Driven: 2020 Hyundai Venue
  • Car Review

Driven: 2020 Hyundai Venue

By Chris Teague | January 17, 2020

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yep!
Price range: $18,470 - $23,170, including destination but before options

Key takeaways

  • The Venue is a brand-new model for Hyundai in 2020.

  • A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but an “intelligent” CVT is optional.

  • One engine is available for all models.

  • An eight-inch touchscreen is standard, and as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

  • The Venue comes in front-wheel drive only, but it does have different drive modes for traction in bad weather or on rougher terrain.

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What is it?

The Hyundai Venue is brand new for the 2020 model year. As a subcompact crossover, it competes in a crowded segment that includes the Nissan Kicks, Toyota CH-R, and Honda HR-V.

The lineup is powered by a single engine: A 1.6-liter dual-port injection four-cylinder that comes paired with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. Buyers can upgrade to a continuously variable transmission with unique software that helps it shift and behave much more like a normal automatic gearbox.

The Venue comes in three trims: SE, SEL, and Denim.

Within the Hyundai lineup, the Venue is the smallest crossover, sitting below the Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Santa Fe XL, and Palisade in size and pricing.

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Hyundai says that the Venue is designed for young urban professionals that want to shop for a new car but have a limited budget. Its starting price of just $17,350 includes a long list of standard tech and comfort features, and the vehicle can be equipped with several advanced driver assistance features (ADAS).

The crossover is also capable of using Hyundai’s BlueLink feature, which allows owners to remotely start, lock, and interact with their Venues from a smartphone.

What’s good?

TLDR: The new Hyundai Venue packs strong value, handsome styling, and a comfortable ride into a tide subcompact package.

Value: Though Hyundai and Kia have spent a large chunk of the last two decades trying to shed their budget car images, the Venue shows the brands’ strengths in the affordable car arena. With a starting price of $17,350 before destination, the Venue has a strong warranty and a decent list of standard features that make it an appealing choice for someone on the fence between a new and used vehicle.

Handsome: Styling is subjective, but Hyundai gave the Venue a grown-up design that mirrors the brand’s flagship SUVs like the Palisade. A large grille and the upright profile make the tiny crossover appear sophisticated and more imposing than it actually is, and the rectangular LED running lights are reminiscent of the Kia Telluride’s lighting.

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Comfort: The Venue is small enough that it’s as much of a lifted hatchback as it is an actual crossover. That’s ok, though, because inside there’s enough room for four people, though the front seat passengers get the best seats in the house. The front buckets are wide and well-padded, though better lumbar support and a few more degrees of adjustment for the seat bottom would help a wider variety of drivers find their ideal driving position.

What’s bad?

TLDR: The Venue’s great fuel economy comes at the expense of power, it’s noisy on the highway, and the driver assistance systems can be aggressive at times.

Underpowered: The Venue is wonderfully fuel-efficient, but the benefits of being a fuel sipper come at the expense of power. The 1.6-liter engine makes 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t enough for the Venue, despite its small size.

Getting up to highway speeds and passing both take a bit of extra planning, as the Venue isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. We tested the CVT models and did not have an opportunity to test the 6-speed manual model, which may help improve acceleration a little.

Noisy: Cabin noise, especially on the highway, is very noticeable in the Venue. Gaps and imperfections in the pavement make themselves known, and wind noises are front and center at higher speeds. Around town and at low speeds, the sound level is much more tolerable. The Venue’s engine also makes a lot of noise under full throttle without doing much actual acceleration.

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Electronic nannies: The benefits of having driver aids far outweighs and adjustment periods or annoyances with using them, but the lane-keeping assist system in the Venue can catch drivers off guard if they aren’t expecting it. On curvy portions of the road, like a highway off-ramp, the system will attempt to correct the steering wheel, no matter the speed of the vehicle. This can make it feel like the car is trying to steer itself off the road when in reality it’s just trying to stay between the lines. This is more of an annoyance than an actual danger, but the aggressiveness of the steering correction can be frightening if the driver is not aware that it’s coming.

5 stars of execution

Safety Features? YES

  • The Venue’s strong list of standard advanced safety features makes it worth a look on its own. They include forward-collision warnings, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and a driver attention warning.

  • Higher trims come with blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and LED lighting for better visibility.

  • The most prominent gripe about safety features in the Venue is the aggressive lane-keep assist system.

  • The Venue has not yet been rated by the IIHS or NHTSA.

Value? YES

  • The Venue’s starting price of $17,350 brings with it a long list of standard tech, comfort, and safety features.

  • Hyundai’s starting prices undercut those from Nissan, Toyota, and Honda, while offering a similar list of features.

  • This value should help the Venue lure in buyers who were thinking they couldn’t afford a new car and had to buy used.

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Efficiency? YES

  • Hyundai claims fuel economy ratings of 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined for the SE model and 30/34/32 mpg city/highway/combined for the SEL and Denim models.

  • Those figures are higher than many of the Venue’s subcompact crossover competitors.

  • No hybrid or plug-in hybrid variants are available right now.

Driving experience? No

  • As an urban commuter, the Venue is perfect, but the driving experience is not a memorable one.

  • The 1.6-liter engine has to work hard to get the Venue up to speed.

  • The good news is that the Venue’s CVT transmission feels and behaves more predictably than a standard CVT, and avoids all of the whining, droning sounds that typically come from the gearboxes.

Execution? YES

  • The Venue’s interior and exterior finishes are excellent, especially considering the price.

  • Interior styling is attractive, and most controls, buttons, and functions are placed well within reach of the driver.

  • Overall, it’s a well-thought-out entrant in the subcompact crossover space, one that will appeal to a wide variety of shoppers.

Total Rating: 4 stars

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What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Hyundai Venue SE starts at $18,470 after a $1,120 destination/freight charge, and comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, 15-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth, an 8-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, steering-wheel controls, folding rear seats, automatic headlights, power windows and door locks, forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, a driver-attention warning system, a rearview monitor, and a four-speaker audio system.

The Venue SE can be upgraded to an automatic/IVT transmission for $1,200.

The Venue SEL has a starting price of $19,670 after the $1,120 destination charge, and comes standard with the CVT transmission, selectable driving modes, automatic climate controls, dual USB ports, a center console with armrest, roof rails, and a six-speaker sound system.

A convenience package is available for $1,150 that includes a power sunroof, sliding center armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.

A Premium Package is available that comes with LED headlights and running lights, LED taillights, 17-inch wheels, a proximity key with push-button start, a navigation system, and Hyundai Blue Link.

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The Venue Denim starts at $23,170 after the $1,120 destination fee, and comes with an exclusive Denim paint color, contrasting white roof paint, upgraded interior fabrics with leatherette accents, and a sunroof delete.

The Denim trim’s paint and interior colors are attractive and upscale, but if it were our money, we’d buy the SEL trim with an added Premium Package. This brings all of the safety features and adds a sunroof, while avoiding the Denim’s price bump.

Also consider:

The subcompact crossover segment is as hot as it gets right now, as every major automaker has dipped their toe into the water in the past few years.

The Toyota CH-R is a funky but popular crossover that comes in front-wheel-drive only, just like the Venue. Its back seat and cargo space are cramped, but its expected reliability is excellent and the driving experience is lively and engaging.

The Honda HR-V packs in great cargo space, comfortable seats, and is one of the only vehicles in the segment with available all-wheel drive. It is pricier than the Venue by at least $3,000 in the lowest trim level.

The Nissan Kicks packs attractive styling and an engaging driving experience into a very small package. It’s also got stellar fuel economy ratings, hitting 36 mpg on the highway. The Kicks’ price tag is slightly higher than the Venue’s starting at around $19,000.

We'd avoid others in the segment, like the Ford EcoSport, which are built on aging platforms and need a tech overhaul.