Overview

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Overview (Final Score: B-)

Cars are out of fashion. At least in the shape, we have come to think of them. The old low-slung "three box" design has given way to the SUV profile. Two boxes with an upright look and a taller roofline. The idea is to bring in some of the elements that shoppers like about crossovers. The all-new Hyundai Venue is a great example of this trend that the Nissan Kicks and Ford EcoSport both also illustrate. Hyundai is marketing its new subcompact, five-passenger Venue as an "urban SUV." That's not a term we're especially fond of. If you are in the city, why have a vehicle at all? If this is an SUV, where are the towing hitch and why doesn't it have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive? But you get the point. Just don't call it an "economy car."

Hyundai offers the Venue in three trims. Base SE, SEL and the SEL Denim package. The SE with its manual transmission and no options costs $18,470. An automatic SEL starts at $20,370. Our SEL tester with both option packages cost $23,270 including the freight fee. That turns out to be the most expensive version of the car. The Denim SEL trim actually saves $100.

You are going to see some very high scores here for the Venue. Be advised that this reviewer scores vehicles in reference to their segment. In other words, the scores are based on a 10/10 being the best score for a subcompact entry-level vehicle in that category.

What We Love About the 2020 Hyundai Venue

- Fresh new look

- Roomy interior (really)

- Fit, finish, and quality feel

What We Don't Love About the 2020 Hyundai Venue

- It's a slow-poke

- Fuel economy (we'll explain)

- Safety for the dollar

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Exterior View (10/10)

Setting aside names for now, we think the Venue has a great look. In person, it looks a lot like a shrunken version of a Santa Fe. It appears so small you could almost stow one away in a Hyundai Palisade. The look screams cool and new, and we think entry-level buyers will be attracted to it much more than to a new subcompact sedan, if they somehow stumbled upon one. The Venue has many of the same Hyundai style features we find attractive. The unusual nose with the bigger lights below and smaller above. The grill that makes no enemies. We love the overall boxy look that mimics the larger, and very attractive Kona, Tucson, and Santa Fe. It fits right in with the look of Hyundai's crossover line perfectly.

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From the side and rear, the Venue looks like a baby SUV without question. The roof racks also add the SUV style cue. The alloy wheels on this entry-level vehicle make it seem more mature and upscale. We can't find a single bad thing to say about the styling of this great new "car/crossover" from Hyundai.

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (10/10)

Inside, the Venue scores points with this larger than average test driver. Noplace does the Venue crowd a larger driver. The right knee room is better than most larger crossovers or cars. Hyundai kept the front center console away from the driver there, and it makes the car seem roomier than it is. The high ceiling also adds a feeling of openness. The large, square glass area makes outward visibility excellent. The optional moonroof also brings in light to the cabin. Once you are inside, the Venue it feels bigger than it is. That is a compliment to the designers.

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The cloth seats are cozy in winter and cooler than plastic would be in summer. Our tester was a mid-trim SEL with the Convenience and Premium packages included. That added heat to our seats. It was welcome in the middle of winter. Small, but important options like that can really matter in the entry-level segment. Though only manually-adjustable, we found the seats to be comfy. If the mission is urban driving and not long road-trips, these will more than do the trick. The back seat is tight, but your friends won't complain while out on the town. Pile in, you're only going ten blocks.

All of the things the driver will touch seemed to this tester top-notch. Hyundai didn't use the "bargain" controls and switchgear. The switches and controls look like the same ones you'd find in a $30K top-trim Kona. The conventional gearshift does not steal much space, and the two cupholders are perfect for your grande latte. Under the infotainment array is a perfectly-sized phone cradle. The SEL even has a real center armrest that slides forward and opens for wallet storage. Nothing you really want is missing.

The Venue offers a relatively generous 18.7 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its rear seats. Compare that to a Hyundai Elantra sedan which offers 14.4 cu ft. We pulled up the cargo floor and found a spare tire hiding underneath. You won't find that in a Nissan Leaf, or any EV we can think of for that matter.

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Technology (10/10)

Let's start with what matters most - Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Your cell phone connectivity is standard on Venue. There is no base trim without it. So that means you don't need Nav. Our SEL Premium had Nav anyway. Redundant, but to get the seat heat you need the Premium package. To get the Premium Package you first have to add the Convenience Package. So, those heated seats end up costing you $2,900. Ouch.  We used Android Auto and everything worked seamlessly. The touch-screen display is just like any in any other Hyundai, which is to say, excellent.

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Fuel Economy (6/10)

A vehicle this small and modern must have shockingly good fuel economy. Right? Wrong. The Venue is rated at 32 MPG combined with the Automatic transmission and 30 if you opt for the manual (don't). By contrast, an automatic Honda Civic sedan earns a 36 MPG rating. Let's add in another entry-level vehicle that has an imaginary MSRP much higher than the Venue, but after incentives and rebates costs about the same, the Nissan Leaf. It earns a 112 MPGe rating. If this is a city runabout, why not opt for an EV? The EPA estimates that would save you about $600 per year on energy to fuel the vehicle. On the flip side, if you are truly only using this car in an urban area, maybe your driven miles are low. And if so, who really cares what the gas costs?

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (9/10)

Hyundai has outstanding JD Power Initial Quality Study ratings as a brand. Only its siblings Kia and Genesis score higher. However, this is the very first year for the Venue and we have not seen this drivetrain before that we can recall. Consumer Reports is hedging its bets a bit with a 3/5 predicted reliability score. That sounds about right to us. However, with a ten-year warranty on the expensive bits, the Venue is unlikely to cost you much in repairs.

Safety (6/10)

On paper, the Venue has all the safety stuff we like to see. Automatic emergency braking and all that jazz. That is good. What's not good is that this is effectively the smallest new car on four wheels you can buy. You be the judge of your own safety, but stand next to a Venue before you decide.

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Performance (6/10)

The Venue mimics a MINI Cooper in some ways. Small, boxy, cute and snappy. But it's not really zippy. The Venue we drove with its automatic transmission is reluctant to give you what you want when darting around in congested areas. Here, a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt is way ahead. If you don't opt for an EV you won't find anything much quicker. This is entry-level. Still, we are not going to lie to you about its fun factor.

Pricing and Value (9/10)

Were it not for the federal government throwing up to $7,500 in tax rebates at you for buying an EV, and many urban areas also offering state and local discounts on EVs, the Venue would score higher in value than a 9. What the Hyundai Venue does give you is the best warranty in the business, and new for 2020, three years of included maintenance. That is something a first-time buyer on a budget should carefully consider. This car effectively has a fixed cost of ownership over its first three years. You will pay for energy and you need to buy insurance, but once you sign on the dotted line you don't have to give Hyundai or its dealers any more money for 36 months. Given Hyundai's outstanding reputation for reliability and quality, the Venue may be a vehicle that gives you very little in the way of surprises.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (66/80, 82.5%)

The Hyundai Venue is an attractive, comfortable entry-level car. Its closest rival may be the Nissan Kicks. However, we like to think outside the box a bit. Were we shopping for a vehicle with this mission, we would carefully consider an electric vehicle. Particularly if we were able to take full advantage of the federal tax incentives. We work from our base in Massachusetts and new Bolts and Leafs have been costing buyers under $25K for years here. Simply put, your neighbors are subsidizing these deals, but you get a lot more car for the money. Also, we like the Ford EcoSport with its optional AWD. If we wanted to expand the mission beyond just a city runabout, the AWD EcoSport offers some interesting possibilities.

Overall, the Hyundai Venue offers buyers a vehicle they will be proud to be seen in at an entry-level price that is hard to beat from a company with a reputation for quality and reliability.

Image Notes: Blue Venue with white roof is an SEL Denim trim images courtesy of Hyundai. The red Venue shown was our SEL test vehicle. The MPG chart is courtesy of Fueleconomy.gov.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - FWD
SE SE Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 17350
SE SE IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 18550
SEL SEL IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 19250
Denim Denim IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 22050

Comparison of 2020 Hyundai Venue with Similar Cars

2020 Hyundai Venue MSRP Invoice
2020 Hyundai Venue $17,350 $16,897
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2020 Jeep Compass $22,105 $21,989 2020 Hyundai Venue VS 2020 Jeep Compass
2020 Chevrolet Trax $21,300 $20,533 2020 Hyundai Venue VS 2020 Chevrolet Trax
2020 Honda HR-V $20,820 $20,251 2020 Hyundai Venue VS 2020 Honda HR-V
2020 Ford Ecosport $19,995 $19,595 2020 Hyundai Venue VS 2020 Ford Ecosport

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2020 Hyundai Venue ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2020 Hyundai Venue rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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