For those who find the subcompact Hyundai Kona to be too portly, the Korean manufacturer has introduced the even smaller and new-for-2020 Venue to its revamped crossover lineup.
There is not much in the size difference. The Venue is 5 inches shorter overall, offers a hair less cargo room with the rear seats up and has slightly less interior passenger volume.
More significantly, the Kona is faster, more agile and better looking. However, the Venue is surprisingly spacious and bests the entire subcompact crossover market in starting price. Buyers can put a base, SE model with 6-speed manual transmission in their garage for $18,470, destination included.
It’s entry level price does come with an entry level list of features, though.
An 8-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity are standard along with a USB and auxiliary jack, four speakers, cruise control, hand-free Bluetooth and keyless entry. Standard safety features include forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detections, lane-keep assist and driver attention warning.
Those wanting a bit more can opt for either mid-level SEL trim or a strangely named top-of-the-line Denim model. In the higher trims, though, things can get a bit confusing.
For instance, if you want a sunroof, it is only available in SEL models equipped with the $1,150 dollar Convenience Package, which also includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift-know and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision warnings.
If you want some more features to add to SEL, there is the Premium Package ($1,750) that includes heated front seats, LED lighting, 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, navigation and Hyunda’s Blue Link system.
But if you want, say, a sunroof and heated front seats in your SEL, you will pay a combined $2,900, one Benjamin Franklin note more than a Denim version ($23,170) which has all the aforementioned options as standard, except the sunroof, of course.
All models come with cloth seats, and those who want all-wheel drive are, to use an acronym, S.O.L., because only front-wheel drive is available.
In either SEL or Denim, the Venue is handsomely equipped for just its price point, even if it does not sport the most handsome exterior.
The Venue’s high, boxy roof may not make for the most alluring of profiles, but it provides a surprising amount of headroom for the subcompact class.
The front row is roomy, but legroom is cramped for adults in the rear. The same could be said for front passengers with a bulky, rear-facing child seat in the backseat. However, this can be expected of almost all subcompacts, and the Venue is still more spacious than many of its rivals.
Despite being smaller than the Kona in all dimensions except for height, the Venue still offers just under 19-cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, just a half-cube less than the Kona.
Powering Hyundai’s new offering is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine offering 121 horsepower and 113 torques. That is quite a collection of numbers to say this — the Venue is slow.
The engine is a sprightly around town, but it lags sufficient power to get up to speed in a timely fashion, and you can all but forget about quickly passing someone on the highway.
The engine is paired to Hyundai’s version of a continuously variable transmission, and around town it is, in a word, annoying. In stop-and-go traffic, making 90-degree turns or simply just traversing through traffic signal riddled roads, it is reluctant to go down a peg until you mash the accelerator. Only then does it go down, and by that time you practically have the gas pedal to the firewall, so it jumps quickly back up a notch and causes drivers, or at least this one, to curse it.
Constantly jamming the throttle trying to get to a lower gear also enables engine noise to pervade the cabin. It’s not a terrible noise, per se, which is good considering you will be hearing it under acceleration.
While the Venue’s drivetrain can be a letdown at times, it does net big savings at the pumps. The Hyundai offers 34 highway and 30 city mpg figures.
The Venue’s ride quality is not exactly refined — passengers will feel road imperfections — but it is everyday comfortable, and cozy, supportive seats help the cause. The steering wheel is nicely weighted, and the brakes have appropriate feel for the daily trek.
Hyundai’s infotainment system continues to be one of the most intuitive on the market, and the Venue has nice, chunky dials and plenty of buttons to ease inputs with an easy-to-use layout.
With the Venue sporting the title of the least expensive subcompact crossover on the market, hard plastics are to be expected, and they are certainly present. However, they are mostly confined to the least touched of surfaces. There are also features that cut down on any bargain bin feel to the Venue like contrast stitching, soft material used on the top of the dash and center console, and striped seats.
The Venue is a satisfactory entry level subcompact that offers a spacious cabin, a good portion of tech and safety features above base trim, excellent fuel economy and, of course, it is as affordable as new crossovers get. There is also Hyundai’s unbeatable coverage, with 5 year/60,000-mile transferable factory warranty and 10 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and complimentary maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
But all said, there is no way I cannot mention the strangeness of the name Venue. Hyundai has a penchant for naming cars after locations — Santa Fe, Tucson and the like. But Venue?
The manufacturer says the Venue embodies the characteristics of “the place to be…wherever that may be.” That is eye-roll inducing as is, and there is no getting around the fact that if you buy one, your coworkers and friends will inevitably ask what that new car is of yours in the parking lot or driveway.
And you will have to say a Venue. Or even worse, a Venue Denim.