What it is: The Venue is Hyundai’s smallest and lowest-priced crossover which starts at a paltry $18,750 for 2021. I did review the 2020 version, but the changes for ‘21 are effectively zero. The Venue comes in three trim levels: SE ($18,750), SEL ($19,800), and Denim ($22,050). I was immediately struck with how nice the Venue looked in my driveway. It certainly looks more expensive than its price tag. My test model also came equipped with the $1,750 Premium Package which adds 17-inch alloy wheels that certainly give it a more upscale look. While it looks great on the outside, I was pretty disappointed with the appearance of the interior. It is rather spartan and the materials don’t feel premium at all, which I don’t fault Hyundai too much for considering the price point.
The $1,050 price difference between the SE and the SEL is worth every penny. It gets you the aforementioned 17-inch alloy wheels (now standard on SEL for ‘21), rear disc brakes, drive mode select, chrome front grille, roof rails, sliding armrest with storage box, dual USB chargers, blind-spot collision avoidance with rear cross-traffic avoidance, automatic temperature control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, six speakers (instead of four), and auto-up driver’s window. Quite a haul for a thousand bucks!
Going with the SEL will also let you buy the Premium Package ($2,350) which adds heated seats, LED headlights and taillights, proximity key, navigation, power sunroof and Bluelink-connected car system. Also, a strong value proposition. But therein lies the problem; you are now looking well into the low $20,000 range which will let you buy a Kona ($20,400 MSRP) or a Tucson ($23,700). I like both of those models quite a bit more.
The big selling point for the Kona is that it is much more fun to drive while the Tucson is slightly larger and provides a much smoother driving experience. Plus, the interiors are better on both alternatives.
The Venue is good at delivering the best possible value, but considering you are talking about just a few thousand dollars more stretched out over years of car ownership, it is almost impossible to not aim a bit higher. The Venue will seat four adults while hauling your groceries home and certainly provides the slightly higher driving position that is so longingly desired by the majority of car buyers today, but it isn’t a place I would want to spend a lot of time in.
MPG: 32 combined/30 city/34 highway
Price: $23,405 as-tested.
Upsides: Extreme value.
Downsides: Cheap interior. Bumpy on streets. Slow.
Wrap-up: The Venue serves one purpose for Hyundai: offer a crossover that you can get for less than $20,000. The problem is that after you factor in dealer discounts and factory rebates, you can get one of the less value-oriented Hyundai models in that same price range. Hyundai calls the Venue their “Urban Compact SUV” and it really does shine best in areas with tight parking or garages. It has its place, just probably not in your suburban garage.