A hip, cool, cozy new joint
THE GOOD
  • Budget-friendly crossover
  • Great visibility
  • Amazing heated seats
THE BAD
  • Narrow door opening
  • Smaller cargo area
  • Highway noise
2020 Hyundai Venue Review

Hyundai’s new 2020 Venue has the lowest starting price of any new crossover sold in Canada by a surprisingly wide margin. But does that mean a bargain-basement CUV or just good value? And can a subcompact crossover priced like a compact car offer an experience that buyers really want?

Comfort: 7/10

We’re starting with comfort, because when you’re shopping in this size class, little differences can add up to a tight fit. But being a crossover, the Venue has some advantages, like the upright and tall roof that means massive amounts of headroom front and rear. That’s especially true of this sunroof-free Trend model with the Urban Edition package. The roof isn’t the only thing up high: The seats are also far off the floor, offering easy ingress and egress.

It’s not the seat height that makes getting in a challenge; instead it’s the steering wheel. The Venue’s dash protrudes into the door opening, so there’s not much room between the steering wheel and B-pillar through which to squeeze – especially when wearing a heavy winter coat. There is enough room for most drivers if the telescoping wheel is retracted each time you get in or out, but that’s a big inconvenience.

User Friendliness: 8/10

To help it meet its budget-friendly price point, Hyundai has fitted the Venue with old-fashioned climate control dials, and it’s a breath of fresh air. Crank a dial and it gets hotter or colder, the fan spins faster or slower, and the air is redirected – each with a satisfying click of engagement. The heated steering wheel and seat buttons are easy to locate near the shifter, and they happen to be the quickest and hottest options I’ve ever used. Like the climate control, the infotainment display is easy to use. It’s responsive, quick, and unobtrusive, exactly what we want in our infotainment systems.

Practicality: 6/10

At just 4,040 mm long, the Venue is 775 mm shorter than the Accent five-door that it will likely end up replacing. But it offers more headroom front and rear, and more rear legroom. In the rear, the Venue offers 355 L of cargo space behind the rear seats and a maximum of 1,148 L with them folded. Hyundai has added a neat slide-in storage space for the cargo cover, and the floor can be lowered for maximum height or brought up a few inches for a flat floor with the seats folded. The two details add some important usability to a cargo capacity that’s small for the class and some 350 L smaller than the Accent hatch.

Power: 6/10

The engine bay hosts a 1.6L four-cylinder engine that makes 121 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque. It’s not going to win any drag races, but in this little ute it’s quick enough – especially from a stop until around 70 km/h. It’s downright zippy in town, though that sensation was aided by a set of winter tires that seemed to take all of their pleasure from spinning embarrassingly each time I set off from a stop.

It’s a noisy engine, but not out of place for this class, and never unpleasant. Hyundai offers a class-exclusive manual transmission, but only in the base model. The rest of the trims get a continuously variable (CVT) with faux-shifting that seems well-matched to the engine. Though cruise control and highway speeds mean engine speeds that are fast enough to get irritating (and inefficient) on longer drives.

Features: 8/10

Impressively, even at this low starting price, the Venue comes loaded with just about everything you want. Even the base model that holds the title of cheapest crossover in the country gets heated seats and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The driver’s seat goes up and down and the steering wheel both tilts and telescopes.

This Trend-spec tester with Urban Edition pack gets a heated steering wheel, LED headlights with handy steering-responsive lights, a two-tone roof, and cool denim blue cloth upholstery with blue dash pieces. It also has blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, proximity key entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel – you get the point. Small car size and price, big car stuff.

Safety: 8/10

In keeping with the feature-rich cabin, the Venue is loaded with most modern active safety features, including blind-spot monitoring (though this crossover has excellent visibility), rear cross-traffic alert for reversing out of parking spaces, lane-keep assist to alert and steer you back on course, emergency braking, and automatic high beams. That Hyundai also includes those features in all but the most base trim is equally impressive. What it’s missing, though, is adaptive cruise control, a feature available in most of this class.

Styling: 7/10

While some small crossovers have gone for more of a hip, angular, sleek look that their designers usually call urban, the Venue is upright and more rugged-looking. You’d never guess from the shape that all-wheel drive wasn’t on the options list. This type of styling seems more polarizing than most other small crossovers, but when it comes to design, that’s not always a negative. We like it, especially since the square shape maximises interior space.

Driving Feel: 6/10

With the short wheelbase and narrow body of the Venue, we were hoping for a tossable, warm-hatch experience. But Hyundai’s suspension tuning makes sure that the rear end stays firmly planted at all times – or at least that the front loses grip first. The ride can be sharp over impacts, with the noise resonating around the cabin, but that’s par for the course in this class. The ride’s not helped by the 17-inch wheels, but there’s enough sidewall to keep things reasonably plush. It has steering that is quick and direct, which, along with the snappy CVT, encourages you to use the inherent nimbleness of this small and light chassis to dart around obstacles (and traffic) in the city.

Fuel Economy: 6/10

It’s a small crossover with a small engine and a small price tag, which means small fuel economy. It’s rated for 8.0 L/100 km in the city and 7.0 on the highway, and during an especially cold week loaded with short trips and idling to defrost the large front windscreen, my own average was a better-than-expected 8.0 L/100 km. The official figures are excellent for the class, but the Accent hatch should return a full litre per hundred better, which is enough to matter for most drivers.

Value: 8/10

Hyundai offers impressive value with this little crossover. You won’t find a new one cheaper, and while getting the lowest price means a manual and losing some of the safety kit, well-equipped models like my Trend tester won’t add that much to the monthly payment. As vehicles get more and more expensive, low-priced offerings like this Venue – which comes with everything the big crossovers do, but with a smaller, easier-to-handle footprint – look like a smarter choice.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for the crossover experience, including a higher driving position, an upright look, and boxy styling, then the Venue delivers great value and is packed with big car features. Ultimately, though, for price-conscious buyers, a more conventional hatchback – like Hyundai’s own Accent – offers similar features, a smaller price tag, more space, and better fuel economy. That said, buyers have clearly shown that crossover is the new car, and by that metric Hyundai’s Venue is a great place to play.

A hip, cool, cozy new joint 3/19/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 1.6L
Engine Cylinders I4
Peak Horsepower 121 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Peak Torque 113 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 8.0/7.0/7.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 355/1,148 L seats down