2020 Hyundai Venue Road Test Review by Ben Lewis

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Review

Here’s a term you don’t here that much anymore. Basic transportation. You probably remember them, usually a small car, no frills, no thrills, just get me to work (or school) and back. Thrifty and reliable.

Well, those don’t really exist anymore. Part of that is good – comprehensive safety is becoming standard equipment on just about all vehicles. And with almost everyone using a smartphone, connectivity is important. And oh yeah, might as well make it a small SUV/Crossover – versatility and practicality won’t take a back seat anymore.

So that’s opened the door for a class of vehicles that are extremely popular, with big name entries like the Toyota C-HR and the Honda HR-V and the newest one is the Hyundai Venue. And while it is affordable, It’s pretty amazing what you get for your hard-earned dollar.

Venue Exterior – City Stylish

No penalty box here – this is a great looking little vehicle. And it is compact, 5 inches shorter than the Kona crossover, an inch narrower, but half an inch taller. It’s loaded with attitude, too, with Hyundai’s new cascading grille – that wouldn’t look out of place as chainmail for a medieval knight – squinty LED headlights, and cube-shaped fogs.

Large wheel arches frame aggressive optional 17-inch alloys, while flared fenders and a strong character line give a handsome profile. The contoured rear hatch rear hatch is large, and the character line plus VENUE spelled out in big block letters says this is no shrinking violet.

Our tester was finished in a conservative Steller Silver, but with bold colors including Scarlet Red Pearl, Green Apple and Denim, there’s sure to be something to suit any taste.

One thing we really liked was the detailing – the black plastic panels on the exterior that could have been done in plain stamping has interesting designs that give it a sense of depth and quality.

Venue Interior – Comfy and Classy

That detailing carries through to the interior. There’s cool stuff like stitching on the seats, pebbly finish on the vinyls, metallic-tone trim. The design isn’t trying hard to be super-stylish, but it looks modern, clean and well thought-out. It feels upscale.

If feels good, too. The seats are large and supportive up front and there’s plenty of passenger room in back. There’s a surprising amount of cargo space with the rear seat up – almost as much as the larger Kona. Folded down, you have loads of room – but the larger Kona offers a significant amount more – If you’re planning to carry big loads, you might want to compare them.

We love the gauge package, that has a chronometer feel, with a handy 3.5-inch TFT display in between. All Venue models have a large 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Sirius XM standard. Even dual USB’s for your charging needs.

SEL models like our tester add pushbutton ignition and automatic climate control and our nicely optioned tester also added navigation, an upgraded 6-speaker audio system. leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter and a large sunroof the makes the cabin feel light and airy. And this is Hyundai’s entry-level crossover! Impressive.

Venue Performance – City Spirited

Looks good inside and out, how does it drive? While it’s no turbo Kona, it is actually a lot of fun – especially around town. Under the hood is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder producing 121 hp and 113 lb.-ft of torque. Not a lot, but this isn’t a very heavy vehicle. And for those wanting all-wheel-drive, sorry not available.

It’s a responsive little engine, and on the SEL it comes standard with a CVT transmission. And it’s a surprisingly sporty combo – this is one of the best CVT’s we’ve driven, and you might not even know it’s a CVT, it feels like a regular auto. Even better, in Sport mode, it’s lively and you can hand-shift the automatic for more fun. Most Venue buyers probably are not all that interested in sportiness, but we’re thankful. In our around-town pedal mashing we even averaged 28 mpg.  We think you’d be able to hit the 34 EPA highway estimate if you drive reasonably.

The ride and handling are great around town, the small size and responsive steering make for a slice-n-dice through traffic, and the high seating position and excellent visibility are your friend. The ride is a good blend of not too harsh, not to soft – just right.

This changes on the freeway, though. The Venue is not as happy on the super slab as the modern metropolis. The quick responses on the street become a little nervous at higher speeds, and 121 hp is only going to take you so far. Best for city, and maybe only the occasional longer trip.

You won’t be nervous about your protection – With Hyundai’s Smart Sense, standard safety is excellent. Every Venue features Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Warning. Our tester also had the Blind Spot Collision Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning. All super useful stuff, especially in a crowded urban environment.

What Kind of Revenue to own a Venue?

With all the goodies you get, we think the pricing is excellent. The SE model starts at $17,350, and you get the safety goodies, the 8-touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a thrifty 6-speed manual transmission and Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Plus, now they’re throwing in 3-years/36,000-mile complimentary maintenance. It’s a vehicle that you could plan to keep a long time and should be cheap to feed and service. And there’s really nothing basic about it.

Our SEL tester starts at $19,250 and you get some nice bumps, including standard CVT automatic, Drive Mode Select with Snow Mode, rear disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels and auto temp control. Our tester was loaded up with the Convenience Package ($1,150) that gives a power sunroof, sliding armrest, leather wrapped wheel and shift knob and the extra safety features mentioned above.

We also enjoyed the Premium Package ($1,750) which adds heated front seats LED lights all around, 17-inch alloy wheels, proximity key with pushbutton start, 8-inch color touch screen with navigation, heated mirrors, and Blue Link connected car system. All totaled we rang the bell at $22,270. 

There is a Denim Edition above the SEL, starting at $22,050 with an exclusive Denim interior with leatherette, Denim exterior with white roof – otherwise it’s the same as the SEL. Decide how much you want Denim..

Competition would include the Nissan Kicks, the SR model we tested came in at $22,125, and it’s also fun to drive and a tech powerhouse. We’d say either one is an excellent choice – the Hyundai’s warranty could be the tie-breaker. If you could be swayed into a hatchback car, the Honda Fit would be worth a look, at $21,175, it’s also a great city car, but you lose a bit of the visibility/practicality the crossovers bring.

We’d also look at the Venue’s sibling the Kona. A nicely equipped SEL model comes in at around $23,000, and it’s more powerful, a bit larger, more stylish and if you want, all-wheel-drive is an option.

Frills, thrills, safe, thrifty and reliable, the 2020 Hyundai Venue takes entry-level to an entirely new level!