Jeremy Clarkson once pointed out that things sold by the gram are always more exciting than things sold by the pound. I don’t think he was talking about small, Korean-built crossovers, but the 2020 Hyundai Venue is my test car this week and I was very impressed. It’s not sold by the gram, but it is very small.
The Venue is the smallest SUV that Hyundai makes — a subcompact crossover in industry parlance — with a tiny 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 121 horsepower. That’s not a lot, but then the Venue is not a lot of car.
Two-tone versions of the model are available.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
This is a city car, aimed primarily at singletons and young couples. You know this because Hyundai uses the word “urban” about 8,200 times in its marketing and press materials for the car. A Chevy Suburban it isn’t, but this might be a car for potential future Suburban buyers, before they move out of downtown and have three kids.
Being a tiny SUV, there isn’t a ton of room in the backseat or the trunk, though it makes the most of the space. It has more storage than a small hatchback (like the Mazda 3 or the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, which might be cross-shopped against the Venue), largely because it’s taller. With the 60/40 split-folding second-row seats folded down there’s plenty of room for a fairly epic Costco run.
Up front, though, is where the Venue really shines. The interior is standard Hyundai fare, which is a compliment. If you opt for a higher trim package, you’ve got an 8.0-inch touchscreen sitting high atop the dashboard, compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Down the middle, there are large controls for the single-zone climate control, a hefty storage bin complete with 12-volt and double USB ports.
The interior of the Venue is typically Hyundai – good.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
Considering that I’ve written entire reviews hanging off the fact that I didn’t have a good place to put my phone, I’ll reiterate the fact that this bin is a great place for it — or for a bag of Skittles or whatever snack strikes your fancy.
There’s a straightforward shift knob (PRND), a couple of cupholders, and a smallish covered bin that is also your armrest. Decent sized bins in the doors complete your storage ensemble. It’s not as well-designed inside as a Volvo XC40, which includes a small trash bin fore of the center console, but it’s close — and half the price.
For a small, inexpensive city car (my nearly-fully loaded test unit priced out at $23,405), it comes with a raft of useful features including a power sunroof, LED head- and taillights (if you get the Premium Package), and a whole host of safety features.
The Venue comes with Hyundai’s excellent safety suite with one notable exception. There’s automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention warning system and Hyundai’s terrific lane-keeping assist system that can do a bit of steering for you on the highway. But it’s missing adaptive cruise control, which is supremely disappointing.
Most Venue models have an automatic transmission though a limited number of manuals are available.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
Venue buyers do get an awful lot of car for their money, but this is a particularly disappointing miss — and it’s odd that the car would feature active lane keeping (you can even take your hand off the wheel for a few seconds and it’ll steer for you) but not the more common adaptive cruise.
As a primer, adaptive cruise is perhaps the most useful feature on any new car today. It allows you to set a cruise control speed, but uses a combination of radar and cameras to detect vehicles directly in front of you and will lower your car’s speed to match. In other words, if you’re in traffic, you can set it and forget it — your car will automatically slow down to meet the speed of the car in front of you. Some systems will even bring your car to a complete stop. It makes traffic considerably less frustrating to sit in, and once you have it, you’ll never buy another car without.
The Venue, as tested, comes with an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
But, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re on the market for a small crossover or first new car or something fuel efficient (32 mpg combined), you can do a lot worse than the excellent (inside and out) Hyundai Venue.