My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Hyundai Venue

When you hear the word "Venue," what are your first thoughts?

It would mean something that we miss about being in self-quarantine and on lockdown – a place where we once met our friends and had a good time. A place full of music, eye candy, and great drinks.

Venue also means one thing above all else. In the mortal words of RuPaul's Drag Race superstars Adore Delano and Katya: "party."

Strangely enough, there is still meaning in the word Venue – just without the alcohol and other trappings of a venue. You can still have music, see eye candy (only at stop lights), and have a good time.

This Venue is actually a very small SUV/crossover by Hyundai. It looks like it’s ready to mingle.

The 2020 Hyundai Venue makes sense as the vehicular world is changing from sedans and hatchbacks to SUVs and crossovers. It is very small – the shortest and lightest SUV sold in the USA. Sounds like something intriguing…somewhere near certain venues where you once partied before you heard of COVID-19.

So, I wonder…how small is really small? Also, can such a SUV this small worth owning? And, where?

There is something to be said about being small. Ask Steve Martin…circa 1977. But, no drugs were used in the process of evaluating this 2020 Hyundai Venue. Just to be clear here…

The scale of the size is seen all over. Hyundai shrunk down the Venue to a bite-sized version of many of its SUVs. The front end is familiar with its six-sided grille, lower headlamp units, and upper turn signals. Hyundai has also began playing with grille textures, The Venue is no exception with its star-ish details in chrome on my Denim tester.

I also noticed that the Venue has been following some design conventions among small SUVs. The absence of a C-pillar glass is part of a familiar roofline that is upright and slated at the same time. It is a bit boxy, but it has some personality traits. I also like the contrasting two-tone paint job on my tester with the white roof over a – ahem – blue denim primary color. It reminds me of a pair of jeans that might be sold at The Gap.

A few details were head-scratching. The Denim model adds a white trim on the front and rear bumpers with the star-pattern from the grille. Cute. In all, the Hyundai Venue stands out in a crowd, even if it is hidden in-between two Palisades.

The tester's Denim theme continues inside. The seats are covered with a combination of leatherette and a denim-like cloth. Bluish-white piping is added for contrast. The cloth is actually comfortable, as are the front seats. I found some support behind the wheel, with manual adjustments for rake, height, and recline. Rear seat space is a bit tight for me, but I can see four average-sized adults enjoying a jaunt across town.

Another thing that stood out on this tester is the color of the interior. When was the last time you sat in a blue interior? Do not count the times you were in a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, and so forth. I got to admit that I love this color. It also fits the theme of this particular trim level.

For the record, my former 1991 Acura Integra had a blue interior. Hence my excitement over this choice of interior color.

The dashboard should be familiar with anyone driving a current Hyundai. The instrument cluster is analog with a digital display in the middle. The infotainment screen is tacked in-between the center vents. The climate controls are circular and straightforward. I also got an actual shifter and handbrake. What more can you ask for in a vehicle at this price point?

The Hyundai Venue offered plenty of surprises. For example, cargo management. I prefer the cargo cover on, but I can also remove it and stow it neatly behind the rear seats. I can also adjust the cargo floor for more depth. Overall, I have 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space, expandable to 31.9 cubic feet with the rear seats down.

The Venue comes with only one engine – a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder that punches a bit above its 2,738-pound weight. Combined with the Intelligent Variable Transmission, the front-drive only Venue feels pretty fun around town and on the highway. It does have to be worked harder for passing and on-ramp maneuvers, however. In terms of fuel consumption, I saw an average of 34.5 MPG.

While I like the spunkiness of the Venue, it is matched by its solid ride. Give it a smooth surface, and the Venue will treat you right. Even when the pavement needs some repairs, the Venue will take care of those rough spots competently.

It also offers a tight turning radius, where the Venue can get you out of trouble quickly. The steering system is solid with good feel for turns. I wished it was more confident on-center, however. The brakes are quite good with solid pedal feel and response at the wheels. It turned some good performance in normal and panic situations.

Where the Venue let me down was in not-so-ideal weather conditions. Winds were really challenging this small SUV out on the highway. I had to work hard to keep the Venue going. Then, came the rain. The Nexen N-Prinz tires provided mediocre grip in the wet at freeway speeds. Add to the fact that the handling experience was on the soft side.

For the money, the Venue looks like a bargain. Base prices start at just $17,350. For that price, you can get an SE model with a manual transmission – great for the #SaveTheManuals crowd. Even my top-of-the-line Denim tester was a relative bargain at $23,305.

The Venue is designed for a certain demographic – location and customer-wise. It is made for the urban enclave – think Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and so forth. It is also fine for urbanistas on a budget – not that it’s a bad thing. They have less money to spend on a smaller vehicle that can accomplish essential trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the nursery.

Beyond those demographics, customers may want to consider something more substantial. Personally, if I want a small Hyundai SUV with a bit more room, more power, and all-wheel-drive, I could spend just over $3,000 more for a Kona SEL Plus model. That is a really good vehicle in its class! It is also better suited for places that are spread out even more and does well on the highway.

Still, there is a place for the 2020 Hyundai Venue. If you want a very small runabout on a budget, then it will suit you just fine. Besides, it will take you and your friends to the venue when they open up again.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America

All photos by Randy Stern

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