2020 Hyundai Venue SEL road test

The Hyundai Venue is sold in three trim levels, all front-wheel drive with a non-turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable automatic. Starting prices range from about $19,000-$23,000. (Hyundai)

BY MARK MAYNARD

As the Coronavirus sucks the spontaneity out of our daily routines, having to replace anything, especially a vehicle, gets new scrutiny. How much or how little is required? Do we make ourselves happy? Or do we settle?

Hyundai’s newest and smallest SUV crossover, the Venue, makes the most of difficult choices.

Based on the Hyundai’s subcompact Accent sedan, the Venue is the boxy equivalent, but it’s not a penalty box. It’s a fun ride, aimed at buyers with youthful bank accounts and loaded for their necessities, such as rapid connectivity for music, phone, apps and other connected services. It has no-brainer drivability, seating for friends and manageable maintenance costs.

Driver sightlines are open and there is intuitive placement of switches and dials. (Hyundai)

But as sweetly packaged as it is, the Venue also provides a rich experience for mature drivers who want the comforts of heated seats, no-nonsense placement of controls, comfortable entry and exit and quick convertibility for cargo. And there are driver-assist technologies on the more expensive models.

With a tidy turning circle of 33.2 feet, the Venue is small enough to park anywhere. Consider this a selling point for urban dwellers who might have limited or no on-site vehicle parking.

Clever multi-function controls and a large touch screen with wide rearview camera. (Hyundai)

The Venue is sold in three trim levels of SE, SEL or Denim, all front-wheel drive with a 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable automatic. Starting prices range from $18,490 with manual transmission (add $1,200 for the CVT) to $20,390 for the SEL and $23,190 for the Denim, sold in Denim blue paint with a white roof, Denim-influenced interior, 17-inch alloy wheels and leatherette-and-fabric seats. Pricing includes the $1,140 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea.

All new Hyundais include free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. And that is in addition to the bumper-to-bumper warranty of 5 years or 60,000 miles (with roadside assistance) and powertrain coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Through Sept. 8 (with possible extensions or variations) there is a $1,500 incentive (retail bonus cash) https://www.hyundaiusa.com/us/en/offers for a 2020 Venue SE purchased from dealer stock. There also is a $400 spiff for new college grads, a $500 bonus for members of the military and first responders. And there is a $1,000 offer toward the cost of adaptive equipment. (Hyundai can provide links to guides, fact sheets, a claim form and specialists to help get the equipment and training.)

The Venue SEL tester with CVT was $23,445 with the two main factory packages. The convenience package ($1,150) adds a power sunroof, smart-key locking and push-button ignition, sliding armrest storage box (a desirable extra on these cheap cars), leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, blind-spot collision and rear cross-traffic collision warnings.

The shifter console is multifunctional with a hand parking brake, cup-bottle holders and charging bin with two USBs and a 180-watt 12-volt plug. (Hyundai)

The Premium package ($1,750) included heated front seats and side mirrors, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, smart key locking and push-button ignition, 8-inch navigation touch screen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Carpeted floor mats added $155.

Even base models have six air bags and a full suite of advanced safety tech, including forward collision warning and pedestrian detection and lane-keeping assist.

Performance

The performance of the 121-horsepower 1.6-liter isn’t overwhelming but shows its grit for right-now power. Sport mode will sharpen the response, but I found it too jittery and was content to manipulate acceleration through a heavier foot. The manual transmission might give more direct performance, but hurry, it is going away for the 2021 SE model.

Hyundai’s “intelligent” variable transmission — IVT rather than CVT — can match a gear ratio with the optimum engine speed, the engineers say. But to me, it still feels like a CVT, sometimes vague and tuned for fuel economy.

The EPA mileage ratings (CVT) are achievable: 30 mpg city, 34 highway and 32 mpg combined, on 87 octane. My driving returned an average of 32.3 mpg and up to 37.6 with more highway driving. Cruising range

The highway ride is almost surprisingly comfortable for a compact SUV with a stubby 99.2-inch wheelbase. Often, these small and tall vehicles cars can be prone to choppiness on concrete freeway surfaces. The torsion beam rear axle isn’t overly sophisticated for sporty driving, but its flat design allows greater cargo capacity. The SEL adds rear disc brakes, with the less-expensive drums on the lesser trim levels.

On the highway commute, there was no objectionable wind noise or tire harshness from the 17-inch Nexen N’Priz all-season touring tires.

The 121-hp 4-cylinder engine has fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city, 34 highway and 32 mpg combined, on 87 octane. (Mark Maynard)

Interior

There is nothing “cheap car” about the interior materials and how they are installed. Though there is plenty of plastics, they have pleasing grains and finishes.

It’s roomy inside with a tall 39.4 inches of headroom, which trims a bit with the sunroof. Legroom is large-car long at 41.3 inches. But the one-size fits most seat-belt anchor positioned the belt higher across my neck than was comfortable. And some will wish for some seat-bottom tilt, but that is uncommon in these less-expensive cars.

Tire sizes range from 15- to 17-inches, as on the SEL and Denim, with alloy wheels. (Mark Maynard)

Driver sightlines are open and the rearview camera provides wide coverage with guidance lines. There is intuitive placement of switches and dials. The shifter console is multifunctional with a parking hand brake, cup-bottle holders and charging bin with two USBs and a 180-watt 12-volt plug. Sliding visors have large, lighted vanity mirrors.

There is plenty of small-item storage, particularly with the optional armrest box. There’s a short shelf on the passenger side above the glove box, which makes a handy place to park a phone.

Back seat

The back seat is compact but with a low exhaust hump for occasional three-across seating, with a center head restraint. Rear head leg room of 34.3 inches will be snug for adults.

The back seat has a low exhaust hump for occasional three-across seating. (Hyundai)

Cargo

There is generous two-level cargo space of 18.7 cubic feet, expandable to 31.9 cu.ft. with the 60/40 folding seatback. The cargo opening has a wide reach of 37 ½ inches, 35 inches top to bottom and almost 5 feet of length with the seat folded.

Why Venue?

The segment of subcompact SUV crossovers represent the new reality of doing more in a smaller but well-equipped “car.” The choices continue to evolve with competition from the (new) Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Encore, Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX3, Nissan Kicks and Toyota’s C-HR.

The Venue is an opportunity to downsize without settling. It will expand expectations for its interior roominess and quality of accommodations — with the peace of mind from some free maintenance and long warranty protection.

All new Hyundais include free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles — in addition to the bumper-to-bumper warranty of 5 years or 60,000 miles (with roadside assistance) and powertrain coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles. (Hyundai)

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL
Body style: compact, 5-passenger, 5-door front-wheel drive SUV crossover
Engine: 121-hp, dual port fuel injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder; 113 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: CVT w/sport, normal and snow modes
Fuel economy: 30/34/31 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane

SPECIFICATIONS
Fuel tank: 11.9 gal.
Cargo space: 18.7-31.9 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 39.4*/41.3 in. *w/o sunroof
Rear head/leg room: 38.6/34.3 in.
Length/wheelbase: 158.9/99.2 in.
Curb weight: 2,738 lbs.
Turning circle: 33.2 ft.

FEATURES
Standard equipment includes: smart key locking with push-button ignition, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera, heated front seats and side mirrors, automatic temperature control, 8-inch color touch screen audio system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 60/40 folding back seat, 2-stage cargo floor
Safety features include: 6 air bags, forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, driver-attention warning, stability and traction controls, hill-start assist

PRICING
SEL Base price: $20,390, including $1,140 freight charge; price as tested $23,445
Options on test vehicle: Convenience package, $1,150, adds a power sunroof, sliding armrest storage console, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, blind-spot collision and rear cross-traffic warnings; Premium package, $1,750, adds heated front seats and side mirrors, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, proximity key with push-button ignition, 8-inch navigation touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and Blue Link connected services for three years; Carpeted floor mats $155
Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea
Warranties: free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles; the bumper-to-bumper 5-years/60,000-miles (with roadside assistance); powertrain 10-years/100,000-miles

MarkMaynard@cox.net

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