2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Review - Basic Done Well
2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Fast Facts
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]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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