2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Review - Basic Done Well

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Fast Facts

1.6-liter four-cylinder (121 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm; 113 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm)
Link-type intelligent continuously-variable automatic, front-wheel drive
30 city / 34 highway / 32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
8.0 city, 7.0 highway, 7.5 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$22,050 (U.S) / $24,999 (Canada)
As Tested
$23,305 (U.S.) / $26,654.70 (Canada)
Prices include $1,120 destination charge in the United States and $1,925 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 hyundai venue denim review basic done well

We love to daydream about Hellcats and TRXs and Shelbys and even affordable sports cars like a Type R, but there are many among the masses who care not for such iron, and don’t have enough paper for those things even if they did.

Some of these folks need and/or want something even more basic than your standard Civic or Corolla. Or they want some boxy utility with paying the premium commanded by so many crossovers.

These folks aren’t bereft of choice. Kia offers the Soul, Nissan the Kicks, and Hyundai the Venue.

That last one is the one featured here today. And it, relative to the price and competition, is quite good.

The Venue utilizes space well, and that includes the layout of the interior controls. And the boxy shape helps with headroom and gives the cabin an airy feel.

It’s one thing to mostly succeed at your mission. It’s another to have bonus qualities. And the Venue has the latter.

No one expects sportiness from a boxy, inexpensive ‘ute meant for urban runabout duties, but the Venue is no penalty box. I’d still refer those looking for something truly engaging while shopping in this class to the Kia store down the street – Kia has Soul, after all – but the college kid, empty-nester, or low-monthly-payment-seeker who picks the Venue won’t be cursing their lot in life.

The handling is engaging enough – although, as with my first drive, I didn’t get a chance to truly test the limit, and the ride, while a tad stiff, is not punishing.

Don’t expect too much from the 123 horsepower/113 lb-ft of torque 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, though. You’ll have the grunt you need for most urban and suburban driving but maybe think twice before trying to merge ahead of that Freightliner bearing down on you.

You’re also likely to be saddled with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission, which is more-or-less a CVT. It’s well-behaved, perhaps because it’s a link-type. It also doesn’t always quickly get the engine into the upper rev range – which is where it needs to be to best draw the power on tap.

A lack of get-up-and-go isn’t shocking at this price point. What is surprising, pleasantly, is the quality of interior materials and the apparent build quality. Sub-$25K-cars rarely feel this well screwed together, and rarely do the materials one touches and sees feel and look so upmarket.

The cabin design is pleasing, too, in its simplicity, though there seems to be no good reason for a floating infotainment screen. Outside, the box-it-came-in look is likely no one’s idea of sexy, but like the inside, it works because it’s not afraid to be mostly plain. Mostly, because a big grille dominates the front, and a two-tone roof spices things up.

The Denim’s options list boils down to accessories, and in the case of my test unit, only the $135 carpeted floor mats were added on ($155 for ’21 models). Standard features included forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, driver-attention warning, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, hill-start assist, rear disc brakes, 17-inch wheels, roof rails, heated body-colored sideview mirrors, LED headlights, contrasting white roof, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, heated front seats, split-fold rear seat, and tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Final price, including destination? $23,305, with destination.

Miles per gallon isn’t too shabby, at 30/34/32.

Those of us who write here, and most of our readership, are car enthusiasts. You love to read about fast and fun machines, and we generally prefer to write about them.

But most of the market is made up of vehicles that emphasize utility because far more customers care about cargo space and miles per gallon than torque and miles per hour. And many car buyers aren’t thinking about horsepower per dollar, but value per dollar.

An inexpensive utility vehicle will, of course, appeal to this type of person. And the Venue is about appealing as a squared-off urban ‘ute can get.

Those who want to have their sport and utility both when buying a boxy runabout will seek solace in the Soul. Those who care not a whit about driving dynamics will be fine with the Kicks.

The Venue splits the difference, offering utility at a reasonable price without being a penalty box.

Basic isn’t always bad.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 32 comments
  • Bd2 Bd2 on Mar 06, 2021

    The Kia version,the Sonet (not available here) is so much better looking, and also looks better than its larger sibling, the Seltos.

  • Brent Bubba Mazur Brent Bubba Mazur on Mar 07, 2021

    I'd rather have an Accent with the same powertrain and get 20% better mileage.

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  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
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  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
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