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2020 Hyundai Venue First Drive: A new target audience

This model won’t replace the Accent, but it does displace it in the company’s priorities list Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Auto123 headed for the Big Easy this week to test drive the all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue

New Orleans, LA - In the coming years, 40% of vehicles sold in Canada will be to millennials, a group that now represents the largest segment of vehicle buyers in the country. Hyundai, like several other manufacturers, have endeavored to adapt their products to this clientele. The Venue was conceived with them in mind, and so it features a lot of technology and comes with a reasonable price tag attached.

A unique physique
Stylistically, Hyundai has made much in recent years of having chosen the chess board approach (where each piece is different) to vehicle design, instead of the Russian doll (where all models are alike). Every SUV in the Hyundai family has its own unique personality and styling that doesn’t just imitate its siblings. We salute Hyundai for choosing this approach.

Photo: B.Charette

Hyundai, which has dubbed the Venue “its little giant”, took care to present a model that offers ample head room and ground clearance equivalent to the largest Kona. The 2.52-metre wheelbase (on a total length of 4 m) ensures generous space for four adults inside. The width (1.70 m) and the square shape of the Venue also translate into generous space between the occupants. 

Otherwise, the Venue is actually based on the Accent with the same platform and similar mechanics; unsurprisingly it’s the smallest SUV in the family, sitting just under the Kona.

One engine
Just like the Accent, the Venue offers a 121-hp 1.6L 4-cylinder engine with 113 lb-ft of torque. For those who insist on a manual gearbox, it’s available but only in the base Essential version. The other three versions come with a CVT box that Hyundai calls IVT for Intelligent Variable Transmission that simulates eight gear changes.

Photo: B.Charette

It will cost $17,099 to get the base Essential version (which will be hard to find at dealerships - be forewarned). This same trim with the CVT is $18,399. The Preferred costs $21,499, the Trend $22,599, or $23,099 with the two-tone paint finish (Urban Edition), and Ultimate model retails for $24,899.

You don’t attract flies with vinegar and to please those millennials, there had to be technology – and there is. Hyundai has included a lot of equipment for a competitive price point. Thus, you get, standard in all models, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility with an 8-inch screen (which grows to 10.25 inches in high-end models). 

You’re also entitled to a forward collision detection system with pedestrian detection, lane keep assistance and a driver warning system that alerts the driver if he or she is experiencing fatigue or neglect.

Photo: B.Charette

There’s also a blind spot monitor (optional). A light lets you know when a car is in your blind spot; if you don’t notice it and try to change lanes anyways, the system issues a more insistent warning. 

These safety features are in addition to others like stability and traction control, as well as ABS, EBD and brake assist systems. You have an optional blind spot and cross-traffic warning in the event of a rear-end collision. It adds up to a comprehensive package for the price, which you won’t find elsewhere in the subcompact crossover category.

Interior space
At such an affordable price, you can’t realistically expect luxury amenities. There’s no leather upholstery, no wood finish and no other high-end elements of note here. That said, you do get a quality interior and interesting accessories, for instance automatic headlamp control, body-colour mirrors and door handles (black plastic), steering wheel-mounted audio controls and cruise control, sun visors and all the technology already mentioned in a $22,000 Preferred version. 

Photo: Hyundai
Photo: Hyundai

You also have projection lights, four-speaker audio system, 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry and a 6-way manual driver's seat.

Upgrading to a Trend model adds two additional speakers, a storage space under the floor of the trunk and simulated skid plates at the front and rear. The Trend version also comes in and Urban Edition marked by a two-tone exterior colour schemee and a denim interior with a denim-coloured fabric and an imitation-leather interior. Denim is also part of the Convenience and Premium packages. I guess denim is in with millennials.

The Convenience package includes push-button start, proximity key, blind spot and rear impact warning, two USB outlets, automatic climate control, a sliding armrest and storage space under the trunk, as well as a leather wrap steering wheel and a shift knob. 

The Premium package adds front seats and heated side mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights. You have to move up to the Ultimate version to get exclusive wheels, a navigation system and the Blue Link connectivity system.

Photo: B.Charette

Driving the Venue
Unlike some competitors that deliver what we’ll euphemistically call a mediocre driving experience, the Venue surprises by its solid assurance and agility on the road, and frankly and exceeded our expectations. Despite its short wheelbase, the Venue is well-grounded and the soundproofing in the cabin is best in its class - better than the Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Ford EcoSport in my opinion. 

The CVT/IVT is pleasant enough in urban driving, and delivers only a few false notes at higher speeds; overall it passes the test hands down. Just like with comparable models in the segment, there will be no four-wheel drive version of the Venue, with all power sent to the front wheels. 

There is, however, a winter driving mode in addition to the Normal, Eco and Sport modes. Obviously we didn’t get the chance to test that mode’s capabilities in Louisiana, but Hyundai promises that the Venue will be like a happy Labrador romping in the snow. We hope to put that promise to the test in the coming weeks or months.

Photo: Hyundai

Hyundai once again gets safely on base with the Venue, a model that will appeal to a wide range of customers. The Accent will not be removed from the market, at least not for now, but Hyundai will no longer focus on that product and instead push the Venue; consumer response to the new model and sales of the Accent going forward will likely determine its long-term fate. Hyundai also anticipates that, just like with the Accent, Quebec will be where it sells the most Venues, which by the way is making its way to dealerships as I write this.

We like

Bold styling
Well-soundproofed interior
Well-equipped for the price
Reasonable price point

We like less

Only two-wheel drive
Engine is a little underpowered
Suspension will feel a little firm for some

The competition

Ford EcoSport
Nissan Kicks
Honda HR-V
Toyota C-HR
Kia Niro

Photo: B.Charette

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