Hyundai’s Venue Denim Edition –
Simplicity in its genes
As you may have read – if you have time to read – there’s a microchip shortage that’s gone global. This, of course, could have been predicted as we roll out of a pandemic and the economy gets an inevitable boost. And hell, it may have been predicted – but would probably have done little to prevent the subsequent shortage. So at a time when vehicles of any kind are increasingly complex, a shortage of chips will result in the loss of thousands – and THOUSANDS – of vehicles coming off production lines and into showrooms. Thankfully, for people needing new wheels Hyundai still builds a relatively simple vehicle, with less of a need for those missing chips. Hyundai calls its subcompact ‘SUV’ the Venue, and its just the thing to drive through your post-pandemic bewilderment.
If you didn’t know about the Venue, that’s largely because carmakers like Hyundai spend very little to market cars and crossovers with small footprints or – equally significant – small window stickers; they simply don’t generate the revenue necessary for big marketing campaigns. And Hyundai is awash in crossover-type SUVs, beginning with that tag as applied to the front-wheel-drive-only Venue. From the Venue’s sub-$20K price point Hyundai dealers can provide you – in ascending order – a Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe and Palisade. Yup. That’s five crossovers distributed within a $20K price spread.
The Venue, in that it is the smallest, is also the simplest. Its 1.6 liter four offers no supercharging or hybrid assist; instead, it gives you a modest 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque, and powers the front wheels via a CVT transmission. And that simplicity reduces its curb weight, coming in at 2,600 pounds when almost any crossover crosses into 3,000-lb. territory. The result is a crossover light on its feet because, in large part, it starts out light.
In the walk-up, you’re struck by the simplicity of the Venue’s 2-box structure. This is a hood, passenger cabin and little else. With a ground clearance of 6.7 inches the Venue’s ride height essentially splits the difference between the five inches you’d typically find on a small hatch and the eight inches you’ll have on a real on-road/off-road crossover. To that end, step-in is easy, and one made easier by a relatively high roofline. And that roofline creates the expansive glass area, so big you’ll want to buy Windex by the case.
Inside, you’re immersed in an environment that’s surprisingly nice. Our Denim Edition takes the already attractive interior of the SEL and builds on it with a Denim-specific cloth and leatherette interior, Android Auto, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker sound system and automatic temperature control. Rarely do you describe an entry-level econobox with a well-equipped price of $22K a sublime, but Hyundai’s Venue will deliver, and you needn’t bring the recreational marijuana. Room is good from the front seat and OK in the rear, although young kids or smaller teens work better on the rear bench than NBA starters. But for the lunch run (remember?) with office mates, you’ll find the interior space acceptable.
In stop-and-go environments the Venue’s 121 horsepower does actually ‘go’, but when stressed – as in merging or climbing a long grade – you can find it wheezy. You won’t, however, lose speed, and there’s more immediacy here than in any number of hybrids I could mention. This engine would have been nicer if connected to a stick shift, but that – regrettably – is no longer in the lineup. And offsetting any performance penalty is the EPA estimate of 30 city and 33 highway, making the cost/mile almost as efficient as those hybrids.
At the end of the day, the Venue – whether at its sub-$20K base or decked out in its $23K Denim Edition – is a great car for the recent grad, or just a nice car to keep around the house for errands. It’s easy to access and, equally important, easy to like. It’s not a great car, but it’s a damn good car at a great price. And while I’d be tempted to spend an additional $100/month for Hyundai’s Kona with the 1.6 turbo, the budget-conscious have to start somewhere. Hyundai’s Venue could be that place.