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Hyundai Venue: Smallest SUV company has ever made, can it make it big?

Vikram Chaudhary
suv, santa se, automobile sector, automobile industry

On May 21, Hyundai India will launch a rather bizarrely named sport utility vehicle (SUV), the Venue. A subcompact SUV (under 4 metres in length), it will compete with Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV3OO and Ford EcoSport.

In a gloomy market according to industry association SIAM, passenger vehicle sales grew 2.7% in FY19, the slowest in four years subcompact SUVs have been going strong. JATO, the automotive business intelligence firm, noted that during April-September 2018, Indians bought 4 lakh SUVs and, of these, more than 2 lakh were subcompact SUVs. The segment is led by Vitara Brezza, which clocked monthly sales of about 14,000 units last fiscal, commanding roughly 45% share.

Hyundai India, whose domestic sales in FY19 grew by just 1.7% to 5,45,243 units as compared with 5,36,241 units in FY18 will be banking a lot on the Venue for growth.

Engine options

The Venue will get three engine options 1.2-litre petrol (5-speed manual gearbox), 1.4-litre diesel (6-speed manual) and the all-new 1.0-litre turbo petrol (both manual and DCT). While other subcompact SUVs, including the Brezza and Nexon, are equipped with the AMT (automated manual transmission) gearbox, the Venue has the dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

What is DCT?

DCT uses two clutches controlled by a network of electronics and hydraulics. One clutch controls odd-numbered gears and the other controls even-numbered gears. This set-up allows the car to shift gears without interrupting the power flow from the engine to the transmission, as happens in AMT, where the gear-shift lag is noticeable. But while the AMT gearbox is relatively inexpensive (about Rs 50,000 more than the manual), DCT is usually expensive. It remains to be seen how Hyundai makes the DCT variant competitive.

Small, but big on features

The Venue is not only the smallest SUV Hyundai has ever made, it is also (claimed to be) the first true connected vehicle in India. The company says you can remotely start the engine and turn on the AC sitting in your office, you can track the vehicle in real-time (if someone else is driving it), you can even immobilise it remotely if someone has stolen it. The technology that provides this suite of features is called Hyundai BlueLink (the vehicle has an inbuilt eSIM powered by Vodafone-Idea). To access it, one has to download an app. The Venue will get 33 connectivity features, of which 10 are India-specific.

Venue versus Brezza

Exterior: Unlike Brezza s thin grille, the Venue sports a large cascading grille, which makes it look more premium. And compared to Brezza s conventional SUV design, the Venue has offbeat design elements. For example, its front lamp cluster is unique thin pilot lights and turn indicators on top of the headlamp, and fog lamps lower on the bumper. Square shape dominates the theme squared-out DRLs surround the main headlights, and tail-lamps and rear reflectors also have a square look.
Interiors: The Venue is half a generation younger than the Brezza, and the difference shows in the cabin, where the Brezza looks dated. A floating-type 8-inch touchscreen (bigger than Brezza s) takes centre stage in the Venue. Space in both the SUVs is almost similar, but the Venue gets rear AC vents, which the Brezza doesn t have. Also, as of now, the Brezza isn t available in a petrol engine.

Venue versus Creta

From certain angles, the Venue looks a lot like its bigger sibling, Hyundai Creta. If it s priced, say, close to the Creta, some customers might be tempted to consider the Venue. But cannibalisation might not happen, argues Gaurav Vangaal, senior analyst (automotive forecasting) at IHS Markit, the global information provider. One, the Creta is considerably bigger than the Venue it s 275mm longer and has 90mm more wheelbase and two, both have a different set of customers. There can be marginal cannibalisation. The Creta is approaching the end of lifecycle in a couple of years, and the Venue is Hyundai s latest global vehicle with high connectivity features. It s likely to create its own path in the Indian market, adds Vangaal.

What s in a name?

With the Venue, Hyundai says it s targeting younger buyers (the millennial) who do not treat their vehicle as a means of transport, but as a third space after office and home, and that s why this name has been chosen. With a suite of connectivity features, the Venue is a place where the occupant can stay in touch with friends, family and office, says SS Kim, MD & CEO, Hyundai Motor India.

Yet it s a peculiar name. Brand expert Harish Bijoor says Venue is an odd name for a car. Names matter. Venue is a bit of an odd name for a car. In the case of cars, a name that is meaningless is more meaningful. In this case, Venue has a clear meaning. And that makes it an odd name.

Segment leadership

The big question is: Can the Venue outsell the Brezza? Hyundai is cautiously optimistic. Kim says the Venue enjoys an edge as it has both petrol and diesel powertrains. With the Venue, we are looking at leadership in the overall SUV space, not just in the subcompact SUV segment, he says. The subcompact SUV segment witnesses sales of around 26,000 units per month, and with the Venue, it is further going to expand.

Vangaal, however, feels that, as of now, the Venue cannot beat the Brezza in sales volume. But it can definitely pose a serious threat to the volumes the Brezza enjoys monopolistically. The Venue is expected to spoil Indian consumers with its features.

In its 20-year journey in India, Hyundai has delivered only four true blockbuster products: the original Santro, i10, i20 and Creta. The company has reasons to believe the Venue will be the fifth.