2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Too small? Not at all!
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
To give you a clear idea of just how small the new four door, four seat Venue is, compare it to Mazda's archetypal sports car, the two door, two seat MX-5 Miata. The Hyundai is just 5 inches longer, and 2 inches wider than the Miata. But somehow, Hyundai has managed to cram family seating capacity into a chassis Mazda tailors for two. The boxy Venue handles so well it does a fair impression of the Miata on a twisty back road. Our SEL model Venue was equipped with 17 x 7J alloy rims as part of a comprehensive $1,750 Premium Package. These visually arresting 5-spoke wheels were shod with Nexen NPriz radials (205/55R17) which proved their worth in grip every time we clipped an apex. The SEL version of the Venue, which carries a base price of $19,250, includes a number of significant upgrades over the baseline SE model which retails for $17,350. Among the more important improvements were rear disc brakes (versus drum brakes on the SE), 17 inch rims and rubber versus 15 inch on the SE, and a drive mode selector that enables you to opt for "Sport" handling so you can keep those Miatas in sight on a twisty road.
One item conspicuously absent on the SEL upgrade list is a more powerful engine. All Venues come with the same 4 cylinder "Smartstream G" engine which boasts double overhead camshafts and continuously variable valve timing. But that advanced technology only manages to coax 121hp out of 1.6 liters of displacement, leaving you to stir the 8 ratios of the CVT transmission with great frequency to keep up with traffic. The power shortfall is most noticeable on the freeway, where the Venue always seems to be breathing harder than adjacent traffic to maintain 65mph. That sensation is borne out by the sedan's encumbered power-to-weight ratio of 22.56lb/hp. An infusion of 20hp would perk the Venue up significantly, since the suspension and handling far exceed the capacity of the engine to utilize them to maximum effect.
Inside, Hyundai has done a bang-up job of providing occupants with all the accoutrements of a vehicle costing twice what you will pay for this one. The list of SEL niceties starts with a brilliantly designed automatic temperature control system operated by three oversized knobs located exactly in the center of the dash. Hyundai engineers clearly labeled and conveniently positioned each control, making for a system that is refreshingly simple to operate while driving. Same goes for the wide row of clearly labeled buttons which spreads across the dash just above the HVAC controls. These buttons allow a driver to operate the 8 inch color touchscreen by selecting a hard button for functions like navigation and radio without having to resort to the perplexing use of the touchscreen while driving. In practice, the Venue's hard button layout proved far better than the complicated mouse or touch and point interfaces so prevalent on vehicles costing three times as much as this Hyundai.
In a sedan this small, you would assume interior space to be at a premium, but you would be wrong. The upright, boxy shape of the Venue contributes greatly to the perceived spaciousness of the interior. Consequently, sightlines are excellent in all directions. Here are some features you would not expect to find on a $23,000 vehicle: power sunroof, heated front seats, push button start, rear window defroster and wiper, LED (low beam) headlights, tail lights and daytime running lights, Blue Link connected car support, and leather wrapped steering wheel with spoke-mounted cruise and audio controls. On SEL level Venues with the Convenience and Premium Packages, Hyundai adds blind spot collision warning as well as rear cross traffic warning to the forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection which is included in the base price (SE) package.
Hyundai bills the Venue as "Unapologetically small and agile but not fragile." Usually, such accolades outstrip the virtues of a vehicle, but in the case of the Venue, they sound more defensive than the Venue deserves. The Venue SEL is a welcome addition to the bottom end of the Hyundai model line, offering a raft of attributes for what amounts to starter money in today's high priced car kingdom.
2020 HYUNDAI VENUE SEL
ENGINE: 1.6 liter inline 4, DOHC, Continuously Variable Valve Timing
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 30MPG City/34MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $23,425
HYPES: Responsive Handling, Intelligent Packaging
GRIPES: Turbo Would Be Nice
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10