Hyundai isn’t coy about the buyers it intends to win with its new Venue CUV.
The Venue ($17,350) takes direct aim at young, first-time buyers. They’re typified, Hyundai says, by those living the “fast-paced … urban entrepreneur lifestyle.”
As you’d expect given its target, the Venue goes long on connectivity and cabin tech. Its cockpit is friendly and inviting and edgy color palettes — including two-tone options — allow its youthful buyers to express their individuality.
Hyundai presents the Venue as an SUV. But in fact, it’s a front-wheel-drive hatchback with the boxy stance of a crossover. It wears the lower-body cladding and prominent wheel-well arches common to modern crossovers.
So we’ll go with CUV.
The Venue is a pure value play. The most affordable small CUV in the U.S., its cabin is roomier than its dimensions suggest and it’s nicely equipped right out of the box.
About that entrepreneurial-lifestyle prose: The Venue’s price, relatively roomy cabin — it seats four adults — and industry-leading warranty make it a natural for prospective ride-share drivers.
The Venue is available in three trims; SE ($17,350); SEL ($19,250); and Denim ($22,050).
Every Venue has an 8-inch color touchscreen, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity app, standard on the upper trims, enables owners to remote-start their car or set its interior temp via voice-command using an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device.
Standard gear includes Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, remote keyless entry and high-beam assist. A batch of driver-assist features includes collision-avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines and driver attention monitor.
Hard-touch surfaces dominate the forward cabin but Hyundai softens the effect with gentle contours and two-tone color schemes.
Interior storage options include a small, cellphone-sized bin in front of the shift lever. A handy tray is carved into the dashboard above the glove box and a covered bin is located under the available sliding and padded center armrest.
Getting in and out of the Venue is easy and overall cabin ergonomics are good. The seats are spongy, though, and less supportive than I’d like.
Hyundai offers the Venue in a variety of vibrant and, in some cases, edgy exterior colors — Hyundai calls them <ital>extroverted</end ital> — including two-tone choices. The top-level Denim trim has a two-tone exterior and its cabin is finished in imitation leather and seat-cover fabric that resembles denim.
Single engine choice
A 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers all Venues. The base SE can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which bumps its price to $18,550.
The Smartstream Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) is Hyundai’s first-ever CVT-type transmission. IVT technology uses a slightly different logic than a regular CVT but the distinctions are transparent, and the IVT exhibits the engine-revving elasticity common to the breed.
With the CVT, the Venue earns an estimated 32 mpg in combined driving. The stick earns a 30 mpg rating.
Venue runs the 0-60 sprint in the high 8-second range, which bests its prime competitors.
Getting there in a hurry, though, means pushing the engine hard into its upper ranges, where it grows rough and buzzy.
Some savvy required
Like the other cars in this segment, maneuvers like freeway merging and passing on two-lane roads require savvy and good judgment.
Four drive modes — Normal, Eco, Sport and Snow Traction — alter throttle responses and transmission shift points. The more-aggressive Sport mode helped me negotiate the brutal 195/I-90 onramp.
Hyundai says Snow Traction improves grip in slippery conditions.
The Venue feels settled and stable at highway speeds but its ride tends to be stiff and brittle. Potholes and the like send sharp jolts into the cabin.
On curvy and uneven roads, Venue is best driven conservatively.
Steering is lightly weighted and the system’s responses are accurate. It feels numb, though, and little information is passed from the tires’ contact patches to the driver’s hands.
These are tough times for entry-level buyers. The 2020 Hyundai Venue gives them a fighting chance.
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2020 Hyundai Venue SEL
Vehicle base price: $17,350 Trim level base price: $1 9,250
As tested: $23,425 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Sunroof, sliding armrest storage box; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert; heated front seats and exterior mirrors; LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; 17-inch alloy wheels; keyless entry and ignition; navigation; satellite radio; Blue Link connectivity services; carpeted floor mats
EPA rating: 32 combined/30 city/34 highway