Small crossovers make up one of the largest segments in the country. Last year, one in every four vehicles sold in the US was either a compact or subcompact SUV. And Hyundai is no stranger to the class – the company already has two small crossovers in the Kona and Tucson. Now a third joins the mix this year.
The new Hyundai Venue is the brand's latest small crossover. And as a subcompact (think, smaller than Kona), it competes with other pint-sized alternatives like the Nissan Kicks, Kia Soul, Toyota C-HR, and a few others. And while it certainly feels familiar for the class, there are a lot of interesting details that help the Hyundai Venue stand out.
We've found that people either love the way the Hyundai Venue looks, or hate it. We're in the former camp; this little crossover is well-styled and refreshingly unique. The Venue adopts the brand's latest design language up front – like a shrunken down version of what you get on the larger Palisade – with slim running lights, larger headlights below, and the brand's signature “cascading” grille dead center. The Venue even gets a faux silvery running board on its chin, like the Palisade, that isn't functional but certainly looks neat.
The 17-inch wheels (a $1,750 option as part of the Premium package) are sharp, and the body cladding and roof rails (available on SEL and above) make the tiny crossover look a bit more rugged. But the biggest selling point – or for some, breaking point – is the Venue's boxy shape. It's not as upright as, say, a Kia Soul, but the Venue is certainly more square than most of the alternatives. It may not be to everyone's taste, but we like Hyundai's bold approach.
The inside of the Venue isn't as divisive – it has a mostly inoffensive mix of black cloth on the seats, soft black plastic on the dash, and with the $1,150 Convenience package equipped, black leather on the steering wheel and shift knob. All of the buttons and dials are cleanly displayed, with easy-to-reach volume and tuning knobs below the 8.0-inch touchscreen, and two temperature and fan speed dials below that.
The Venue's seats are nothing special materials-wise – the cloth here is pretty much standard fare for most subcompact crossovers. But unlike those in the Kia Soul or Nissan Kicks, for example, the Venue's seats have a nice contouring shape that makes it feel like you're sitting in them rather than on them. The same can be said of the rear bench; the second-row seats are softer and more form-fitting than most. And those soft seats pair well to the Venue’s nice, cushy suspension.
Because of the Venue's boxy shape, it has plenty of headroom and legroom, too. The Nissan Kicks is still technically the total passenger volume king for the segment (93.9 cubic feet), but the Venue's front seats are spacious and airy; driver and passenger get a healthy 39.4 inches of front headroom and 41.3 inches of front legroom. And the back seat even feels surprisingly roomy for your six-foot-tall author. Total passenger volume is a Kicks-rivaling 91.1 cubic feet – but rear cargo space is just 18.7 cubic feet, one of the worst in the class.
The Hyundai Venue is well-equipped. Even the base Venue SE gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Our SEL tester – with the $1,750 Premium package equipped – gets the same 8.0-inch display but with navigation and satellite radio. And Hyundai's infotainment system is easy to use; the home screen is clean and concise, graphics are crisp, and touch responsiveness is great. We wish the screen itself didn't look so tacked onto the dash, but that's a minor complaint.
Other standard features that the SEL model gets over the base SE are dual USB charging ports and six speakers versus the standard four. The optional Premium package on our tester also has heated seats, a driver armrest with storage, a sunroof, LED headlights, and even heated mirrors.
The Hyundai Venue isn't powerful, but it is peppy. The 1.6-liter engine produces 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet, which is just enough to propel the lightweight crossover off the line with decent quickness. The 2,700-pound Venue feels noticeably more eager to get up and go than its main rivals, like the Nissan Kicks or Kia Soul. Only at highway speeds does the little Venue’s four-cylinder start to feel underpowered.
Our tester gets the optional continuously variable transmission over the standard six-speed manual – but this CVT is surprisingly great. The transmission isn’t whiny or buzzy as it can be in some other cars, and acts like a traditional automatic in most instances. And the Venue pretty fun to fling around, too. It certainly has the body roll you expect of a small crossover, but the suspension yields good feedback, and the steering is light and quick.
Even the base Venue SE gets a suite of standard active safety equipment that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and a driver attention warning. Our Venue SEL, with the optional convenience package, gets all that plus blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Thankfully, we didn't have to test most of these features. But the blind-spot alert worked well by warning us of vehicles in the adjacent lane with a loud beep.
The Venue gets 30 miles per gallon city, 34 highway, and 32 combined with the optional CVT, while the manual version returns noticeably less (27/35/30). The CVT Venue bests the combined fuel economy figures of the Kia Soul (31 mpg), Honda HR-V (30 mpg), and the Toyota C-HR (29 mpg). But the Hyundai still isn't best in class – that award goes to the Nissan Kicks, which gets 33 mpg combined.
The Hyundai Venue is the most affordable car in its class – and one of the cheapest new cars on sale, full stop. The bare-bones SE model with a manual transmission costs just $17,350. The Kia Soul is a close second at $17,490 to start, and the Kicks comes in at third with an asking price of $18,870.
Our fully loaded Venue SEL, though, costs $23,290. That price includes $1,140 worth of destination fees and two add-ons: the Convenience package ($1,150) and the Premium package ($1,750). Similarly equipped versions of the Kicks SV and Soul GT-Line undercut the Venue slightly, with both of those cars asking $22,190 when loaded with options.
Gallery: 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: Review
2020 Hyundai Venue SEL