Pros-Distinctive. Fairly roomy. Upscale interior. Lively. Nimble. Safety items. Thrifty. Affordable.
Cons-Tight rear seat. Front-drive only. Occasional noisy engine. Bumpy road jerky ride. No steering feel.
Bottom Line-Cleverly designed and surprisingly upscale for the price.
The 2020 Hyundai Venue
Denim Edition subcompact SUV once might have liked out of place in an SUV crossover market once dominated by mostly much larger vehicles. But why not a small SUV if it's done right? The Venue is such a vehicle. Hyundai calls it "unapologetically small."
No need to apologize. The $22,050 (without freight charge) Venue Denim Edition four-door hatchback is the smallest Hyundai SUV, but has room for four adults (five in a pinch).
Its surprisingly upscale interior, often just found in much costlier SUVs, has nicely shaped blue leatherette and denim seats (manual adjustment only), tilt/telescopic wheel with cruise and audio controls, push-button start, padded armrests, automatic climate control and an easily used 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Gauges can be quickly read, and there's a row of well-marked small dashboard buttons and several large climate system dials.
There's also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, besides USB and 12-volt power ports. All materials are high grade, except for a mediocre-looking headliner. Curiously, a large rotary dial in the dashboard does nothing but show the interior temperature, as if someone forgot to give it a useful control function.
Also, the Venue Denim Edition has no optional sunroof or manual transmission-they're offered on lesser Venue models.
The Denim Edition test vehicle has a boxy silhouette with tasteful cladding and chiseled angles, modestly high roof and special denim (blue of course) paint with body color door handles, a rather striking white roof and nice white paint touches above all wheels and the headlight trim. It's all very classy. The grille looks aggressive, and the vehicle has a wide stance.
The Venue's handy 99-inch wheelbase and 150-inch length makes it easy to park and maneuver. Granted, those with tall legs will wish they had a little more legroom behind a tall driver, but there's plenty of headroom for occupants to sit a bit higher than in a car and peer through large glass windows.
The nicely shaped but moderately sized cargo area has a somewhat high but wide opening beneath the hatch. Split-folding rear seat backs easily flip forward to greatly enlarge the cargo area.
The four-cylinder engine is small at 1.6-liters and generates 121 horsepower and 113 lb./ft. of torque but has such features as two fuel injectors per cylinder and continuously variable valve timing. However, although the engine makes the Venue lively in town, it gets nosy when quick merges into fast traffic and passing above 65 m.p.h. are called for. That's because horsepower and torque aren't reached until high engine revs are attained because of the engine's size.
Still, the the Venue is quick off the line and the 0-60 m.p.h. time is a respectable 8.5 seconds. The Venue Denim Edition delivers an estimated 30 miles per gallon town and 34 on highways. There's an 11.9-gallon fuel tank.
All Venue models have the same engine. Excluding the $1,120 freight charge, they are the $17,350 SE, $19,250 SEL and $22,050 Denim Edition, which has the special paint and interior. Only the SE comes with the six-speed manual transmission (to be dropped for 2021); the other models have a smooth automatic CVT transmission, which can be manually shifted . A Driver can select Normal, Sport or Snow modes. I encountered no snow, and found Sport mode doesn't change the vehicle's response much.
Ground clearance isn't overly generous so drivers shouldn't try adventuresome off-road treks.
The ride is smooth on good pavement but gets choppy on bumpy roads. Steering is quick but lacks feel, leaving a driver to only guess what the front tires are doing. Handling is nimble, although there's slight body lean when taking expressway ramps at above-average speeds. However, electronic stability and traction controls, along with 55-series tires on 17-inch wheels help stability. The brake pedal has a nice linear action.
Safety features include forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, blind spot and rear cross-traffic collision warnings, driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist, rearview camera and front side impact and side curtain air bags.
The hood is unusually heavy for such a small vehicle and is held open with only a prop rod, but the engine compartment looks as neatly designed as the rest of the Venue.