by Karl Furlong
The Hyundai Venue is the Korean marque's tiniest SUV, slotting into the subcompact segment and giving younger shoppers, or those on a budget, an attractive alternative to pricier options. Its unique appearance will appeal in the showroom, but there is substance to this Ford EcoSport rival as well, such as peppy performance around town and a decent amount of cabin space considering its diminutive size. The 121-horsepower 1.6-liter engine battles a bit on the highway, but that's one of the sacrifices to be made considering the attractive starting price of just $18,750. Road noise is also prevalent at higher speeds, but if you are willing to live with these few foibles, the Venue has a lot going for it.
Hyundai has made a few changes to standard features, both within and outside of optional packages, compared with the 2020 Hyundai Venue. But perhaps the biggest change to the Venue this year has been the discontinuation of the manual gearbox on the SE; with this change, all Venues now make use of the continuously variable transmission. Outside of this, the SE now has 15-inch alloy wheels as standard, replacing the previous steel items, while the SEL gains standard 17-inch alloys. The mid-range SEL also gets several standard features that were previously part of the now-discontinued Convenience Package, such as a sliding armrest storage box and a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob. Blind-spot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert now form part of the SEL's standard specification, all of which make the new Venue SUV even more appealing than before.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Customers who crave the chunkier appearance of an SUV, but without the added bulk, will love the Venue. The design has a blocky, angular theme, which applies not only to the Venue's silhouette but details such as the rectangular-shaped daytime running lights in front and the taillight clusters. A 'floating roof' effect is a neat design trick that has been achieved by darkened A-pillars. The base SE comes with projector automatic headlights, a black front grille, and 15-inch alloy wheels, but upper trims have a chrome grille, 17-inch alloys, and roof side rails. The Denim comes with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and a contrasting white roof. A power sunroof is optional, but only on the SEL.
The Hyundai Venue is one of the smallest crossovers on the market. It measures just 159.1 inches in length, making it nearly five inches shorter than the already compact Kona. Sneaking in at under 100 inches is a 99.2-inch wheelbase, while other dimensions include a width of 69.7 inches (excluding the mirrors) and a height of 61.6 inches. With such a small footprint, it comes as no surprise that the curb weight starts at just 2,612 pounds, going up to a maximum of 2,738 lbs.
Hyundai smartly recognizes that the Venue will appeal to a younger demographic and has supplied a color palette that includes vibrant, youthful shades like Green Apple, Intense Blue, and Scarlet Red Pearl. For less adventurous shoppers, there is Black Noir Pearl, Galactic Gray, Stellar Silver, and Ceramic White. None of these color choices cost anything extra and apply to both the SE and SEL. The Denim, however, gets its own Denim paint finish (it is only available in one exclusive option) with a white contrast roof.
The Venue's small size makes it feel faster than it is around town, where zipping in and out of gaps in traffic is accomplished with little effort. However, the reality is that this isn't a fast crossover. Under the hood is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with just 121 horsepower and a mere 113 lb-ft of torque. It's only paired with a CVT transmission this year and power exclusively goes to the front wheels, whereas competitors like the Ford EcoSport offer 4WD capability. According to independent tests, the Venue will require a time in the mid-nine-second range to get from 0-60 mph, and much more than that to eventually reach its top speed. Some rivals offer turbocharged power, so racing from traffic lights vs the Kia Soul will quickly see the Venue being left behind. Hyundai has not indicated a towing capacity for the Venue.
As before, just one engine is on offer for the Venue: the 1.6-liter Smartstream four-cylinder power plant manages 121 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque. While a manual gearbox was available previously, Hyundai has discontinued it so that leaves a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as the only choice. Hyundai calls its CVT an IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission) and, although it can't do much to overcome the engine's lack of power, responsiveness is decent from a standing start. The IVT mimics the shifts of a conventional automatic, too. However, passing on the highway will require plenty of patience and a heavy right foot. So, although cross-country road trips can be a bit of a chore, the Venue is a car in its element within the confines of congested city streets.
If the Hyundai Venue is on your shortlist, we advise that your test drive includes a mix of both town and highway driving, because the little crossover's performance varies widely depending on where you are. In the city, the news is mostly positive. The Venue's compact dimensions mean that taking gaps in traffic is easily done and narrow lanes don't provoke any nervous moments. The steering, too, is light but responsive around town. Out on the highway, things are rather different. Although the ride is reasonably composed, the steering requires regular corrections to keep the crossover traveling in a straight line, and that 1.6-liter really needs to work hard at higher speeds. Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence as passing slower traffic requires every last bit of power from the engine. Road noise is also more intrusive than we'd like on a vehicle too, but the Venue shines in the purpose it was designed for: short inner-city commutes.
The Venue is an impressive fuel-sipper, with especially commendable gas mileage in the city. According to the EPA, the little Hyundai will return 30/33/31 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, which is very similar to several competitors like the Mazda CX-3, which manages best figures of 29/34/31 mpg. The Nissan Kicks is even more efficient, though, returning 31/36/33 mpg. Although its 11.9-gallon gas tank is tiny, the Venue should be able to attain around 369 miles of range.
Despite its diminutive size, Hyundai has successfully managed to design a cabin that can accommodate four six-foot adults quite comfortably, as we found in our review of the Venue. The design itself isn't especially striking, but we'd take a functional interior that works well over a flashy-but-complicated one any day. Although there are plenty of hard plastics - hardly a shock considering the Venue's budget-friendly price - build quality is sturdy. All versions come with a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, a touchscreen interface, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seatback. The top-spec Demin is kitted out with cloth/leatherette seats, heated front seats, and push-button ignition, while all variants come with safety technologies like driver attention warning and lane-keeping assist.
The Hyundai Venue technically seats five occupants, but as is often the case with subcompact crossovers, you wouldn't often want to put three people at the back. However, four average-sized adults can be accommodated in a surprising amount of comfort, with good leg- and headroom. Of course, those over six-feet tall won't feel as comfortable here as in a Hyundai Tucson, but it's far from intolerable. The seats themselves are supportive and comfortable. The door openings are sufficiently sized to make ingress and egress effortless, and while visibility is mostly good, the rear roof pillars obscure the view somewhat.
It's a pretty basic affair with the Hyundai Venue SE's interior, which has cloth-upholstered seats in black, relieved only by silver accents on the steering wheel, around the shift lever, and on the door handles/ventilation outlets. The SEL adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, along with the choice of a lighter Gray interior, with the lower panels also finished in Gray. The Denim is uniquely finished in a Denim-colored shade inside and receives upholstery in a combination of cloth and leatherette. No other colors are offered for the Denim trim's interior.
Behind the rear seats, the Hyundai Venue SUV offers 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Although this isn't a lot in SUV terms, it's not bad when viewed in the context of the Venue's size. The load area itself is quite tall although not especially deep; still, a few small-to-medium sized suitcases can fit. The cargo floor can be lowered and the stowable rear luggage shelf is a nice touch as well. By folding down the 60/40-split-folding rear seats, cargo space increases to 31.9 cubes. This is useful, but the larger Kona is much better here as it offers more trunk space behind the back seats, and over 45 cubes with its seats folded.
Interior storage space is decent, with cupholders situated alongside the handbrake, an open storage area above the glovebox, useful door bins, and a passenger-side seatback pocket. However, only the top two trims have a sliding center armrest/storage box.
Starting at below $20,000, the Hyundai Venue puts the emphasis on the essentials. The SE comes with manual air conditioning, a six-way manual driver's seat, power front/rear windows, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. It's got a decent array of safety gear, though, with forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, and a rearview camera all being standard. The mid-range SEL adds automatic temperature control, an auto-up driver's window, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. On the top-spec Denim, there are heated front seats, along with a proximity key including push-button ignition.
Hyundai's infotainment system is simple to master and comes with a physical volume knob that makes it easy to turn down the radio when you're trying to find a new destination, catering to that bizarre phenomenon of being able to read traffic signs more clearly without your favorite tune blasting loudly. The base SE comes with an eight-inch touchscreen display with both Android Auto/Apple CarPlay as well as HD Radio. The top Denim trim has the same setup but with SiriusXM satellite radio and navigation added, an upgrade that is available for the mid-range SEL. However, the Denim trim doesn't have wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, so you'd better remember to bring along your cable. All trims offer Bluetooth connectivity and auxiliary input jacks, but only the top two trims have dual USB charging ports. A four-speaker sound system on the SE is replaced by a six-speaker unit on the top two trims.
J.D. Power gave the 2021 version of the Venue an overall rating of 78 out of 100, which is acceptable but falls short of competitors like the Kia Soul, which attained a score of 85/100. Promisingly, the Venue has yet to be recalled for any problems for either the 2020 or 2021 model years.
If anything does go awry, it's satisfying to know that the Venue comes with one of the best warranties in the industry. The five-year/60,000-mile new vehicle warranty is complemented by a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. A seven-year anti-perforation warranty applies regardless of mileage covered, while 24-hour roadside assistance runs for five years.
The 2021 Hyundai Venue achieved a four-out-of-five star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, with four stars for the frontal and rollover tests and five stars for the side crash test. Over at the IIHS, the 2020 Venue was rated as a Top Safety Pick, one of the highest recognitions from the authority.
It may be short on luxuries - a consequence of the Venue's positioning in the market rather than stinginess on Hyundai's part - but a quick review of the spec sheet reveals that the Korean brand has done a good job of equipping even the cheapest Venue with the safety technologies expected of any new vehicle. Every version comes with tire-pressure monitoring, a rearview camera, vehicle stability management, electronic stability control, traction control, and ABS brakes. The airbag count totals six, with dual-front, front-side, and curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions.
Driver-assist technologies encompass forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning. The top two trims add blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Within the context of its sub-$20,000 price, the Hyundai Venue hits the nail on the head. It is trendily styled, has a spacious cabin considering its size, is in its element around town, and comes with one of the best warranties in the industry. In a world where bigger is perceived as better, the Venue makes a strong case for downsizing. Of course, the wallet-friendly price comes with a couple of disadvantages, such as the noisy interior at highway speeds, and an engine that struggles when more is asked of it. We also lament the discontinuation of the manual gearbox, but this is an industry-wide trend that shows no signs of disappearing. If you need a starter crossover that won't break the bank, the Hyundai Venue answers that brief admirably.
The Hyundai Venue may cost less than the bigger Kona, but it's not quite the cheapest crossover in its segment. In the USA, the 2021 Hyundai Venue begins at an MSRP of just $18,750 for the SE, increasing to $19,800 for the mid-range SEL and $22,050 for the Denim. Considering the SEL's extra equipment this year, the increase of $550 is reasonable when compared to the equivalent price of the Hyundai Venue in 2020. These prices exclude any options - although there are few of these - and a destination freight charge of $1,175. Although well-priced in its segment, the Kia Soul starts at an even more affordable $17,490.
The 2021 Hyundai Venue models are made up of the SE, SEL, and Denim. All trim levels are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 121 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque, with power directed to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
The SE comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, projector headlights, and power-adjustable exterior mirrors. Inside, there is an eight-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and a four-speaker sound system. Safety features include driver attention warning and forward-collision warning.
The mid-range SEL is even better-equipped this year, gaining extras like blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Along with the SE's equipment, it also packs in 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker sound system, and automatic temperature control.
At the top of the range is the Denim, painted in a unique Denim color with a white contrast roof. Inside, it has sportier cloth/leatherette upholstery, plus heated front seats, navigation, and a proximity key with push-button ignition.
Entry-level models are typically the least customizable and that's the case with the Venue SE. Only a handful of accessories such as a cargo tray ($115), rear cupholder with console armrest ($65), and roof rack cross rails ($250) are on offer.
The SEL is the only trim that can be comprehensively upgraded via the Premium Package at $2,350. The Premium's specs include heated front seats, LED daytime running lights, navigation, an eight-inch touchscreen interface with navigation, and an electric sunroof. However, this package would make it more expensive than the top-spec Denim and, if it were a choice between an upgraded SEL and the Denim, we'd choose the latter.
Our pick of the range is the mid-range Hyundai Venue SEL. While keeping the starting price below $20,000, this model adds niceties such as dual USB charging ports, a better sound system, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It's also the most customizable variant in the range, with available equipment like projector LED headlights, a power sunroof, heated front seats, and navigation. That said, these extras are all bundled together as part of the $2,350 Premium Package, and at that price, you may as well go for the top-spec Denim.
It can become a challenge for buyers when one manufacturer offers two models that overlap in price. That's exactly the case in the USA with the Hyundai Venue and Kona, with the latter starting at $20,400, less than the price of the Venue Denim. Both SUVs have plenty of visual appeal and look different enough from each other to be distinctive. The Kona offers quite a bit more power, though, with a 147 hp 2.0L and an available 1.6L turbo with 175 hp. Only the Kona offers the option of four-wheel drive. At almost five inches shorter vs the Kona, it figures that the Venue offers less passenger space and far less cargo space with the rear seats folded. Going for the Kona also avails more features like a head-up display, smart cruise control, and wireless device charging. If value trumps all, we can understand opting for the Venue, but overall, we'd side with the slightly larger and more practical Kona.
The all-new Kia Seltos is one of the best small SUVs for sale and provides a nice idea of what to expect for just a few grand more than the base Venue. Firstly, this is one seriously handsome crossover that is both youthful and aggressive. At 172 inches in length, it's over 10 inches longer than the Venue, which explains why the Kia has 3.7 inches of additional rear legroom and a much larger cargo area. With the rear seats folded, the Seltos has double the utility space. The base Seltos has a 147 hp 2.0L and all-wheel drive, which isn't offered on the FWD-only Venue. The turbocharged Seltos delivers 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The Venue is more efficient, but the difference isn't massive. Finally, the Kia has a much more premium-feeling cabin. Although the Seltos is more expensive, you do get quite a bit more car for the money.
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Check out some informative Hyundai Venue video reviews below.