Mahindra’s XUV300 impressed us hugely with its turbocharged petrol motor. It was punchy and quite a lot of fun to push around. Hyundai’s Venue, on paper at least, promises an experience that’s similar, if not better. A quick few phone calls later, we had both the small SUVs, and the not so small Buddh International Circuit, at our disposal to settle this once and for all.
Ready Set Go!
If you break out the spreadsheet, you’ll notice that both cars are pretty evenly matched. Both get a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Where the Venue has the upper hand in terms of power (120PS vs 110PS), the XUV300 has a torque advantage (200Nm vs 172Nm). Both get a 6-speed manual gearbox as well. That should mean they’re pretty neck and neck if you line them up for a drag race, right? Wrong!
We were expecting the XUV300 to have a significant edge over the Venue. But boy oh boy were we in for a surprise. The Venue managed to clock a quicker 0-100kmph sprint time of 11.7 seconds, compared to the 13.3 second run of the XUV. In the Venue, the power comes in a clean but consistent surge. Couple that with a quick-revving engine and a slick-shifting gearbox, and the numbers don’t really seem surprising anymore. The Mahindra, however, tends to bog down heavily when you upshift at the redline. It’s almost as if the engine management system cuts off fuel momentarily. In an outright drag race, the XUV will be seeing the Venue’s tail quite frequently.
In the real world, however, it’s quite unlikely you’d be racing from a dead halt. Here, acceleration within the gears matter. Our in-gear acceleration figures show that the XUV300 pulls harder in-gear, thanks to the additional torque on offer. For instance, 30-80kmph (in 3rd gear) was dealt with in 8.81 seconds in the Mahindra, whereas the Hyundai took 9.59 seconds for the same. That said, we’re quite happy with the driveability of both the engines. Both have light clutches that won’t tire you out in bumper-to-bumper, too. You can pull clean from one gear lower in both, reducing effort inside the city. But there’s a noticeable difference in how the two SUVs accelerate. Where the XUV300 has a prominent spike in power post 2000rpm, pushing you back into the seat, the Venue doesn’t. It feels a lot more relaxed as it builds speed.
Out on the highway too, both engines will feel at ease getting up to and maintaining triple-digit speeds. In sixth gear, both engines are lazily ticking around the 2000rpm mark at 100kmph. In case you wanted to go road-tripping, either of these would be up to the task.
Back when we compared the XUV300 to the rest of the sub-4-metre petrol gang, we came back impressed with the handling it had on offer. And out on the racetrack, it remained predictable and forgiving. Quick consecutive changes in direction brought the comfort-spec suspension of the XUV300 to the fore. You feel the weight as you wrestle the Mahindra through corners. You can bank on the steering modes to alter effort required to turn in, but other than that, it does nothing.
Through the same bends, the Venue felt refreshingly nimble and agile. It’s got a shorter wheelbase which helps it tuck around bends faster. But the surprising bit was the steering. Yes, it still doesn’t have the sort of feedback you’d want on a racetrack. However, it’s precise and quick, making it easy to hustle the Venue through the bends. It feels quick on its feet, changing directions deftly. Just like the XUV, here too the suspension plays spoilsport. You will feel the Venue roll quite a bit into corners, causing you to temper your racer boy instincts.
Out in the real world, however, both shouldn’t give you a reason to complain. Over smooth surfaces, both feel comfortable as the suspension works quietly in the background. Bring bumps and nasty potholes into the equation and Mahindra’s XUV300 edges past the Venue ever so slightly. It feels like it has an added layer of cushioning over bad surfaces, transferring fewer shocks to the cabin compared to the Hyundai. While the Venue doesn’t crash through bad roads, you tend to feel more of the surface inside the cabin. We don’t have any complaints from either in terms of high-speed stability either. Both feel planted at speeds well in excess of 100kmph. Even if you had to change lanes quickly at triple-digit speeds, both exhibit ample confidence to tackle that.
Under hard braking, we’d have liked the Venue to be a bit more sure-footed. To start off, the pedal feel takes getting used to. And slamming hard on the brakes causes it to squirm just a bit, which can be unnerving for newer drivers. Mahindra’s XUV300 with its all-around disc brakes comes to a dead halt in a straight line without any drama.
If we had to pick the better family car of the two, we’d tilt in favour of the Venue. Yes, compared to the XUV300, it feels a tad cramped at the rear in terms of width and knee room. But it’s key to note that Mahindra has managed to excavate that knee room by positioning the seats low, robbing you of support. This is something you’d feel on a longish drive. The Venue’s seats feel a lot more supportive and it has better headroom as well. It goes one up by offering rear AC vents as well as a 12V socket for your phone: both of these (important) features are missing on the XUV300. That said, we’d have liked it if the Venue had a headrest and a proper three-point seatbelt for the middle occupant like the XUV.
As far as front seats are concerned, both cars feel comfortable. The contouring on the Venue’s seats are a bit more forgiving to larger frames, however. Both feature height adjustment for the driver’s seat and tilt adjust for the steering. So getting into a comfortable driving position isn’t going to be a bother either.
In the boot space department, there’s barely a contest. With 350 litres of space on offer, the Venue can pack a whole lot extra over the 259-litre boot of the XUV300. Both small SUVs offer a 60:40 split seat functionality. But it’s important to note that the feature is standard on the Mahindra and limited to the top-spec variant in the Venue. If it’s in-cabin practicality you seek, both offer bottle holders in all four doors. There’s some more storage in the centre stack, and both get a nifty shelf above the gloveboxes as well.
If it’s the segment-above experience you crave, it’s the XUV300 that will deliver. The in-cabin experience feels richer, and it has quite a lot of features to tempt you too. Pick the top-spec W8 (O) variant and you’re treated to exclusives such as front parking sensors, leatherette upholstery, heated wing mirrors, dual-zone climate control as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system. Exclusives on the Venue include wireless charging and BlueLink tech that lets you tap into a host of features using your phone. Both offer projector headlamps, daytime running lamps, a touchscreen infotainment system (7” on the XUV vs 8” for the Venue), an electric sunroof as well as cruise control. It’s safe to say you wouldn’t be left wanting for features on either. In terms of safety, both cars get dual airbags, ABS with EBD and ISOFIX child seat mounts as standard. On their respective top trims, both offer side and curtain airbags as well. But it’s only the XUV that offers an airbag for the driver’s knee in this segment.
What makes the Venue’s case stronger here is the variant-wise feature distribution. In the one-below-top SX variant that’s about Rs 60,000 more than the XUV W6, you get all the good bits you crave for. The sunroof, cruise control, automatic climate control, touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - it’s all in there.
Looking The Part
Both look like scaled-down SUVs in their own unique way. Mahindra has done well to hide the SsangYong origins of the XUV300, with a flatter face, large headlamps and a raised bonnet. The 17-inch alloy wheels and the flared rear haunches add a bit of drama too. However, from the rear it might not appeal to everyone. Mahindra had to chop off 400mm from the Tivoli’s length to make the XUV300, and that shows at the rear.
Hyundai, however, didn’t have that problem. The Venue was designed from scratch, based on the Carlino Concept (HND-14) we saw at the 2016 Auto Expo. And it has remained true to the concept too, with slender indicators up top, a headlamp setup on the bumper and block-style tail lamps. The Venue gets smaller 16-inch alloy wheels, but in a sweet-looking dual tone finish.
In terms of size, both tuck in under the four-metre mark as far as length is concerned. But the XUV300 is noticeably wider and taller compared to the Venue. Park both side by side and it’s the Mahindra that will grab your eyeballs first.
Maybe not. Choosing between the two was harder than we thought it would be. And that’s because the Venue surprised us with its performance and handling. Mahindra’s XUV300 set benchmarks in this department, and Hyundai has managed to nudge past that - ever so slightly.
With the Mahindra, it’s all about the finer details, and finesse. If you want a premium in-cabin experience, coupled with a punchy engine, the XUV300 still makes for a solid choice. We’d have liked to see a better rear seat and a bigger boot for it to qualify as the only car in the house. Dial in the fact that it costs nearly a lakh more than the Venue, and it becomes hard to recommend.
And that’s because the Venue doesn’t particularly lag behind the XUV300. Sure, the cabin experience isn’t as plush, and it could do with some more space at the rear too. But other than that, it has the XUV beaten — in terms of performance, boot space and most importantly, value for money. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d look forward to at this price point too. So, if you wanted a small SUV for the city that was fun, loaded and comfortable for the family - it’s the Venue you should be picking.
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