breeze because of the light steering.
I then followed an entourage of Venues as we headed towards the ferry for Waiheke. Hyundai had very kindly chartered a ferry for this trip which means plenty of picture taking opportunities and a chance to sample the food on board while chatting with each other.
We safely docked on Waiheke and then sped off to our hotel for the night, The Waiheke roads were a whole different world for the Venue which admittedly made the 1.6L struggle a bit on the steeper roads but nothing too straining for the little Hyundai. We reached with just enough time for a freshen up before we headed to the scenic Three Seven Two restaurant to sample some of the finest food on the island. Whew, what a day! We were treated to some great food and hospitality from the Hyundai team. The Venue coped very well with the different driving routes that we took including Auckland city traffic, motorway driving and handling the twisty roads of Waiheke.
Now for a good night’s rest!
As my 7AM alarm rang to wake me up on the second day, I opened my blinds and was greeted by the breathtaking views that Waiheke has to offer. I spent so much time enjoying the views with a fellow journalist the previous evening that we held up the dinner entourage, hungry people are not happy people folks but the Waiheke views was a good bargaining chip in that scenario. I digress. Back to the second day. I enjoyed breakfast with my newfound friends as we chatted about cars and Waiheke. We were then given our marching orders to go and get ready for the day ahead which we did. While I was in my own car yesterday, I had to share a car today. Dammit, I couldn’t listen to the Eagles anymore. Small sacrifice to make as I made another friend during the drive. Our first destination was EcoZip ziplines on Waiheke island and once again, I enjoyed seeing the bewilderment of the faces of bystanders as they watched 15 brand new Hyundai Venues in all sorts of colours zip past them. That was brilliant entertainment!
I will be upfront about this, I had to take a pass on the ziplines because I have a crippling fear of heights, something which apparently seems to come with being a member of the Tarmac Life team. Luckily, another journalist was also sitting out of the activity so there was an opportunity to make another friend on this trip! Me and my newfound friend got the green light from Kimberley to head off to Man O’ War vineyards early and so we did. How would I describe the road condition en route, well there wasn’t really a road but instead there was a whole lot of gravel and mud. The perfect time then to test Hyundai’s new traction assist system which turns off-roading in a two wheel drive car into a breeze. The zippy Venue handled the terrain with ease, barely breaking a sweat when it had to climb while on loose gravel and we didn’t even use the traction assist system! That was a great testament to the Venue’s ability to handle all sorts of terrain. It really did impress us on that drive.
Reaching the lunch destination early meant we could snap some more photos before the rest of the entourage arrived and also enjoy a few drinks beforehand! By drinks I mean cranberry and apple juice which was spectacular by the way. We were later joined by our fellow journalists and the influencers who had joined the trip for the second day. The lunch at Man O’War was fantastic and it was a great way to end the trip. Hyundai treated us to the best food and drink that Waiheke had to offer along with the accomodation which was very scenic. We headed back to the ferry terminal for another trip back to our beloved Auckland. Once we reached Half Moon Bay Marina in Auckland, it was a short drive before we were back at the Hyundai head office and the hustle and bustle of the city. I handed over my keys no doubt surprised at the Venue’s ability to handle all sorts of roads and traffic situations. As someone who loves organizing things, the practicality and storage on offer was great. I was also taken aback by the amount of room there is inside the Venue both front and rear.
Looking back on the trip, it was a fantastic first launch event for me. I met fellow journalists and of course, the extremely friendly Hyundai team. I’d like to personally thank Kimberley and the Hyundai team for putting together a fabulous trip for us, something that really brought out the best of the new Venue. This is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life, what a way to experience my first launch!
I wish Hyundai the very best of luck for 2020 when the Venue goes on sale in New Zealand and thank them once again for their lovely hospitality.
Words and pictures by Matthew D’souza