The Hyundai Venue may be the simplest-to-describe new car of 2020. It is a two-row SUV with impeccable fit and finish, an engine and acceleration that help you avoid traffic tickets, virtually all the driver assists you want, and a price that lets you buy new rather than used. There are not many cars available for less than $20,000 with an 8-inch color LCD standard and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay built-in. But sorry, no CD player — in case, say, the parents visit and want to mellow out to their Air Supply disc.
Hyundai describes the buyer as a young “urban adventurer” because that’s so much nicer than saying “mixed FICO score.” The only downsides are no adaptive cruise control available and snug shoulder room sitting three abreast in back. It is impossible to pay more than $25,000 including sales tax and the computer and the paperwork fees dealers find so necessary. You don’t pay extra for roof rails or for the two-tone paint on the Denim edition (photo below), and you don’t pay extra for leather or all-wheel-drive because they’re not offered.
On the road, the Venue felt fine cruising southern Florida. The length, three inches less than a Honda Fit, made it effortless to navigate the crowded capital city of South America (Miami), the noise insulation made the ride pleasant on highways, and the air conditioning made it bearable for visiting Northerners admiring the humid Florida Keys — at least until we opened the doors to admire, but not sample, a Route 1 microbrewery and distillery on Islamorada. The interior is nicely done for the money. Still, window sill armrests are hard plastic with no padding, and there’s one seatback pocket, not two.
Enough Engine to Move You Down the Road
The engine is okay for everything other than passing on two-lane country roads; 0-60 times are around 10 seconds. Pro tip: Merging onto a crowded expressway at a short on-ramp, tromp the throttle and remember that 18-wheelers make it all the time. The engine delivers 121 hp (113 pound-feet of torque) through the continuously variable transmission available on all three trim lines; there’s a six-speed manual on the entry SE line and the $1,200 savings is how the base model costs just over $18,000. That and 15-inch steel wheels.
The rear suspension is a torsion beam, which is simple, elegant, workable, and takes up less space than a multi-link independent rear suspension. A console dial lets you adjust throttle response via Normal, Eco and Snow settings; the Snow position keeps one wheel on ice from spinning and taking traction away from the wheel on snow or dryish pavement. The modes have no effect on steering effort.
Hyundai is proud of the wide ratio of its CVT (IVT, or “intelligent variable transmission”), about 7:1, and notes it’s less complex than Toyota’s CVT that uses a mechanical first gear before handing off to the CVT. Toyota makes a good counterpoint that quickstarts are where most owners notice slippage of slow response from the CVT’s drive belt. Hyundai says it has a metal chain not a metal belt in the CVT and believes it has resolved any rubber-banding issue. It also helps that a 121-hp engine doesn’t make heavy demands on the transmission. It’s rated at 30 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 32 mpg combined (27/35/30 for the manual). In a day of driving mostly highway miles, we got 36 mpg.
Hyundai Venue Models
You could think of the Venue as a Hyundai Kona Lite since both are subcompact SUV/crossover vehicles. It’s a little more complicated: They’re built on different platforms. The Venue is more a replacement of sorts for the Hyundai Accent hatchback that went away in 2018 when the Gen 5 Accent arrived. The Kona is a premium-feel low-cost SUV and the entry model goes for $2,750 more than the base Venue SE. Add a turbo, all-wheel-drive, leather upholstery, and a head-up display and you hit $30K.
The Venue does give every buyer a very good standard safety package built around a forward-facing camera:
- Forward collision-avoidance assist (FCA-Ped) with Pedestrian Detection – warning of cars ahead, pedestrians, and braking to avoid collisions or at least reduce the severity
- Lane keep assist (LKA) – incorporating departure warning, also tugs at the wheel to pull the car back from lane edge
- Driver attention warning (DAW) – drowsy driver warning
Where the Kona has five trim lines, the Venue makes do with three:
Venue SE, $18,470 manual / $19,670 CVT, including a healthy $1,12 freight charge. How is it so affordable? You get 15-inch steel wheels riding on tall-sidewall 185/65R15 tires, and that is not a bad thing when so many roads have potholes. Rear brakes are drum, not disc; there are no roof rails; there’s one, not two USB jacks; there are just four speakers, and you have to hold the electric window winder button down to slide it all the way closed. Those go away on the other trim lines. Other than paint color and transmission, there are no options. But it does have HD radio (not satellite), a 3.5-inch LCD in the instrument cluster, the 8-inch center stack display, an engine with continuously variable valve timing (CVVT), and high-strength steel in places where needed.
Venue SEL, $20,370. The $700 upcharge makes the SEL the right choice unless you really want the stick shift. You get rear disc brakes, roof rails, automatic HVAC temperature controls, six speakers, and the two charging ports, both in the center stack upfront.
There are two SEL-only packages:
- SEL Convenience package, $1,150. Blindspot detection/rear cross-traffic alert, power sunroof, sliding armrest, and (small) storage box.
- SEL Premium package, $1,750, requires Convenience package. Onboard navigation, satellite radio, telematics (Hyundai Blue Link), heated front seats/side mirrors, LED headlamps/taillamps/running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/55R17 tires, and proximity key/pushbutton start.
Venue Denim, $23,170. The Denim has blue paint and a white roof, blue denim-like upholstery, and the SEL Convenience/Premium features except for the sunroof. There are zero options or paint colors to choose from.
Should You Buy?
Hyundai is on a roll: The Sonata sedan is the ExtremeTech Car of the Year. The Sonata and Palisade SUV were finalists for the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) Award. Hyundai hasn’t brought out a bad car in years.
If you want a sub-subcompact SUV that is affordable, and if you want new, the 2020 Hyundai Venue is your best choice. The competition includes the Nissan Kicks and Ford EcoSport as primary competitors, plus the Chevrolet Trax, Honda Fit or HR-V, Kia Soul, Toyota C-HR, and Jeep Renegade. You should definitely cross-shop the Kicks, which also is front-drive only and has been out since the 2018 model year. Several others are closer to 170 inches long, with higher prices than the Venue.
The Venue and Kona are within a half-inch on most interior dimensions. The Venue’s rear-seat legroom of 34.3 inches is reasonable for such a small car. Total interior volume is pretty good at 110.6 cubic feet (Kona has 113.3 cubic feet), really good for something just over 13 feet long.
We’d recommend the Venue SEL with at least the Convenience package to get blind-spot detection. That’s a $21,520 car or a $330 lease payment (36 months, 12,000 miles per year, $2,000 down, 700 FICO score).
At the same time, you can find a year-old Kona SEL, all-wheel-drive with about 12,000 miles and a CPO warranty for $19,000-$20,000, less with no CPO or more miles. Hyundais have a 5-year/60,000 mile warranty (10/100 on the powertrain) so it still has more warranty left than most 3/36 new cars.
Our bottom line on the 2020 Hyundai Venue: This is the best car if you want an urban-small, $20,000 more-or-less SUV with reasonable space inside (great space for 159 inches in length), excellent core safety features, and a large standard center stack LCD that connects to Apple or Android phones. If you believe you need all-wheel-drive, you’ll probably do just as well with winter tires and wheels ($750-$1,000). If you need adaptive cruise control, you want the Kona. Nonetheless, Hyundai did an amazing job putting that much tech into a $20,000 car.
- 2018 Nissan Kicks Car Review: Affordable Subcompact SUV for 4 Adults
- 2018 Hyundai Kona Review: Standout New Subcompact SUV
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