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Recently Driven

2020 Hyundai Venue Ultimate

By: Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer     

Photos by: John Raymond   

 

The big grille dominates the front of the Venue. Multiple front lightling units are an odd styling flourish that look less distracting in person than in photos.

History
The Venue is an all-new model that went on sale early this year. It replaced the Accent as Hyundai’s base model in the U.S. and will become the base model in Canada for 2021 as Hyundai Canada has announced the Accent will be discontinued.  

Though sold as a crossover, the Venue is just a tall hatchback as it lacks all-wheel drive.  

 

The side windows look small in relation to the body sides, but outward vision is unobstructed

Model mix
The sole powertrain on offer is a 121 horsepower 1.6L four sending power to the front wheels via an Intelligent Variable transmission, Hyundai’s term for its new continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Four trim levels, Essential, Preferred, Trend and Ultimate, are offered.

Vehicle tested Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Body style Four-door tall hatchback
Engine 1.6L-4 (121 horsepower)
Transmission Continuously variable transmission
Base MSRP $17,099
Price as tested $25,099 (includes $200 paint option)
NRCan fuel economy 7.5L/100 km
Observed fuel economy 7.3L/100 km

Styling
Though it is based on the Accent, the Venue is built on a 60 mm (2.4 inch) shorter wheelbase, stretches 45 mm (1.8 inches) less from bumper-to-bumper and is a whopping 142 mm (5.6 inches) taller than its showroom mate.

The Venue is fronted by a gigantic egg-crate grille, accented by multiple light boxes, like the Jeep Cherokee before its recent update. The upper body sides feature a strong accent line, which rests over some softly rounded forms just below the window line.

Viewed from the side, some people will notice the shallow window glass. The rear of the vehicle is a clean design with a sleek integration of the taillights.  

Functional dashboard features a neat integration of the infotainment screen. The high-contrast interior finishes are attractive  

Interior
The Venue’s cabin design is tastefully conservative and stylish, never reminding you that you are in an inexpensive car. The analogue gauges are crisply marked and the infotainment screen is neatly integrated into the dashboard between two vents. As is typical for Hyundai vehicles, controls for the audio and climate systems are brilliantly simple and straightforward. Electronic device users are treated to two USB ports and a 12 volt socket. The cabin of our high-end Ultimate test car evoked a mid-century design with high-contrast interior hues. The lower dash and the door armrest inserts are finished in an ultra-pale gray, which contrasts with the blue hue of the upper dash, door panels and seat bolsters. The centre panels of the seats are finished in a wool-like charcoal fabric that has ribs woven into the fabric itself, and the seats are accented with white stitching and piping. In our tested Ultimate model, the cabin was brightened by convincing faux alloy accents. There are no soft-touch surfaces inside the Venue, but the matte-finish hard surfaces are attractive. Like many current vehicles, the floor covering is not really carpet, but a thin, felt-like fabric that doesn’t look very durable. The front seats are supportive and combine with sufficient space, lofty headroom and a good relationship between the driver’s seat and controls to deliver a comfortable driving position. The tall stance of the Venue results in hip-height seat cushions that make for easy ingress and egress. The 60/40 split rear seat itself is supportive, has a comfortable backrest angle, and, if the front occupants are willing to compromise a bit, offers surprising legroom for a small vehicle.

With the rear seat ready to accept passengers, the Venue’s trunk is square and deep below the window line. Cargo space can be enhanced by folding the rear seats but the cargo area is not flat. Buyers considering the larger Kona should check out the Venue, as the Kona offers no more passenger space and the Venue’s trunk is actually deeper.  
 

Unpadded matte finish cabin surfaces look very good 

Like many aspects of the Venue's cabin, the wool-like seat  fabric looks more upscale than expected at this price level.  

The trunk is regularly shaped and deep below the window line  

The 1.6L four combines with a CVT to deliver a good blend of performance and fuel economy 

Performance
The 121 horsepower four is surprisingly smooth, quiet enough when pushed hard, and fades into the background while cruising. The CVT automatic is well-adapted to the 1.6L four, reconciles acceleration, fuel economy and refinement very well. The Sport mode of the CVT enlivens performance but is a bit too “sporty” to endure for more than a few minutes of fun.

The Venue’s steering is not the last word in road feel, but it is quickly geared, nicely-weighted and holds its line well enough on the highway. The ride-handling balance is very acceptable, but like other short wheelbase vehicles, the Venue can be unsettled by larger road imperfections. Subjectively, the Venue's structure seems surprisingly rigid, which likely contributes to the competent suspension.

Hyundai’s infotainment interface offers easy cellphone hookup and the voice command feature works well. The audio system on our high-end Ultimate trim provided clean sound.
The air conditioner easily cooled occupants during hot, late spring weather. Wind buffeting with the sunroof open is minimal until you are travelling faster than 80 kilometers per hour. The Venue's overall performance is an impressive display of design and engineering from Hyundai. 

Pricing
With air-conditioning, the iOS-Android cellphone interface, heated seats and a cargo cover, even the base Essential trim is very well equipped. The Preferred trim, with alloy wheels, a forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot, rear cross traffic, lane departure monitors and a lane keep assist system, is good value. The Trend includes Keyless Go, larger wheels and a sunroof, at a bargain price. The Ultimate range topper is very well equipped but expensive for what you get. The Venue is a very good lease value for 2020.

Reliability
The Venue is covered by a five year/100,000 kilometre warranty. Hyundai has had more than its share of engine trouble lately, but so far the 1.6 used in the Venue, Accent and Soul has been reliable. The Venue’s continuously variable transmission is both new and unproven, which is a concern given the difficulties Hyundai has experienced with new technology since 2011. Leasing a Venue for four years is a good value this year, with the benefit of warranty coverage during the lease term. An extended powertrain warranty would be a good strategy for those who would prefer to buy and hold onto their car for the long term, however, the powertrain warranty is so expensive Hyundai is passively stating that problems are likely.  
 

 

Sleek rear design of the Hyundai Venue  

Summary
If you do without all-wheel drive, this tall hatchback pretending to be a crossover is a worthy automobile. Its high roofline lends itself to packaging that delivers decent room for four people and generous cargo space. If you don’t need more power or all-wheel drive, the Venue represents both a better package and greater value than the larger Kona, for less money.

The overall excellence of the Venue reinforces the fact that the most affordable end of the car market is currently one of the most exciting segments. At around $25,000, our Venue Ultimate is decently quick and refined, with a cabin design that breaks the chain that once bound price to style and features. It offers a full suite of active safety equipment, and even luxury features like navigation and a sunroof. Unless you need greater rear seat legroom or more speed, there is little need to spend more money on a new vehicle.