The 2020 Hyundai Venue Denim provides a road map to how automakers will offer entry-level models despite their shift to more profitable SUV-style vehicles: in part by omitting one of the defining features of most SUVs, but nonetheless offering lots of other goodies and tons of room.
Objectively, the Venue is a compact station wagon or hatchback, but it delivers the design and packaging benefits buyers love about SUVs, successfully dodging the “cheap car” stigma that dogged compact and subcompact hatchbacks for generations.
It doesn’t actually have the off-road capability widely expected from SUVs — not even the most rudimentary all-wheel-drive system is available — but The Venue sure seems like an SUV, thanks to a clever design that delivers a little more ground clearance, interior volume and better sight lines than people expect from small cars.
Forget what the Venue isn’t. It is an outstanding value and a strong competitor to be the best entry-level vehicle you can buy. It belongs on the shopping list of parents looking for max quality and safety per dollar for young drivers.
The Venue competes with small vehicles — call ’em SUVs or cars, whatever you like; the distinction barely matters any more — like the Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR. Like the Venue, they all offer only front-wheel drive. Because it has the look, room and ground clearance of a small SUV, and because it’s inexpensive, shoppers may also consider vehicles that offer AWD, including the Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Honda H-RV and Mazda CX-3.
Venue prices run from $17,350 to $22,050. All prices exclude destination charges. Front-wheel drive, a 1.6L 122-hp four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission are standard. The Venue is in dealerships now.
The Venue offers lots of safety, comfort and convenience for the money.
I tested a top of the line Denim model that came with dark blue paint, a white roof, denim-style upholstery with accent stitching and matching interior trim.
It stickered at $22,185 and had a single option: $135 carpeted floor mats.
The Venue’s 1.6L normally aspirated four-cylinder engine produces 121 hp and 113 pound-feet of torque. Neither figure is impressive, but acceleration is adequate around town and on the highway. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base SE model, while the SEL and Denim come with a continually variable automatic transmission that is standard.
The EPA rates Venues with the CVT automatic transmission at an impressive 30 mpg in city driving, 34 ln the highway and 32 in combined driving. The combined rating is better than FWD versions of the the CX-3, H-RV and Soul, 1 mpg less than the Kicks.
The steering is direct and has good on-center feel, while the suspension absorbs bumps well. The overall impression is of a chassis that could handle more power, opening the door for tuners to turn the Venue into a bargain sport compact. That formula helped Hyundai win a generation of buyers with the Tiburon, another inexpensive small car amenable to upgrades on a budget.
Roomy, Practical Interior
The four-door Venue hatchback is a tidy 159 inches long, riding on a 99.2-inch wheelbase. It’s 69.2 inches tall and 61.6 wide, with practical upright sides that maximize passenger and cargo space.
There’s good head and leg room. At 18.0 cubic feet behind the rear seat, cargo space trails the competition. The seats are comfortable, with nice denim-look fabric and faux leather trim.
Controls include an 8.0-inch touch screen for phone and audio; CarPlay and Android auto compatibility for navigation and simple web searches, and buttons and dials for climate. Hyundai’s Blue Link system lets Alexa digital assistant control features like locking, remote start for cooling and heating and flashing the headlights if you forget where you parked.
2020 Hyundai Venue at a Glance
Base price: $17,350
As tested: $22,185 (excluding destination charges)
Front-wheel drive five passenger subcompact SUV.
Engine: 1.6L four-cylinder
Output: 121 hp @ 6,300 rpm; 113 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
EPA: 30 mpg city/34ighway/32 combined
Wheelbase: 99.2 inches
Height: 61.6 (without roof rails)
Base curb weight: 2,557 lbs.
Assembled in Ulsan, Korea
Standard features on all Venues include plenty of driver assistance and connectivity aids:
— 8.0-in. touch screen
— Apple CarPlay
— Android Auto
— Front collision alert and automatic braking with pedestrian detection — Lane keeping assist Automatic high beams
— Automatic headlights
— Driver attention warning
— Cruise control
— Air conditioning
— Power windows, doors and locks
— Two-level cargo floor
Standard features on my Venue Denim included:
— 17-inch alloy wheels
— LED head, tail and running lights Push button start
— Blind spot and cross traffic alerts
— Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
— Automatic temperature control
— Four-wheel disc brakes
— Roof rails tested to 175 pounds