2021 Hyundai Venue Denim Review by Ben Lewis

When we first tested the Hyundai Venue, we commented on how the small affordable SUV, with models like the Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V had come of age. Wow, with the rise in prices everywhere, the bulging gas bills, etc.…we feel like we should have been on the psychic network.

So, it felt like a good time to look again at one of the best small vehicles for the buck, the Hyundai Venue crossover/SUV.

Style to Make You Smile

The Venue first strikes you with its size. 5 inches shorter than the Kona crossover, it looks perfect for duking it out in the urban jungle where parking spaces can be small and hard to come by. Up front it serves up a rugged vibe, with a cascading grille with a chain-link design, LED headlights and round fogs. Our top-of-the-line Denim model also showed off a silver-tone lower fascia with white patterned inset panels that really pop.

The profile really pops as well, with a two-tone design that features a white roof, mirror covers and accents on the plastic over fenders on top of a rich, deep blue/gray that Hyundai calls Denim. It’s also a chunky and tough design with pronounced fender flares and lower panel cut-ins, while the aggressive 17-inch alloys add to the sporty look.

At the rear, you catch the white roof as it integrates a small spoiler, while VENUE spelled out in big block letters keeps things modern. Rear horizontal LED taillights, and a metal tone lower fascia brightens things up. It all creates a look that is not only fresh, but despite this being one of Hyundai’s lowest priced vehicles, the Denim looks quite upscale. Nothing wrong with that.

It Wears the Denim Well

Inside, the Venue looks equally stylish and upscale.

Open the door and you’re immediately impressed by the amount of room – it’s bright, open and spacious with large windows giving great visibility. The Denim features a two-one effect with darker trim on top, and. A lighter color underneath and on the center console that also brightens the interior up and creates an expensive look. It reminds us of the 3-row Telluride SUV, just on a smaller scale. Not bad company!

We love the stitched design on the Denim seats, and the front seats are large and comfortable. The rear seats are comfy too, but short on legroom, those in front will have to scootch up to make room. If you need more space, the slightly more expensive Hyundai Kona may be a better choice. The Venue’s cargo hold is plentiful with the rear seats up, and impressive with the rears down.

You won’t feel left out from the driver’s seat. Along with those comfy seats are large chrono-style gauges, a 3.5-inch, driver info display, and a nice leather wrapped steering wheel.

On the center console is a large-tablet style 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius XM and Navigation. We found the Hyundai/Kia info-tainment interface one of the best, with easy connectivity and minimum of fuss.

Our WAZE app looked great on the screen, and we love the “tube” design for the radio display. The Audio system even features environmental soundscapes from a crackling fireplace to a bustling café. Impress your friends!

Zippy Runabout

Driving the Venue lets you enjoy the city-sized dimensions to the fullest. Powering the little SUV is a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder, pumping out 121 horsepower and 113 lb.-ft of torque – not a lot, but for a front-wheel drive only vehicle with relatively light weight, it’s more than adequate.

This is also one of the better CVT transmissions we’ve driven on a smaller engine vehicle, with none of the droning, laggy responses we’ve found on the competition. Acting like a regular automatic, it is quick to respond.

Even better, put the Drive Mode in Sport (there’s also Normal and Snow modes)  and it responds quickly to the gas, and you can hand shift the lever for some  added driving fun and enhanced around-town acceleration. The tall driving position and excellent visibility make navigating the urban jungle and tight parking spaces even easier.

Freeway merging is reasonable and once you get up to cruising speed, the Venue is impressively quiet. The ride is also good, but with the small wheelbase you learn to be gentle with the steering wheel, otherwise it’s too easy to weave around. A light touch is best. Around town we averaged a solid 28 mpg, and we think hitting the 33 EPA highway estimate would be easily attainable.

While the Venue is a value player, it’s a safe one, too. All models feature Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Assist and Driver Attention Warning. Upper-level models like our tester included Blind Spot Collision Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning as well – worth the extra money in our book The only thing we missed was adaptive cruise control, but the regular cruise worked fine. Modern problems…

Can I use Venmo to get my Venue?

Well, probably. It certainly is affordable. You can get a 2021 model Venue SE for just $18,750. We would pop at least for the SEL model at $19,800 – you get added safety, more features, and can opt for available Premium Package that offers everything from LED exterior lights to 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and a power sunroof. (By the way, power sunroof is not available on the Denim model.)

Our Denim tester started at $22,050, and with no options and $1,185 for destination, rang the bell at $23,235. That’s for the top-of-the-line model! Not bad at all.

All in all the Venue is a bit of a bargain. While most carmakers offer a competitor, they tend to be pricier. A loaded Nissan Kicks SR comes in at $24,975, and it’s also a fun and stylish choice. The Toyota C-HR XLE would be $25,810 and it does feature a more powerful engine, but you’ll trade off a little functionality for some coupe-like style.

And if you like Hyundai’s great 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, but want a little more space, we’d look at the larger Kona, with a comparable SEL model coming in at $24,745.

Great looks, great value, efficient and well-equipped, the Hyundai Venue remains one our favorite small crossover vehicles!