Hyundai’s New Venue
Affordable, Not Disposable
Almost a year ago at the New York International Auto Show – this is well before the Javits Convention Center became a temporary hospital – Hyundai rolled out its all-new Venue, which it predictably described as the ‘latest SUV to join its growing product lineup’. And while the team introducing the Venue is populated by smart people, given the Venue’s compact size, front-wheel drive (only) and little ground clearance, it ain’t an SUV. Please.
As a guy owning any number of entry-level vehicles over the last 45 years, beginning with a hand-me-down Beetle and subsequently buying – in roughly the correct chronological order – a Fiat 128, Opel Manta (a compact coupe punching well above its weight), another Fiat 128 and a second Civic – I feel like I know my entry-level category. And with the household owning an ’87 Jeep Cherokee followed by two Grand Cherokees in ’98 and ’06, I think I’m familiar with an SUV. Hyundai’s artfully executed Venue is much (MUCH) closer to the former than it is to the latter.
You might have thought Hyundai had the crossover category covered with a lineup that begins with the still-new Kona and Tucson and runs right up thru its 3-row Palisade. But you’d be wrong. Coming in five inches shorter than the subcompact Kona, and sitting on a wheelbase three inches tighter, the Venue is close to matching the larger Kona in interior volume, while falling considerably short when comparing available cargo space with the second row seats folded; hence, less utility. But I enjoyed the Venue’s slightly higher hip point than you’d find in Hyundai’s Excel or Elantra, as well as the almost panoramic greenhouse of the Venue, which isn’t part of the Kona design criteria.
Beyond the greenhouse, once seated in the Venue you’ll find a surprisingly generous amount of room – head, leg and shoulder – for four adults. Again, according to Hyundai’s own figures it comes in slightly smaller than the Kona in total interior volume, but from a perception standpoint you have all the room you reasonably need. And since the Venue is slightly taller than the Kona, ingress and egress remains easy, even for the older guy with an occasionally stiff back.
Under the hood you won’t find a power play; instead, you’ll find Hyundai’s nod to conventional efficiency. The 1.6 liter four DOHC four is in a decidedly benign state of tune, developing but 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. And while that might be regarded as ‘sporty’ if hooked up to the standard 6-speed manual, our test SEL trim came standard with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission. Although that responds better than some CVTs we’ve experienced, it’s no manual, nor is it the DSG transmission Hyundai’s turbocharged powerplants invariably come with. But it moves out of its own way with reasonable confidence, and we won’t be using a Venue for track days, anyway.
Suspension spec is exactly what you’d expect in a car/hatch/SUV(?) with an $18K starting point: the independent front is handled by the ubiquitous MacPherson struts, while in back you have a coupled torsion beam axle. The Venue’s ride is compliant, and with the SEL’s 17-inch rubber cornering is competent. But in the end, this is a runabout and not – notably – a runner.
At an as-tested price of $23,500, our fully equipped SEL had what most believe are the compulsory adds when considering a new car purchase in 2020 A.D. ‘Convenience’ gives you a sunroof, armrest storage, a leather wrapped steering wheel, blind spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic collision warning. Spend an additional $1750 on the ‘Premium’ package and you’ll net heated front seats (which warm up quickly), LED lights, 17-inch alloys with 55-series tires, an 8-inch touchscreen and appropriate audio upgrades.
If shopping for my own, I think I’d consider a base Venue with the 6-speed manual, which comes in at about $18K with delivery and prep. Adding Katzkin’s dealer-installed leather seat covering would bump it by around $2K, but make the interior survivable for young families and fast food drive-through. I’d then park the Venue outside. And tell the neighbors it’s an SUV.