2020 Hyundai Venue Test Drive

Ron Sessions | Jan 24, 2020

Introduction

2020 Hyundai Venue SUV front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue is the smallest member of the brand’s five-vehicle SUV lineup. Its mission is to provide affordable, maneuverable transportation for what Hyundai calls the urban, entrepreneurial lifestyle. Courtesy of a squared-off SUV shape and modestly raised roof, the Venue is a credible alternative to subcompact 4-door hatchback cars that some automakers are dropping from their lineups.

With a starting price well under $20,000, the Venue is Hyundai’s least expensive SUV. It provides entry-level buyers and others with limited funds or credit who might otherwise be perusing used car lots the chance to score a new vehicle with a warranty, the latest safety and infotainment technology and, of course, that new car smell. Hyundai says of the 41 million used vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, one-third of those buyers really wanted a new vehicle but couldn’t swing it.

The Venue competes with the Nissan Kicks, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, Chevrolet Trax, Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul.

Including the not unsubstantial $1,120 freight charge, the 2020 Hyundai Venue is available in $18,470 base SE, $20,370 mid-level SLE and $23,170 range-topping Denim trims.

For this review, I tested a Venue SEL equipped with a $1,150 Convenience package consisting of a power sunroof, sliding center armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter plus blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, and a $1,750 Premium package including 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation, proximity key, heated front seats, LED exterior lighting and Blue Link car connectivity. The total came to a very reasonable $23,270.

Styling and Design

2020 Hyundai Venue side profile styling and design

Photo: Ron Sessions

As SUVs go, the new Venue is small, with about the same footprint overall as a Honda Fit or Mini Cooper hardtop. It’s squared-off, though, and a little bit taller than the Mini or Fit, affording decent room inside for its overall size.

The Venue sports the same grille design as larger Hyundai SUVs. Available LED headlamps, tail lamps and running lamps (standard on Denim), blacked-out roof A- and B-pillars, lower body cladding and a reverse-Shark-fin C-pillar and roof spoiler give it some pizzaz while wide-spaced tail lamps accentuate the Venue’s width. Roof rails with 175-lb carrying capacity are standard on SEL and Denim trims.

While 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps are standard on the base SE model, the Venue looks best with the 17-inch alloy wheels standard on Denim and optional on SEL.

The business-casual Denim model features two-tone dark blue paint on the body with a contrasting white roof panel, mirror caps and cheeky wheel-lip fender spats.

Comfort and Cargo

2020 Hyundai Venue cargo space

Photo: Ron Sessions

A generous glass area, upright sides and a relatively tall roof deliver a surprising amount of spaciousness in a small package. How small? The Hyundai Venue is more than a foot shorter bumper to bumper than the brand’s smallest sedan, the Accent. It also has a shorter wheelbase than a Mini Cooper 4-door hardtop.

Up front, seat height is just a smidgeon taller than you’d find in a hatchback car. Big windows let the sun shine in and afford good outward visibility to all quarters. The seats themselves provide a good balance of comfort and support. In the SE and SEL, the seats are cloth covered while the Denim model gets cloth and faux-leather seat trim. All seats are manually operated and there are no lumbar adjustments, although the driver seat height can be adjusted. Heated front buckets are standard in Denim models and optional in SEL trim.

Available storage up front includes the usual glovebox and center console storage bin under the armrest as well as cup holders in the console and doors. An open bin ahead of the shifter accommodates phones and other trip detritus and keeps them close to USB and 12-volt power ports. Another storage shelf above the glovebox provides a handy place to place tollway tickets, parking-lot receipts and such.

Air conditioning is standard in the base SE model with automatic temperature control included in SEL and Denim models with a simple, tried-and-true three-knob control layout. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel with cruise control and remote audio controls is standard. Moving beyond the basics, a grippy leather-wrapped steering wheel and floor shifter handle are included in Denim models and optional with SEL trim. A power-operated sliding sunroof is optional in the SEL model only.

Standard convenience items include automatic headlamps with high-beam control, and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry. Pushbutton start is standard in the Denim and optional with SEL trim.

If there’s one clue that the Venue is Hyundai’s lowest-priced SUV, it’s the hard-plastic door armrests with no padding to rest bony elbows on long highway drives when arms get tired. The center console storage compartment, however, has a padded lid, so you can try resting your right elbow there on occasion and steering left-handed.

In back, the rear seat is accessed through generous-sized doors. The tallish roof affords decent rear seat headroom, nearly an inch more generous than that in the next-size-up Hyundai Kona SUV. Legroom is on the tight side back there for adults, but appropriate for the class and nearly an inch roomier than in Hyundai’s own Accent small sedan. A 60/40 split seatback folds nearly flat, upping the Venue’s generous 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space aft of the rear seats to a voluminous 31.9 cubic feet and room for longer objects when lowered. More stash space for small items such as cameras and purses is available under the cargo floor around the mini-spare tire. The cargo floor height is adjustable as well.

This cabin simply works. The layout is clean, modern and user-friendly.

Safety and Technology

2020 Hyundai Venue dashboard and front seat view

Photo: Ron Sessions

Hyundai says its goal was to provide class-leading technology in this segment. Situated front and center and mounted high on the dash is a standard 8-inch center touchscreen display for accessing audio, vehicle system and available navigation functions. The high-resolution color screen is standard on all trims, not just the higher ones.

The Venue comes standard with an AM/FM/HD Radio 4-speaker stereo with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay cellphone mirroring for running apps such as navigation and audio streaming. The addition of two front tweeters ups the speaker count in SEL and Denim models to six. As with all other Hyundai models, the Venue’s audio system is simple to operate with analog volume and tuning knobs and a row of hard shortcut buttons under the infotainment screen complementing the touchscreen tiles, steering wheel and voice controls for operating the system. SEL and Denim trims offer two USB ports, one for fast charging and the other for data streaming, in the center console.

Embedded navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio are included with the $1,750 Premium package for SEL trim and standard in the Denim model. Included with the factory nav system are real-time traffic updates via HD Radio.

Blue Link Connected Car features are included with the Denim and optional Premium package in the SEL. The Blue Link app provides remote access via your cellphone, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or MyHyundai.com web portal to the Venue for things such as vehicle locking/unlocking, engine starts, adjusting climate control settings and checking vehicle status via the cloud. It also has native integration with Google home devices.

In addition to six airbags, a forward-facing camera, standard in all trims, enables auto emergency braking and lane keeping that can add corrective steering to keep the car within its lane if the driver does not use the turn signal. Also standard is a driver attention monitor as well as a backup camera with trajectory lines based on steering angle.

Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring that warn the driver of vehicles or pedestrians hidden from view behind them are included in the SEL’s $1,150 Convenience package and are standard with Denim trim.

Driving Impressions

2020 Hyundai Venue Smartstream 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

Relieved of even the slightest suggestion of off-road adventure, the 2020 Hyundai Venue is an excellent urban/suburban runabout with a small footprint for zipping through traffic and slipping into parking spaces larger SUVs can’t even attempt to fit into.

The Venue’s all-new Smartstream 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, shared with the 2020 Accent sedan, ushers in a new generation of Hyundai 4-cylinder gas engines with two fuel injectors per cylinder for more even distribution of the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders and continuously variable valve timing for improved driveability.

In the Venue, the naturally aspirated 1.6-liter 4-cylinder generates a segment-appropriate 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.

It is paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox or new extra-wide-ratio “intelligent” continuously variable automatic transmission also shared with the new Accent Hyundai calls an IVT. The IVT features a 7:1 ratio spread with an extra-low gear for good acceleration from rest and an equally tall one for relaxed cruising and good fuel efficiency on the highway. Simulated gears provide a feeling of a conventional step-gear automatic during acceleration under wider throttle openings. The 6-speed manual is only available with base SE trim.

EPA estimates are 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway/30 mpg combined for manual transmission versions and 30 mpg city/34 mpg highway/32 mpg combined for models with the IVT automatic. No 6-speed manual Venues were available for evaluation, but a day spent in an automatic Venue SEL threading through Miami traffic and down the coastal highway to Key Largo at moderate speeds netted an indicated 33 mpg average fuel economy reading.

With just around 2,700 pounds (plus passengers) to carry around, the Venue’s 121 horsepower and wide gear-ratio spread were up to the task of keeping up with, and occasionally getting ahead of the ever-present traffic. Interior cabin noise, whether from the cheerful 4-cylinder engine or from South Florida’s various road surfaces, wasn’t noticeably intrusive.

The electric-boosted rack-and-pinion steering felt precise with light-to-moderate weighting and required little tending to stay on center. A brake-based torque-vectoring system, standard in the Venue, helped improve steering response and reduce understeer when cornering. Even when I allowed the car to wander slightly out of its lane, the lane-keeping assist kicked in subtly with no drama. A couple missed directions requiring U-turns were not a problem either with the Venue’s tight 33.2-foot turning circle.

As for the Venue’s basic strut-front/torsion-beam-rear suspension, the ride quality over South Florida’s roads was a non-issue. Chalk up the long-travel rear dampers for helping to tamp down any tendency of the Venue to get “choppy” over the occasional washboard surfaces. Even with the optional 205/55R17 tires, impact harshness was not intrusive over the many speed bumps in some of the residential neighborhoods.

As with the Nissan Kicks, Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, all-wheel drive is not available in the Hyundai Venue. However, Venue SEL and Denim trims come with a manually selectable Snow mode via the drive mode button near the shifter on the center console. In Snow Mode, the transmission’s “shift points” are lowered, effectively reducing engine speed and the traction control system modulates torque between the right and left front wheels, reducing the sensitivity of throttle inputs. Not that there was any snow within 1,000 miles of Miami and exploring sandy beaches was not encouraged, but in the few gravelly sections found on side roads, the front-drive Venue never failed to keep its footing.

Conclusion

2020 Hyundai Venue rear and side view

Photo: Ron Sessions

With the addition of the Venue to Hyundai’s lineup, the automaker has the SUV waterfront pretty well covered. You could argue that the Venue is just a tall 4-door hatchback car with SUV-like styling and you’d be right. But for urban dwellers, young families just starting out or anyone looking for a small, space- and fuel-efficient vehicle with great cargo versatility, an unbeatable powertrain warranty and plenty of standard safety and infotainment tech, the small and unassuming 2020 Hyundai Venue makes a compelling choice.

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