The Hyundai Venue is a new-for-2020 subcompact crossover. It's about 5 inches shorter than Hyundai's already small Kona and seats five in a traditional 4-door wagon body style. Like a lot of today's ultra-small crossovers, Venue is only offered with front-wheel drive. Competitors include the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Kia Sletos, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota CH-R.
Venue is offered in SE, SEL and Denim trim with pricing ranging from $18,750 - $22,050 -- making it one of the lowest priced vehicles in the class. All get a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. It mates to either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic. As previously mentioned, the Venue is only offered with front-wheel drive and isn't recommended for off-roading or towing.
The SE includes auto headlights, 15-inch wheels, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and lane-keeping assist. The SEL adds alloy wheels, center armrest with storage box, upgraded audio system blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and auto climate control. The Denim adds to the SEL LED headlights, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and push-button start, two-tone paint and simulated leather seating surfaces. Also offered is a Premium Package on the SEL that adds most of the Denim features save the two-tone paint and upgraded seating surfaces.
Venue's normally aspirated 4-cylinder engine provides milquetoast performance. With just a driver aboard the engine/CVT combo will push (if that's the right word) the 2,700-pound hatchback from 0 to 60 MPH in about 9 seconds. Not terrible, but things slow dramatically when you add a couple more adults. Worse yet, stomp on the go pedal at highway speeds and the engine provides more noise than motivation. Even when in "Sport" mode, there's no getting around the fact that Venue is underpowered.
The continuously variable automatic mimics traditional stepped-gear automatic in that it has 6 pre-set ratios and "climbs" up through the gears as a traditional automatic would. In theory, it's a good idea, but in practice, the transmission seems like a slurring of the two and doesn't come off as crisp or polished. It's a novel idea that just comes across as half-baked.
Conversely, the engine does provide excellent fuel efficiency, with the automatic clocking in at 30 MPG city and 34 MPG highway -- according to the EPA. As you'd expect, the engine runs fine on regular-grade gasoline. Those numbers are impressive, but real-world economy can even be more impressive if you are able to hyper-mile a bit. Stay at 60 MPH on the highway and coast up to stoplights and it is easy to top 38 MPG combined. Impressive indeed.
Dynamically, Venue is set up to provide a comfortable ride. Something that's pretty impressive considering the short 99-inch wheelbase and somewhat high build. The suspension does an excellent job of soaking up road imperfections and there's none of the rough-road bounding that's so common among vehicles in this class. In fact, the ride belies Venue's diminutive dimensions so much that you might think you are in a much larger vehicle.
Conversely, the soft suspension and tall build are not very conducive to creating a sporty or athletic feeling from behind the wheel. The steering, though nicely weighted and fairly accurate, is somewhat slow to respond to input. Brakes have adequate stopping power but are prone to rear ABS activation in hard stops. Excessive body motions are also a problem on twisty roads or when suddenly changing lanes. Finally, the tiny tires don't have much dry-road grip.
Truth be told, there are few subcompact crossovers that don't have similar handling issues. One thing the Venue has going for it is size. It's extremely easy to park and maneuver, has a tight turning radius and is a breeze to drive in a crowded downtown area. Combine that with the absorbent suspension and you have the makings of a great urban-assault vehicle.
In hard acceleration, the small engine can be noisy. Thankfully, it cruises quietly. Tire noise is nicely muted, and, though there is a bit more wind noise than expected, the Venue is one of the quieter vehicles in the class.
Venue is one of the least expensive vehicles in the segment and with that low price comes sturdy-but-budget interior fittings. The design itself is quite good, with excellent functionality and a pleasing control layout. Unfortunately, there's just too much hard plastic and not enough padding in key areas like the armrests. It's no worse than in many competitors, but definitely not up to the quality found in the class leading Mazda CX-30. Then again, the Venue costs thousands less.
Driver's face a traditional dual-dial setup with a small central information screen. With white-on-black markings, the gauges are easy to read day or night. One interesting tidbit though, the speedo has 10 MPH increments until 40 MPH and then jumps to 20 MPH increments after that. It's unique to say the least and, Hyundai claims, it is designed to give driver's more accurate readings at speeds they drive the most. The center stack has a crisp 8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system that offers standard Android Auto and Apple Car Play support. Beneath are traditional buttons and dials for the radio and HVAC systems. All-in-all it's as simple and straightforward as you can get.
Speaking of infotainment, Hyundai's system is perhaps the best overall in the business. It's easy to use, powerful if you are looking to customize and doesn't distract from the overall driving experience. Another plus are all the standard safety features. You wonder how automakers like Hyundai can make Android Auto, Apple Car Play, forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist standard on a vehicle costing less than $19,000 while luxury brands charge extra on vehicles costing $45,000 or more.
Speaking of size, Venue is small, really small. It's hard to get it into perspective, but it's substantially smaller than most other offerings in the class. You'd think that means interior space is at a premium, but that's only partly true. The front seats offer good head and leg room and the rear seats have good adult space but are short on knee space. Entry and exit are a breeze thanks to the tall doors and low step in and outward visibility is exceptional. Interior cost cutting continues to the front seats which are thinly padded and offer modest support. They are comfortable enough to short trips, but can grow tiresome on longer jaunts.
Being a crossover, you'd expect Venue to offer at least passable cargo space ... and it does. Seats up there's 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Fold the 60/40-split rears and that volume grows to an unsensational 32 cubic feet. Interior storage is great for the class with lots of open and covered bins throughout and a large, for the class, glove box.
Bottom Line -- Hyundai didn't need Venue; it already had a credible player in the subcompact space with Kona. But what Venue does give Hyundai is an extremely affordable offering to lure first-time buyers and those on a very tight budget. Not only does Venue offer an exceptional value proposition it comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5 years of roadside assistance. In addition, Hyundai also throws in 3 years of free routine maintenance. Venue probably isn't the best highway cruiser in the class, but it can be an excellent driver for those in an urban environment and you just can't beat the price.