If you are afraid you can’t afford a brand-new SUV, Hyundai has news for you: Its all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue is not only the latest offering in the booming small-SUV segment, but it is also among the least expensive. In fact, the starting price is so low that at this week’s launch of the vehicle in Miami, Hyundai execs suggested that many consumers who thought they were destined to buy a used car would instead choose the Venue. Since three to five times as many consumers buy used cars as buy new cars, that seems to be a juicy audience.
At the same time, if you’re seeking a bargain in a brand-new crossover SUV that can be loaded with new-as-tomorrow tech, the Venue might be just what you are looking for. Like the Nissan Kicks with which it bears an uncanny resemblance, the Hyundai Venue doesn’t offer an all-wheel-drive option. But with that exception, it checks off just about every box a small SUV needs to check off. It is good-looking inside and out. It is chockfull of available electronic driving aids and safety equipment, and it will hold a more than reasonable amount of cargo in its compact footprint.
The new Venue presents its SUV credentials with its purposeful two-box body complete with roof rails. The front end is the Venue’s most distinctive angle. The grille has a distinct family resemblance to the substantially larger Hyundai Palisade SUV, and the Venue’s headlights are housed in pods separate from the turn signals and running lights. Despite the Venue’s low-cost, optional premium LED headlights with LED daytime running lights are available. In profile, the Venue shows off big wheel arches and a character line that carries through the bodysides all the way to the tail lamps. The top-of-the-line Denim edition features the Denim color (one of seven available) along with a contrasting white roof. Standard wheels are 15-inch steel, but 15- and 17-inch alloy wheels are also available to add more zing to the Venue’s thing.
When you slip behind the wheel of the Hyundai Venue for the first time you can tell it has been built “to a price,” but at the same time, you will probably be impressed with how attractive the interior is. Yes, there are expanses of hard plastic, but they are offset by well-upholstered seats, a 3.5-inch TFT-enhanced instrument cluster, and an 8-inch infotainment screen that looks like a tablet glued between two air vents in the center of the dash. In what has come to be Hyundai tradition, the controls are very easy to understand and use.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel features integrated audio and cruise controls, and the rearview camera system includes dynamic guidelines the better to keep you from backing into things you don’t want to back into. Some available convenience features that are unexpected at the Venue’s low price include proximity key with push-button start, heated front seats, and heated side-view mirrors. Power sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free capability, and automatic temperature controls are also available. The two overall color schemes for the Venue interior are black and gray.
The Venue makes the most of its small footprint with things like the standard 60/40 split, flat-folding rear seatback to maximize utility and flexibility. The cargo space includes rear cargo cover that can be stowed when not in use. The dual-level cargo floor enables the floor of the cargo area to line up with the backs of the folded rear seats or to be positioned lower to accommodate more cargo with the rear seats in use.
In a concerted effort to cater to younger buyers who crave connectivity, the Venue is filled with advanced technologies that hook you up. For example, it offers Blue Link integrations with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant that enable things like remote start via voice command from inside your home. The remote start with climate control has been enhanced to include the control of the rear defroster and heated side mirrors via both the Blue Link mobile app and MyHyundai.com. More conventional but still welcome is standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and they are accompanied by an infotainment system that features an 8-inch color Display Audio touchscreen system. While some inexpensive vehicles don’t offer dedicated navigation, the Venue does. It’s an available option on the mid-level SEL and standard on the top-level Denim, and the system includes free Real-Time Traffic provided via HD Radio.
Engine & Transmissions
If you get the impression the driving experience is not the center of attention with the Venue, you’re right. Driving the small SUV is pleasant enough, and the new 121-horsepower 1.6-liter dual-port injection 4-cylinder engine offers reasonable motive force, but Venue drivers are looking for utility over driving thrills. (And that’s probably a good thing.) The base Venue has a 6-speed manual transmission, but in other trim levels, the engine is paired with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) automatic. Hyundai engineered this version of a continuously variable transmission on its own, and it avoids some of the pain points of competitive CVTs. For the IVT-equipped Venues, the EPA estimated fuel economy is 30 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined, while it is 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined for the manual transmission model.
As we mentioned up front, the Venue is front-wheel-drive only, while many competitors offer optional all-wheel-drive, but the new Hyundai partially compensates for that with its optional multiple driving modes that include Normal, Sport, and Snow. The electronically adjusted traction tuning for snow moves torque between the left and right drive wheels to take better advantage of the available traction, giving some of the benefits of all-wheel-drive without the expense.
Electronic Driver Assistance & Safety Systems
It is de rigueur these days for manufacturers to provide a standard suite of electronic driver assistance systems. In the Hyundai Venue, the array includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warning. Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Collision Cross-Traffic Warning are optional extras. In addition, the Venue includes six airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioner with force limiters, tire pressure monitoring system, and vehicle stability management with traction control.
While there aren’t many direct competitors that share the Venue’s overall length and height, there are a growing number of vehicles in the small SUV segment, and Hyundai wants the Venue to be seen as the value choice. That is exemplified in the base Venue’s manufacturer’s suggested list price of $17,350 plus $1,120 destination charge. The top-of-the-line Denim trim has a suggested list of $22,050 plus destination. We suspect that if you are shopping in this class you can get most of what you want in the SEL trim with the convenience package at a list price of $20,400 plus $1,095 destination. The suggested list price for the base S trim level of the Nissan Kicks is $18,870 plus $1,095 destination charge.
The bottom line is this: If you are seeking a stylish small SUV at a price of about $20,000, the all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue could be a sweet deal for you. It has the interior space and cargo capacity of the Kicks in a slightly more compact package plus better warranty coverage than the Nissan.