Hyundai completes its fleet of SUVs with new subcompact Venue

By Paul Borden

(February 26, 2020) Hyundai has rounded out its portfolio of SUVs and crossovers with the 2020 Venue. As a subcompact, it is the smallest of the South Korean automakers SUV fleet that includes the Kona and Kona Electric, Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade, and the hydrogen fuel-cell NEXO, but it punches way above its weight with a long list of features not usually found in its class.

Miami media got a look at it at a special preview luncheon in January and more time in the Venue recently essentially confirmed what they had to say. See earlier story.

This is a ideal vehicle for an urban environment with all the traffic and parking ills that come with that, and it is a vehicle that is suited for young singles and families with a particular appeal to first-time new-car buyers as well as “empty-nesters” looking for something with outside-the-box styling and lots of safety and convenience features.

It comes in three trim levels starting with the base SE (starting MSRP $17,350). The SEL version ($19,250) not only adds more standard features but also accommodates such options as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, push-button start, heated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen display with navigation, all features that are mostly standard on the top-of-the-line Denim model ($22,050).

All Venues are front-wheel drive and have a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine (121 horsepower, 113 pound-feet of torque) under the hood. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE, and the SEL and Denim trims get what Hyundai calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission that is a nice take on a CVT.

Fuel economy with the manual is 27 miles-per-gallon city, 35 highway and 30 combined. EPA numbers for the IVT are 30/34/32.

This review is based on the SEL that in addition to such standard equipment as Forward Collision Avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, driving modes that include a snow setting to go with normal, Eco, and sport, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel had such options as a sunroof, sliding armrest for the center console storage box, blind-spot warning, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels replacing the standard 15s, and the 8-inch touchscreen with navigation.

That ran the final total to $23,280 with the $1,095 destination and delivery charge added in.

Despite its subcompact designation, the Venue offers pretty good interior space for both passengers and their stuff. Those in the front get just over 41 inches of legroom while those in the back have a bit less at 34.3 inches.

The two-level floor in the back can be expanded to 18.7 cubic feet for storage with the rear seats in place and up to 31.9 cubic feet with those seats folded.

You can imagine with such modest horsepower and torque numbers the Venue is not a hot performer, but it was effective enough in my street and city expressway driving. Putting in Sport mode does liven up things. The IVT includes false shift points to simulate manual gear selection and has more the feel of a regular automatic transmission, not a tradition CVT.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: The Venue SEL comes with many features not usually found at this price level with many of them standard. Technological functions, and there are a surprising number of them on the upper trims (navigation, for example, is included on the top-of-the-line Denim models and all trims get Bluetooth hands-free phone with voice recognition as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) are easy to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: The engine could use some more punch, but the Intelligent Variable Transmission is a big improvement over past CVTs. If you don’t like it, a 6-speed manual is standard. All-wheel drive is not offered.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL? Actually, the first real new car I bought years ago was a model very much like the Venue, so the answer has to be yes. My new car obviously didn’t have nearly the features of the new modern Venue but was a small wagon that was very adaptable for a small, growing family, just like the Venue. The Venue also is practical for empty-nesters as well.