Hyundai calls its all-new 2020 Venue crossover an “urban compact SUV.” Translation from PR-speak to English: it’s small, it’s stylish, and you should probably keep it on the pavement. The entry-level, subcompact Venue slots below the Kona; compared to that award-winning crossover, it’s five inches shorter, has 54 fewer horsepower and starts about $3,000 cheaper, at a little under $17,000. It’s targeted at the Venue’s two main demographics: young people and women.
I drove the top-tier Denim trim of the Hyundai Venue for a few days. Like other recent Hyundai/Kia offerings, the Venue feels more expensive than it is, thanks to smart decisions with regard to styling, technology and design. It has greater panache and personality than a car so cheap should.
But the Venue driving experience offers little in the way of dynamism, however. And if you’re hell-bent on buying a small Hyundai crossover, the Kona offers a lot more car for not much more money. Besides, in this price range, there’s ample value in the modestly used market.
The Hyundai Venue’s Denim trim is stylish
When the Venue arrived, my wife looked out the window and asked, “Did you get a Mini?” Consider that a complement: that’s the swanky, urban-centric small-car idea Hyundai was going for. The Denim trim may sound like the garish 1970s Levi’s edition Jeep CJs, but it’s far more upscale.
The exterior is dark blue with a white-painted roof, while the blue interior is color-matched down to the plastic switches, with attractive blue leatherette and denim seats. It goes a long way with cheap materials. (Ward has named the Venue one of its 10 best car interiors for 2020, alongside vehicles that cost more than 10 times as much.)
Hyundai made some smart design choices
The Venue offers a surprising amount of vertical room. I’m 5’11” and the roof was quite a few inches above my head. Like high ceilings in a house, it makes the small footprint cabin seem less cramped.
Hyundai also included a few creature comforts: a legitimate touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats, some active driver safety tech, automatic climate control — all of which makes it feel more like a modern, well-appointed car rather than a budget econobox. A prominent grille makes the Venue read as more sophisticated than quirky and Kia Soul-like, as well.
Alas, the Venue is nicer to look at than to drive
A car this cheap has to make sacrifices somewhere, and Hyundai chose the driving experience. The old adage says you appreciate something more if you work for it; after driving the 121-hp Venue, I now appreciate the marvel of traveling 45 mph through space in an internal combustion vehicle.
The Venue has a bit of spunk accelerating up to about 30 mph, which is fine for city streets. But achieving any speed beyond that becomes a loud and laborious process. My normal drive route begins with a left turn up a slight hill on a 40-mph road. The Venue groaned, whirred, and struggled to reach the speed limit.
In addition, with light steering and almost no road feedback, you wind up experiencing an unnerving floating feeling behind the wheel while driving. The Venue will get you from A to B, but not in a particularly pleasant fashion.
Price as Tested: $23,305
Drivetrain: 1.6-liter inline-four, CVT, front-wheel-drive
Power: 121 hp, 113 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 30 city, 34 highway
Hyundai provided this product for review.
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