By on January 21, 2020

2020 Hyundai Venue

At some point in the past few years, the word “basic” began being used as a pejorative, aimed at young men and women whose personal style and interests were “exceedingly ordinary,” in the words of the great Urban Dictionary.

You know the stereotype: pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots for women; untucked button-down shirts, Axe body spray, and dingy baseball hats for men.

Basic doesn’t have to mean bad, boring, or ordinary, though. It can also mean simple. And the 2020 Hyundai Venue is just that: Simple. And that’s not meant as a pejorative.

Which isn’t to the say the Venue is without flaws. But it’s meant for basic – there’s that word again – transport, and not much else, and it’s poised to do that job well.

(Full disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Miami and fed and housed me for two nights so that I could drive the Venue. They offered snacks, which I ate, and a travel coffee mug/water bottle and travel bag, which I declined to take.)

Let’s start with the shape. Hyundai’s design team has kept it simple – the Venue is boxy, without a lot of drama or odd design cues. The grille matches the rest of the company’s SUV and crossover line. Slab sides give the Venue an upright look, and certain colors pop while others blend and still others make you question if the designers were colorblind. Overall, the best thing – and the worst thing – that can be said about the exterior styling is that it’s inoffensive.

Yeah, it’s plain and simple. That function-over-form aesthetic continues over to the cabin. Everything is laid out simply – a traditional shifter for the continuously-variable automatic transmission sits next to the handbrake, the gauge cluster has easy-to-read instruments and info screen, and the center-stack infotainment system is easy to read and use, although the dreaded tacked-on look mars the interior a bit.

2020 Hyundai Venue

Big knobs adjust volume and tuning in a refreshingly old-school manner, and the climate controls are clever in their execution – temperature and fan speed are adjusted via dials that ring the digital displays. The inside is more than roomy enough for most folks, although the rear seat will be tight for taller adults if they’re parked behind a similarly tall person.

While Hyundai offers a fair amount of safety and convenience tech for the price – more on that in a bit – one common piece of tech that’s conspicuous in its absence, if not exactly missed, is auto stop-start.

(Get Hyundai Venue pricing here!)

Venue is powered (that term is used somewhat loosely) by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. The engine pairs either to a six-speed manual transmission or the aforementioned continuously-variable automatic.

Unlike most CVTs, this one is a link-type. According to Hyundai, it’s only the second of its type to hit the market, following the Subaru Impreza.

2020 Hyundai Venue

I’d have loved to get my hands on a manual, but Hyundai didn’t provide any for our test drives. This is too bad, since while the CVT is generally well behaved with minimal drone, the engine needs to be kept above 3,500 rpm or so to feel truly responsive, and the presence of the stick-shift would be a useful way to keep the car on the boil.

Putting the car in Sport mode helps here. In fact, buyers might want to drive in Sport mode at all times. Otherwise, the Venue struggles a bit to get up to speed. Keeping the engine in the upper rev band does have a drawback: Noise. Things get loud and coarse at the higher end of the rpm range.

Whether in Sport or Normal – there’s also a Snow mode – the Venue has something one of its competitors, the Nissan Kicks, doesn’t: Actual steering feel. It is a bit artificial and heavy, but it’s something, at least. You do feel connected to the road, which isn’t always the case in this class.

Not that we had much of a chance to truly evaluate handling. Anyone who’s spent time in South Florida knows the only dangerous curves belong to the bikini-clad women on South Beach. Our run to the Keys and back didn’t include any corner that wasn’t a gentle sweeper on the freeway. Hyundai did this because the Venue is positioned as a “city car,” but it would’ve been nice to get even a small sense of how the Venue reacts when pushed a bit. My guess would be not all that well. I’ll have to wait for a loan for further evaluation.

2020 Hyundai Venue

It does ride well on the highway, but we’re talking Florida here – there’s not much in the way of broken, pot-holed pavement to contend with. Again, further evaluation is needed.

Venue does feel better screwed-together than Kicks, Ford’s EcoSport, and Chevrolet’s Trax. The uplevel-trim SEL version I drove is cheaper than similarly equipped versions of the latter two, as well. Venue comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which the Kicks doesn’t.

Like the Kicks, the Venue is not available with all-wheel drive. The Trax and EcoSport, are, of course, as well as the Mazda CX-3 and CX-30, which are also in the Venue’s competitive set. Hyundai claims the lack of available AWD is simply a cost-saving measure.

2020 Hyundai Venue

Venue’s materials feel class-competitive and not cheap at all, but the safety ninnies are especially obnoxious with their beeps and bloops.

There are three trims: base SE, uplevel SEL, and Denim. Standard features include 15-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB, auxiliary jack, Bluetooth, air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and driver-attention warning.

Available features include automatic climate control, the drive-mode select, dual USB charging, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED taillights, power sunroof, heated front seats, navigation, satellite radio, dual USB charging, six speakers, push-button start, rear disc brakes (yes, the base car has rear drums), BlueLink connected-car system, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The sunroof is part of an option package (along with rear cross-traffic alert), and another package adds the 17s, nav, heated seats, BlueLink, and LED lights. My test vehicle had both package and carpeted floor mats ($135) for an as-tested price of $23,280. That includes the $1,095 destination fee.

2020 Hyundai Venue

The Denim trim includes leatherette seats and a two-tone look in which the roof contrasts with the body color.

Venue’s overall package is intriguing, but is Venue a value? It’s pricier than Kicks when well-equipped, and the lack of AWD may turn off Snow Belters. But it undercuts the EcoSport and Trax while also being a better vehicle. I haven’t driven the CX-30 yet, but it charmed Chris.

Kia’s boxy Soul is also in the same pricing ballpark, at least in base trim, but it doesn’t read as a natural competitor to the Venue.

When we talk about price, we’re talking MSRP, since incentives come and go quickly and we can’t continually update our reviews. This means that the Venue might not cost you what the sticker says – and if a dealer is willing to, well, deal, perhaps the price gap over the Kicks matters less.

2020 Hyundai Venue

It’s also worth noting that if you don’t need boxy utility, you can be shopping Civics/Corollas/Elantra Sports for about the same amount of dough.

Hyundai has cooked up one of the better so-called “city cars,” but it will cost a bit more to get the most desirable features, at least compared to a key rival. Then again, you’re getting a better vehicle for less money than at least two others on the market.

Whether that puts the Venue in a sweet spot in the market or whether cost-conscious buyers will be kicking it with Nissan remains to be seen. Same goes for Snow Belt buyers – is AWD worth the extra cost of the CX-30 or the inferior Trax and EcoSport?

All I can say for sure is that Venue’s “basicness” is more virtue than vice.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “2020 Hyundai Venue – A Basic Box...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Minus the bug eyes, this looks like the Nissan Juke’s cousin… someone is microdosing too much LSD.

    • 0 avatar
      digitaldoc

      Minus the turbo engine of the Juke. Can’t get excited about a 1.6na engine. Hope it gets an option for an upgraded power train, like the 1.4T that Hyundai has.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    At this price point, a Jetta with a manual is the way to go. Spend the savings on a good set of winter tires and 4 extra rims to mount them on.
    Tons of manual Jettas for 16-17k.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      Which is a car that few people in the market for a Venue even know how to operate.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Hyundai’s advertising calls it “the urban adventurer…agile not fragile”.
      These days nobody wants to drive a manual in rush hour traffic.
      The Jetta might be good if you have a long rural commute or on a sales route that hits a lot of small towns.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You misspelled “Golf”. Which even with an automatic is about the same price as this. As if anyone has ever paid MSRP for a VW.

      The desirability of this entire class of car baffles me.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Saw one of these at the annual “Auto Show” over the weekend. Yep-it’s pretty basic-and based on all the Nissan Verses I see in this state means there is a market for it.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I generally loathe CUV’s. Ford’s attempt to sway small car buyers into that wretched Ecosport left a bad taste in my mouth. So much so that after being a loyal Ford buyer of over 37 years, I switched to a real small car a year ago and it was a like new 2016 Hyundai Elantra. It is fantastic and is great on gas.

    So I enter this discussion with a new found bias in favor of Hyundai.

    Under that guise, I attended a car show almost two weeks ago and was looking at a bevy of vehicles. I was of course curious about Hyundais and Kias and did a test sit in an Ecosport and was underwhelmed by almost everything about it. There was not much room and I didn’t like the looks.

    I was happy to see the Venue but was expect another underwhelming experience because it was a CUV and was small. Boy was I wrong! First thing I noticed was how roomy it was. Second thing I noticed was the wonderful lack of soft touch surfaces because those start to crack in five to seven years and the hard touch surfaces hold up better. Money was not spent on the materials in this vehicle but was spent on things that mattered – technology and the overall structure.

    If I were inclined to buy a CUV (and I’m not) I would not have an issue buying one of these – they get great gas mileage and they are what you see is what you get – no pretense to this vehicle – not too cute by half – just honest boxy delight with room to carry stuff without having to apologize for spending over $25k on something that looks like you spent $15k (pointing at you ford). And it can be had with a manual transmission!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I’m the opposite. My wife’s Santa Fe is our third Hyundai. The first 2 were faithful appliances giving us hundreds of thousands of trouble free miles. The 2017 is meh at best between several stupid issues with the windshield wipers, constant ozoning and cleaning of the HVAC drain to rid it of the swamp funk, and the continual reminders from Hyundai that it may or may not have metal from the machining left in the block. I’ll probably hang on to it through the warranty since my kids will be out by then and she will probably go back to a car. My 2 good ones were great though, but I’ll probably look elsewhere in the future. If I’m going to have those sorts of issues I’d like it to be a little more fun.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Art, have you had good luck with the ozone generator approach? (Used one for the first time this week.)

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I think so. It worked well in the Hyundai though it took a bit for it to quit smelling like a swimming pool. It actually belongs to a friend and he’s used it in all manner of 90s crapboxes with good success as well as the smoked in RAV4 he got. It made a night and day difference on the RAV.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Would like to see a comparo between this and the Nissan Kicks, which seems to have many of the same virtues.

  • avatar
    Rich Clark

    The Scion xB created a niche in 2004 which Toyota then abandoned to Kia. The Soul has owned it ever since, with great success.

    This is a CUV-era version of that car. Relatively inexpensive but not stripped; small on the outside, big on the inside. Funky in its plainness.

    Seniors on a budget will buy these in droves.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I like small hatchbacks – which is what this is – but I can’t see buying this over a similarly priced civic. A Honda badge and 50% more power? How can you opt for the Hyundai?

    In an age where people think 200 hp makes for an underpowered sedan, how does anyone defend this?

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      For a number of reasons.
      1) My mother can no longer bend to get into our out of most sedans/coupes. That probably goes for a significant portion of the population.
      2) I have a problem doing the same when wearing a down filled winter coat/vest.
      3) I can’t even imagine trying to fit young kids into/out of baby seats in the back of a Civic or similar vehicle in the winter.
      4) 200hp was more than you got in a base Corvette or a TransAm in the mid 70’s. And we didn’t have trouble street racing these, getting speeding tickets, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      With you in theory, but the Venue will sell a lot based on hip point alone. Civic hatch is on my list in the coming year or two, but it is way low and my knees aren’t getting younger.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    The Venue wrestles the heinous little turd crown away from the reigning champ Buick Encore. Bravo.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    These small CUVs are nicely profitable compared to their platform sibling 4dr sedans. That’s why all mfgrs are rolling them out in incremental lengths every 5 inches or so.

  • avatar

    So what we have heree: Hyundai slowly but surely is turning into new Nissan, which in turn had become new Mitsubishi, which became new Pontiac, which was a new Edsel.

    Yeah you got it right – new Hyundais are Nissan-ugly. So I would not even care at this point about cost cutting and low quality inherent in Korean cars.

  • avatar
    Right_Click_Refresh

    That’s one ugly car. The color aint doing it any favors and the line that runs from the rear window to the hatch makes it look like a mini hearse.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I drove one of these few weeks back. Base, manual. Nice enough for the price. Rides quieter and feels bigger. Good view out front. Great lane keep assist. No low rpm torque. Nice, basic controls.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    “Venue’s materials feel class-competitive and not cheap at all, but the safety ninnies are especially obnoxious with their beeps and bloops.”

    Now you complain? You auto scribes have been insisting on every conceivable device on every frigging car no matter how modest and without any regard to cost for years now. For saaaaaafety of course.

    And if one feature is lacking “Horrors”.”Unsafe At Any Speed” “Outdated” Bottom of the pack”.

    Suck it up. You asked for it.Here it is. Enjoy.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I was in traffic behind/next to one of these a couple of weeks ago. It is fugly in person, especially when behind it. An unattractive little box that looks like it was designed with a T-square. I found it depressing when I realized that I will soon be seeing these things on roads everywhere around here, like the Accent that it is based on. But at least the Accent hatch in its most recent incarnation is not offensive to the eye like this thing.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I really like the design. For one thing, styling of the front in particular makes it look much bigger than it really is, which helps cut down on bad behavior from people in actually-large vehicles.

    But wouldn’t an Accent platform mean the same torqueless wonder of an engine that my wife’s old Veloster had, and the same hard ride too? I’d certainly pass on adding any more weight and wind resistance to that thing in the form of an upright box body. The CVT might redeem it; the DCT certainly did not.

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