2020 Hyundai Venue

MIAMI — The auto industry is always riding the wave of change especially when it comes to the car buying public and their insatiable appetite for crossover utility vehicles. And, here’s a brand new one, the entry-level Hyundai Venue. With it, the South Korean brand is chasing after younger buyers, enticing them to buy a new car with a roomy interior, advanced safety features and a great warranty all for about what you’d spend for a three- or four-year-old Toyota or Honda.

Of the over 41 million used car buyers in the U.S. last year, Hyundai says about a third of them shopped for a new car but couldn’t find something affordable. The Venue was specifically designed to meet that need and fill the gap.

It has a starting price of just $17,350 for an SE with a six-speed manual transmission, and goes up to $22,050 for the well-equipped SEL, before a $1,095 destination charge. We drove the Denim Edition that comes standard with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), larger wheels, a denim blue exterior color with a contrasting white roof, white side mirrors and blue interior upholstery that looks like a classic pair of Levi Jeans. A perfect combination for fun-fashion youth who still care about style and practicality. The overall look is fresh, stylish and nicely designed.

Size wise, the Venue slots below the similarly small Hyundai Kona crossover, and shares the same platform that also underpins the Accent. At just 159 inches long, the Venue is one of the shortest vehicles on sale today, but we found interior space surprisingly ample with easily enough leg, hip, head and shoulder room even for this 6-foot 6-inch journalist. True, rear seat passengers won’t be able to stretch their legs out, but they won’t feel cramped either.

Under the hood is an all-new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. Venue is front-drive only, with no future plans for AWD. While 121 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, it also did not disappoint over our full day of driving from Miami to the Florida Keys. While there were no hills to negotiate, we were impressed with its maneuverability, ample visibility, and ease of driving. Road noise was minimal, braking competent. There are three drive modes including one called Snow that allows increased wheel spin for maximum traction.

Safety features are important for all vehicles, and especially smaller ones. Hyundai has made over 70 percent of the structure with advanced high-strength steel and other high-strength materials. All trim levels come standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.

Our Denim trim level comes with standard blind spot warning, which isn’t available on the entry-level SE. On the SEL, it’s bundled with other convenience features, such as sunroof and leather-wrapped steering wheel in a $1,150 Convenience Package. Additionally, ordering the SEL with the $1,750 Premium Package — which includes heated seats and side-view mirrors and a proximity key with push-button start — also requires ordering the Convenience Package.

We especially liked the Venue’s operating controls that were intuitive, well laid out and easy to read. There are big knobs for controlling and adjusting the heating, ventilating and air conditioning – ditto for the infotainment controls. An eight-inch touch screen located in the middle of the instrument panel between two air vents is also easy to use, and pairs with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Know that those wanting built-in navigation with real-time traffic updates will need to opt for the SEL or Denim trim. Still, you can opt to pair your smartphone and connect via Bluetooth and use the navigation program on your phone that displays on the eight-inch touch screen. It’s what we did and it worked perfectly.

The Venue is the least expensive crossover in America with the SE trim level. But it’s a manual transmission only and not equipped with a lot of extra features. We think the best choice is the Denim that includes all the extras most drivers will want; but it does not come with a Sunroof, nor is it offered as an option. For that you will need to choose the SEL.

Bottom line, I didn’t just like the Venue, I loved it. We spent a full day driving a lot of miles and never tired of or got annoyed by anything in the vehicle. To be sure, it isn’t the most exciting car I’ve driven, nor is it the best, but it’s just so easy to live with.

If you’re considering buying a used car for yourself or a new driver in the family, I strongly suggest test driving and considering the Venue. The MSRP is excellent, it’s loaded with standard safety features, there’s Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain and 5-year comprehensive warranty, and we beat the combined 32 mpg fuel economy by almost 5 mpg during our full day of testing. You’re getting a lot for your money and it looks pretty fantastic too.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $18,445 - $23,145
Price as Tested: $23,180
Engine/Transmission: 121-horsepower, four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)
Fuel Economy: 30/34/32 mpg City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Up to 5

Crash Test Ratings: Nether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute has not yet crash tested Hyundai Venue for Highway Safety (IIHS) as of this writing

Where Built: Ulsan South Korea

Competes With:
Chevrolet Trax
Ford EcoSport
Honda HR-V
Hyundai Kona
Jeep Renegade
Kia Soul
Mazda CX-3
Nissan Kicks

Fab Features
Excellent affordability and value
Surprisingly roomy
Impressive agility and driving characteristics

— Jim Prueter