Sunday Drive: Kia Seltos and Hyundai Venue
HYUNDAI VENUE ELITE
Base price: $33,990
Powertrain and economy: 1.6-litre petrol four, 90kW/151Nm, six-speed automatic, FWD, combined economy 7.2L/100km, CO2 165g/km (source: RightCar).
Vital statistics: 4040mm long, 1565mm high, 2520mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 530 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.
KIA SELTOS LX
Base price: $30,990
Powertrain and economy: 2.0-litre petrol, 110kW/180Nm, constantly variable transmission, FWD, combined economy 6.8L/100km, CO2 156g/km (source: RightCar).
Vital statistics: 4370mm long, 1615mm high, 2630mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 468 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels.
Whenever Kia and Hyundai contest a common segment with a common kind of car you'd be brave to bet against their respective products not being related.
Brand-specific styling inside and out surrounding core common parts (the chassis, engines, transmissions and other gear) has been the recipe for years, yet anyone considering the Kia Seltos and the Hyundai Venue and expecting more of the same will be in for a surprise.
Even though these cars draw from other family members, they don't directly relate to each other. The Venue is based on Europe's i20 hatch, plucking the floorpan and 1.6-litre six-speed auto transmission form that car, while the Seltos has a lot in common with the 2.0-litre Hyundai Kona. But as for direct DNA? You'd have better luck looking for the lost city of Atlantis.
Who'd bet against car buyers giving a jot? Not me. For all the technical disassociation and a degree of price disparity – less noticeable during the launch price promotions shaving $2000 (our test Venue was $31,990) and up to $5000 (our test Seltos had a healthy $4k discount, making it $26,990) off the recommended retails – they're still two city slick front drive petrol crossovers of similar size chasing much the same crowd. So cross-shopping is a certainty.
Straight out, both brands can take a bow for delivering a pair of interesting small SUVs. On top of this, Kia can take extra kudos for its especially aggressive pricing strategy. It is possible to consider the base Seltos not only against the most expensive Venue but even the cheapest Kona.
The Venue's Elite designation means it packs more comfort and safety features. LX is the sole Seltos grade to sidestep the SmartSense package standard to both Venues and includes Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Hill Start Assist, and automatic high beams.
Also, you only need start counting up the blanked switch locations within a less creative interior and spot it's manual air con and demands old-school 'key in the ignition' starting to get a grasp of why there's a big gap between a Seltos LX and next-up LX Plus.
And yet, when you come to box-ticking what might be regarded as 'essentials', and save for the lack of automated emergency braking even on the safety side it really isn't shown up to be way miserly.
If the LX has any particular weak point, it is being cursed by an over-soft driver's seat. Anyone who appreciates the merits of good lower back support won't be satisfied by this version; all the others have a better chair design. In this test, if you had to pick which had the better driving position, Venue wins out with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, accommodating all shapes and sizes.
Even so, Seltos through simply being a slightly larger car – appreciably so for wheelbase and overall length, a little less evidently for width and height – makes a more convincing choice if you're carting stuff, including other people.
The cabin is simply roomier and the extra few millimetres it has in key areas, like rear seat lower legroom, is going help sell it. The Venue was also capable of carrying four adults in comfort, proved incredibly adept at swallowing some large, awkward objects and earned points for good storage space for bottles and paraphernalia in the centre console and doors. However, while lower leg and headroom is good, it doesn't have the same shoulder room.
While the Seltos shape has a slightly more modern, appealing sharp-lined air, I really warmed to the Venue's chiselled, upright body and stance and excellent visibility.
Out on the road, they're similar in driving feel yet as far apart for performance as you'd imagine. Neither is what you'd call muscled, yet there's simply no dispute about which has more zest.
It's not that the Hyundai unit is utterly puny, yet the 20kW power and 29Nm torque that Kia's bigger engine delivers is telling at kick-off and everywhere else.
Really, though, what irks most about the Venue unit isn't so much its more limited reactivity as its lack of refinement; it's much more vocal and raw-edged and seems in constant dispute with the transmission. The Seltos would be better with paddle shifters to better engage with its eight-speeder, but it just operates more effectively and enthusiastically.
The dynamics are interesting. If you want something approaching youthful and sports-tinged, go straight to Seltos; it's no outright GT, but drives with a level certainty not usual for this grade . For a more grown-up and measured feel, Venue is the place to be. It's not vague or unduly remote, but there's far more of an air of laidback amiability.
Dimensional pertness and tight turning circles ensure they both work well around town and neither feels at all overawed by open road running, either, though it's in the latter environment where the Seltos' secondary ride seems a touch busy. It's nothing a slight suspension retune couldn't remedy.
Crystal ball gazing these cars' futures is easy; consumer swing to crossovers and SUVs ensures each will find a ready audience. Venue does a reasonable job, but it lacks the Kia's character and Kia's value edge is much sharper. If you're seeking to chase an ascending star, Seltos is definitely the one.