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2020 Hyundai Venue Is Exactly the Subcompact SUV We Expected


By John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver

We went all the way to Australia for this.

Hyundai's new Venue subcompact SUV is ordinary. There are no quirks, no surprises, and nothing about it is innovative. It's handsome, but not beautiful. It uses its interior space efficiently even if it's not quite roomy. It isn't quick, and that won't matter at all. Hyundai is going to sell a bajillion of them.


The Venue effectively replaces the Accent subcompact hatchback in Hyundai's line. Yes, there was an Accent hatch that sold in tiny numbers to those wacky eccentrics who still think honest hatches are neat packages for daily living. Yes, the Venue is also a hatchback. But because it rides a bit high, has a blunt nose with a big grille, and flexes some body cladding along its wheel wells, the market perceives it as a crossover. In ability, however, it's a front-wheel-drive economy car powered by a transversely mounted 1.6-liter inline-four. All-wheel drive is not an option here.


In the Hyundai hierarchy of crossovers, it's the anchor at the bottom, below the Kona. For those keeping score, the Hyundai now offers six crossovers, with the new, gigantic Palisade at the top.

Hyundai also makes some cars.

Hyundai's designers have become skilled at crafting adorable-looking crossover thingies. The Venue's proportions are similar to those of the Nissan Kicks, with some subtle reduction of the tumblehome from the roof to the beltline. It's this flat, boxier look that was effective in giving the Palisade a slight off-road appearance. It's a throwback to old school, flat-fendered vehicles such as the original Land Rover, the International Scout, and the early Jeep Wagoneers. It works.


Hyundai juiced journalistic interest in the Korean-made Venue by holding the introductory event in not-nearby Noosa, Queensland, Australia. The advantage of the Sunshine Coast region is spectacular scenery and some sweet roads. The disadvantage is that in Australia they drive on the left side of the road and vehicles in that market put the steering wheel on the right-hand side.

Also, the Aussie-spec Venues are slightly different from North American versions in a few other ways, most notably in transmission availability. Australia-bound Venues can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Those on hand were all right-hand drive and used the six-speed automatic. Meanwhile, all Venues clearing United States customs will be left-handers. Base models will come with a six-speed manual, and upper trims will offer a continuously variable transmission. 

Under its available contrasting color roof lies the Venue's greatest asset: the interior. For a vehicle that's projected to have a base price near $18,000, the inner Venue is awfully beguiling. There's nothing startling about the design, but the materials used throughout feel, look, and fit top drawer. That's top drawer as in there are $40K machines out there that don't match them. 


Straightforward and practical, the instrumentation is two simple dial gauges—a tachometer and speedometer with a digital display between them—with the ventilation controls just to the left (or right) on the center stack. On the Venues in Oz, those vent controls were three simple dials with one to choose how hot or cold the air should be, one to direct where that air should go, and the third to control how quickly the fan should push that air. Hey, those controls worked on the 1986 Ford Taurus, and they're a refreshing and sweet throwback now.

Naturally, the Venue has a touchscreen atop its dash. It's an 8.0-inch color display, as today's buyers have caught on to the fact that these screens are cheap, and no vehicle can compete effectively without a good-sized one. It's a crisp display that works well with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, at least while in the southern hemisphere.


In Australia, the Venue is trimmed out either in base Active or uppity Elite levels, but in the U.S. it will be sold as either an SE or SEL. The press-ready Venues were all Elites with well-shaped cloth seats and lots of gadgetry. That gadgetry includes rear parking sensors to go with the rearview camera, navigation, forward-collision warning, and lane keeping. Most of those are standard on the base vehicle as well since tech is now a requirement for any vehicle to attract younger, entry-level buyers.

There's not a lot of front shoulder room in the Venue—1.6-inches less in the already tight Kona. And there's not a lot of room in the back seat for those appendages popularly known as "legs." But if the tots are tiny, and the parents slim, it's doable. There's 19 cubic feet of storage behind the second-row seat when it's up (about 4 cubes more than a new Toyota Camry's trunk holds), and that expands to 32 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.

While 15-inch wheels and 185/65R-15 tires will be standard on all American Venues, the Elite models on hand wore the optional 17-inch wheels with 205/55R-17 radials. The handling can be summarized in one word: benign. The steering is communicative, but it doesn't have anything interesting to talk about.


Rated at 121 horsepower in Australia (that number may adjust slightly for the U.S.), the 1.6-liter is low-key in operation but strained when given the spurs from a cruise, even after the transmission clicks down a couple gears. 

The Venue is likely going to stroll to 60 mph in under 10 seconds—but not a lot under that. The brakes work well, with discs up front and drums in back.


This trip to the magical land of Oz was a foretaste of what's to come for Hyundai's Venue here in the U.S. The final evaluation will have to be after this market's version is tested. But, come on, this is an attractive, compact crossover in a world that is currently raging for compact crossovers. This is as close as Hyundai has come to having a version of the Kia Soul to sell as its own. It's clearly superior to the Ford EcoSport, and at least a match for the Nissan Kicks in usability, driving, and equipment.

Today's ordinary car is vastly better than an ordinary car from just four or five years ago. And calling the Venue ordinary isn't to damn it with feigned praise. It's to recognize the reality that ordinary today exists on a higher plane.



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