2021 Hyundai Venue seeks home in crowded SUV family

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Now in its second model year, the Hyundai Venue is the smallest sport utility vehicle and seventh sport or adventure offering in the company’s stable. It fills a niche the South Korean manufacturer has deemed important. But it’s hard to fathom.

Since the carmaker already offers the Ioniq, Kona, Palisade, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Tucson, does it need the Venue?

The Hyundai Venue is a subscompact SUV in its second year.
The Hyundai Venue is a subcompact SUV in its second year.

It’s marketed as a mini or sub-compact, entry-level SUV with a healthy chunk of features and superior gas mileage for its segment. It’s matched against more than dozen competitors, notably the Kia Soul, Mazda CX-30, MINI Cooper Countryman, Nissan Kick, Subaru Crosstrek and its Kona sibling.

Hyundai’s pedigree is constantly improving, but competition between two family members? Is it healthy or counter-productive?

Hyundai Venue: Tough Competition

As the second-cheapest vehicle Hyundai offers (the Accent is the cheapest), the 2021 Venue is offered in SE, SEL and Denim trims. The reviewed SEL trim gets the best of the base SE and improves upon it.

All trims feature a 121-horsepower four-cylinder engine with continuously variable transmissions and front-wheel. A manual transmission option offered in the Venue’s debut year was discontinued.

The mid-level SEL trim, like all Hyundai cars, has an extensive standard features list — 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels to a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and to blind-spot monitoring to rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic headlights, Normal, Sport and Snow drive modes, automatic climate control and front-wheel drive are also standard.

Infotainment features are strong: an 8-inch touchscreen display, six-speaker sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

 

 The Hyundai Venue is value-priced and achieves superior gas mileage.
The Hyundai Venue is value-priced and achieves superior gas mileage.

The optional Premium Package ($2,350) is chock-full of worthy items: LED front and rear lighting, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, power sunroof, keyless entry, push-button start and a navigation system. The Venue also features Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car System. It includes remote locking and automatic emergency assistance.

With its smaller engine, the Venue’s performance needs improving. It’s satisfactory in city driving, but acceleration on freeway inclines is the vehicle’s biggest weakness. Don’t expect any nifty lane-passing maneuvers. The standard 0-to-60 miles-per-hour test takes 9.8 seconds. Gas mileage averages are 30 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 mpg on the freeway.

Its design portrays a bigger presence, but the diminutive SUV’s convenience in tight parking lots and in other situations means smaller is bigger. A smooth, steady ride is the norm, but the engine has an audible struggle at higher RPMs. A moderate wind rush arrives at freeway speeds.

Efficiency is the interior design’s forte. Hard plastic is the material of choice. The front seats are comfortable and spacious, the rear seats not. The Venue is touted as a five-passenger vehicle, but two adults in the back seats are the reality.

How much cargo capacity can be expected in a subcompact SUV? The Venue is limited among competitors, with 18.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats, 31.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. The storage area seems larger because the rear seats fold flat. The rear hatch has a wide, well-designed opening.

In its debut year, the Hyundai Venue finished 20th among all small SUVs in sales, with slightly more than 19,000. The Hyundai Kona finished fourth (76,253), which doesn’t bode well for the smaller offering.

Still, the Venue has its place. Its MSRP is $19,800, making it among the country’s least expensive new vehicles. For $23,480, the SRL trim, with its option package, strong gas mileage and Hyundai’s signature 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, is worthy.

How long Hyundai wants the Venue in the family is likely the little SUV’s biggest concern.

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