By on March 3, 2021

2020 Hyundai Venue

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.

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.

2020 Hyundai Venue

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.

2020 Hyundai Venue

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.

2020 Hyundai Venue

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.

2020 Hyundai Venue

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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32 Comments on “2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Review – Basic Done Well...”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I like your attitude that not every vehicle must ape a “sport sedan.” Call me ignorant, but I have no idea what a “link type” cvt is. For those not interested on being Aryton Senna on the way to where ever, I think the priorities should be, frankly, comfort: are the seats decent, and is the ride decent. Then the “enthusiast criteria”: acceleration and handling. Somewhere in between is braking performance (how well to the brakes work, not just how quickly they can bring the vehicle to a stop) and fuel economy. My definition of a “penalty box” is a vehicle that’s uncomfortable to sit or ride in for more than an hour. Admittedly, the penalty can be mitigated when the vehicle is fast, capable and entertaining to drive, but for long-term ownership “fast, capable etc.’s” redeeming qualities fade if the driver doesn’t have much opportunity to use them and spends most of the time getting groceries and/or commuting in stop-and-go traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I am no engineer, but my understanding is that this transmission doesn’t use the bands common with most CVTs, and therefore behaves a bit more like a geared transmission.

  • avatar

    For the money my little ’13 Elantra has been a great commuter car. Reliable, easy on gas, comfortable, and enough power on the daily commute. 90k and was just told by Belle Tire that it didn’t need brakes. Go figure. My teenage son is about to get his license, eventually he’ll need his own car. This will go to him, it’s got all the safety features he needs on a 4 mile drive to high school. ABS, airbags, not too fast, and no cameras, so he learns to drive using mirrors. But I’ll need to replace it. Hyundai can call it what they want, but its still a CVT. My friends in Australia get both the Venue and new Elantra with the traditional 6 speed auto. The CVT is enough to keep me way.

  • avatar

    This is kind of unrelated, but what’s with the Lexus ad video that appears to be embedded on every story on the site these days? Really annoying.

  • avatar

    I’ve had my Venue since July and this review sums things up quite accurately. If I had to describe it with one word, I’d say it is honest. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, and it’s simple to drive, simple to park, easy to maintain, and utterly dependable. What’s more, at its price point nothing else can touch it. Try one!

    • 0 avatar

      I find this true of most H/K products. In the pre-COVID world when I traveled more I would often pick the H/K product in the rental lane. The interiors are simple and straight forward. All the controls are easy to understand and access. It just works without fuss, which is important when you getting off a long flight and driving in an unfamiliar area.

      For example once during a freak ice storm I decided to just drive home vs waiting for untold hours wrecking my weekend. So ATL to FLL = 9 hours and they were offering a cheap “managers special” at the rental counter. So took the offer… turned out I was given a Soul. My heart sank, I now had to do an overnight drive in this silly box on wheels? However other then the seats being a little too firm and short (I’m tall so maybe others wouldn’t notice) it was a perfectly acceptable vehicle. I was pleasantly surprised.

      Would I own one? Not really as I’m a sports car guy but I couldn’t find any faults with the box. It functioned as needed, it wasn’t loud or annoying, got good mileage and moved along fine. The Sport Mode button (which seemed laughable) did in fact tighten up the steering, throttle response and shift points, all of which removed some dullness.

      • 0 avatar
        Polka King

        I used to look down a little on Hyundais, but I bought one and it’s the most user-friendly car ever. I replaced the wheels and tires with one size wider (oem steel) to soften the ride but that’s all I had to do.

  • avatar

    With Hyundai’s spread of CUVs, options need to also include the Kona. I continue to be pleased with how my 2020 SEL Plus corners, and I’ve averaged over 32 MPG across 12k plus miles. About 20 more HP than the Venue, a more traditional 6-speed auto tranny, slightly less utile for carrying space, but we fit luggage for two in varying climates in a 2400 mile trek from CA through AZ, UT and NV last fall. On some legs, we averaged over 40 MPG. I was able to land a deal at $23,300, then I received a $500 rebate from my insurance company, net $22,800.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Venue Denim is on my list. On paper, it reminds me a lot of my former 05 xB1.

    It’s worth mentioning that the Denim is the top trim in the Venue lineup, and the bottom trim is available with a 6-spd stick.

    • 0 avatar

      Nope. They discontinued the manual last year. Too bad, this would make a compelling case for replacing my current 06 xB (which will be rolling over 200,000 miles this week), but I’m not being the beta tester on this new transmission.

      • 0 avatar

        My wife and I were going to pull the trigger on a 6-speed Venue for her this year…her ’09 Scion xD is getting long in the tooth and our son will need a car this year so he’ll get the xD. After only being on the market for a single year Hyundai did away with the manual option in the Venue for the 2021 model year. We are not happy campers.

        A used 2020 with the 6-speed will certainly be an option but no way in heck are we buying any vehicle with a CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        Brent Bubba Mazur

        In Canada, the base 2021 Venue (aka Essential) is available with a six-speed manual.

  • avatar

    Paging Corey Lewis. B/D/B: Venue, Kicks, Trailblazer. These three seem like they’re a bit of a reboot of the cheap subcompact CUV class, and better thought-out than previous entries at similar prices.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Does this actually have a denim interior? AMC offered a Levi’s version of the Gremlin in 1973 which had an interior that mimicked denim even down to the buttons. That would be a good car for Corey to cover.

  • avatar

    Put me on the record.
    I like a decent CVT. I m not worried about the durability of a Toy-da-baru made CVT. They do proper engineering and testing – unlike the big 3. The added 10-15% in MPG is nice.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove a 2020 Sentra SV and it provided the best CVT experience I’ve ever had. Snapped immediately between ratios, incredibly responsive, positively sporty.

  • avatar

    I’d have expected to see more of these where I live, but it seems the Kona far outsells it, and the prices aren’t that far apart. The Kona kind of has taken the place of what would have been a base/mid compact or subcompact hatchback in years past.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Just looks weird…and chitty.

    • 0 avatar

      …as if the designers had blank front end and gave a bunch of random lights and grill stickers to their kids and then chose the best design. Different strokes I guess.

  • avatar

    $23K for 120HP Korean buzzbox? God, that’s depressing.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Regarding the styling, all I can say is that the “ Land Crab “l lives on. When a car emulates a jeered British AutoBlob, I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

  • avatar

    Sorry, this is just another example of taking what would be an $18k subcompact hatchback, restyling it as a fake SUV, and adding $5k to the price.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As I have previously posted, we are ‘in the market’ for a small CUV/SUV.
    Not at all interested in a ‘car’ as they are now designed too low to the ground with rooflines that are also too low. We are not interested in having to crouch down to get into/out of or load a vehicle.

    Plus the low ground clearance of most ‘new’ cars creates an issue when their is an accumulation of snow on the roads.

    So Tim, what about the important stuff? Can you ‘sit behind yourself’ in the back seat? What is headroom like back there? Is there a split-fold back seat? Can I fit my golf bag in the back?

    The favourite so far has been the Mazda. But it has some drawbacks. The back is cramped, I detest the computer screen sticking out of the ‘dashboard’ and Mazda is priced above many of the others.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar
    Brent Bubba Mazur

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

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