Are compact SUVs suitable for long drives?
I am often asked, how good are compact SUVs (with small engines) or crossovers, for long drives. While I have driven several sub-four metre SUVs and mostly have a good opinion of them, until recently, I had not done a really long journey in one.
The Venue with its peppy 3-cylinder engine and 7-speed auto, is a surprisingly good highway machine
But since this question is put to me so often, recently when I was going on a long drive, I decided to take a Hyundai Venue for this road trip. I drove one with the 3-cylinder petrol, 998cc, direct injection turbo charged engine. It generates an impressive 118 bhp and 172 Nm of torque and interestingly, Hyundai also offers a 7- speed DCT automatic transmission with it. A small 3-cylinder engine mated with a 7-speed auto is obviously due to the need for lower emissions and better efficiency, and manufactures are increasingly adopting such technology to extend the reign of the internal combustion engine.
On a recent road trip I comfortably drove 800 kms in about 10 hours
So how does this contemporary powertrain strategy perform in a real life environment? Actually I am rather impressed. The Hyundai Venue's 3-cylinder all aluminium engine with well-designed balancer shafts, is fairly refined and hardly vibrates or rocks, even at idle. This engine is energetic and free revving and it's only higher in the rev range, that the vocals reveal that it's a 3-cylinder unit breathing fast and working vigorously to deliver its horses. What I also like is that unlike many turbo charged engines, the power delivery is not peaky and is delivered in a relatively linear manner.The 7-speed auto also helps harness the power properly, resulting in effortless driving. I found the balance between ride and handling to be good too, with the steering having decent weightage and feedback. All this along with the nice brakes allowed for fairly rapid highway driving and the compact size and agility was definitely a big plus while negotiating hilly sections, or going through crowded towns.
The effective projector headlights also make nighttime driving easier
Hyundai's claimed fuel efficiency for this variant of the Venue is 18.1 kmpl and when I drove sedately and kept the speed to around 80 kph, I did get about 19 kmpl. But since the peppy Venue is quite fun to drive, I could not resist pushing it hard and with the higher speeds, the fuel efficiency dropped just under 12 kmpl. This shows that these small turbo charged engines, are particularly sensitive to the driving style.
The Hyundai Venue proved to be a good partner for a road trip
As for whether compact SUVs like the Hyundai Venue are good for long drives, well my univocal answer is "Yes". I was very happy and relaxed driving it at highway speeds and on one of the days I even comfortably covered about 800 kms in just 10 hours! The one aspect that I feel needs improvement is the fuel tank capacity of 45 litres. On long drives one likes a lengthy range, so if the tank capacity was around 55 litres, it would be so much better.Of course given the compact size, the rear seat room is limited and good for just two persons and the luggage space is not lavish either. But if it's just two or three people going on a driving holiday, in my view compact SUVs like the Hyundai Venue can be perfectly fine partners.
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