2021 Hyundai Venue

By November 11, 2020

Subcompact crossovers like the Hyundai Venue are popular enough to spawn very close relatives. The Venue shares some competitive space with another crossover in Hyundai’s lineup, the Kona. But though the two are similar in size, the cheaper, spunkier Venue chases after a more style-conscious crowd.

The Venue was new last year, but Hyundai has tweaked a few details on the 2021 models. For starters, the 6-speed manual that could be had on base Venues is gone. A reshuffling of features means newly standard blind-spot monitors and 17-inch wheels on the SEL trim. A formerly optional convenience package has also been made standard on the SEL.

All Venues get their power from a 1.6-liter inline-4. It makes 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque, all of which gets shipped to the front wheels via a CVT. Hitting 60 mph takes about 10 seconds, despite the Venue only weighing between 2,500 and 2,700 pounds depending on trim.

Gas mileage is rated at 30 mpg city, 34 highway, 32 combined.

All-wheel drive is not available and ground clearance is 6.7 inches. That information suggests a hatchback, but the Venue’s aura is all crossover—at least until the pavement disappears.

Every Venue benefits from an array of standard safety equipment that includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high beams. As mentioned, blind-spot monitors are standard on the SEL.

The IIHS calls the Venue a Top Safety Pick when equipped with the SEL’s optional headlights. The base headlights don’t pass muster, with the Institute rating them “Marginal.” The NHTSA wasn’t so generous with their scoring and gave the Venue just four stars out of five overall.

Model Lineup

All prices include any applicable destination charges.

The base Venue is the $19,925 SE. To keep the price under $20,000, the SE offers an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but there’s also wireless smartphone charging, cloth upholstery, and power windows and locks. Look past those goodies and the four-speaker auto, 15-inch wheels, and manual climate control expose the budget roots of the cheapest Venue.

The $20,975 SEL is a better buy for most buyers. It adds automatic climate control, two additional speakers, an express-up driver’s window, dual USB ports, and 17-inch wheels.

The fully-loaded Denim costs $23,225. Among its niceties is navigation, heated front seats, LED lighting, heated exterior mirrors, and pushbutton start. It also gets an exclusive cloth-and-synthetic-leather upholstery dyed the color of a pair of Levi’s.

Exterior

The Venue is supposed to be cheap and cheerful, and to our eyes it certainly looks the part. The boxy shape and squared-off lines give the Venue an urban-chic attitude that will be right at home in an urban setting. The top Denim trim takes this aesthetic one step further with its unique wheels and color-contrasting roof and mirrors.

Despite its hip and jaunty nature, the Venue still remains visually tethered to the rest of the Hyundai lineup through its detailing. The busy front end with its big grille isn’t that far removed from the Hyundai Palisade, and the rear end, with the Venue name spelled out across the back, is also mildly suggestive of the brand’s flagship SUV.

Interior

Despite its bargain-basement pricing, the Venue’s cabin has acceptable fit and finish, employing higher-grade plastics and fabrics than most of its competition. Black is the de facto color on the SE and SEL models, and as with most all-black interiors the resulting mood is somber. On the Denim trim, a pleasing two-tone interior finish and blue-dyed upholstery liven up the space considerably.

In a nod to the tech-obsessed times we live in, every Venue gets an 8.0-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The software is as simple and pleasing as the crossover itself, with its responsive menus and an intuitive layout all but flattening the learning curve. Redundant radio tuning and volume knobs allow for easier on-the-fly adjustments.

The Venue only stretches 159 inches from stem to stern, and the wheelbase doesn’t quite measure 100 inches. Those dimensions don’t suggest roominess, but the Venue makes the most of its subcompact size. Its 34 inches of rear leg room pair with 39 inches of rear head room, making the back seat feel more airy than it is.

The seats are manually adjusted on every trim, and leather is nowhere to be found, but neither of these facts should come as revelations in a car that doesn’t crest $24,000 in any form. The front seats are comfortable for all-day highway slogs and provide adequate support. Like any small car, the back bench is most comfortable for two riders.

Hyundai has carved out 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which opens to 31.9 cubic feet when the rear seats fold down.

Driving Impressions

The smallest crossovers on the market are also some of the slowest and least athletic cars you can buy. The Venue is no exception. With 121 horsepower, front-wheel drive, and a CVT transmission, it takes about 10 seconds for the 0-60 mph run.

Once at highway speeds, the Venue gets persnickety. At 65 mph on a calm day it tracks straight down the road with a sense of stability, but pushing past the speed limit has the Venue feeling unsure of itself, and lots of little steering corrections become necessary. A crosswind makes matters worse.

Performance is much better around town, where the slow acceleration isn’t noticeable when jackrabbiting from stoplight to stoplight and there’s none of the high-speed jitters that occur on the interstate. Light, quick steering makes it easy to thread through traffic or negotiate tight city streets.

The CVT doesn’t call attention to itself and acts much like a traditional automatic. The powertrain sounds fairly refined even when it’s being flat-footed, which we can’t say about other subcompact crossovers playing in this segment.

The Venue’s suspension is as modest as its price point, so don’t expect the basic torsion-beam rear axle to smother bumps the way an independent rear suspension might. Minor bumps and potholes hardly upset the Venue, but traveling over more severe road surfaces results in harsh impacts that shimmy their way up to the steering wheel.

Final Word

The 2021 Hyundai Venue does an expert job at knowing what to offer and what to sacrifice. It isn’t quick and nor is it cut out for the autobahn, but the fun design, comfortable interior, and ample technology give it plenty of selling points that will no doubt resonate with its intended market. Our choice? The Denim, for its ample features and lively interior decor.

 

—by Sam Moses, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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