So will the price.
“This is so cute,” my 17-year-old daughter Estee said when she got into the Hyundai Venue. “Seriously, this is so cute.” (Hint hint). Yes, I get it. It is adorable and she would love to have one of her own.
So would I.
The Hyundai Venue, which starts at about $17K and tops out at about $23K, is a home run when it comes to small urban cars. It’s adorable and SUV-like enough that it feels cool and capable. And with an SUV-like ground clearance, its seats are set at the average human’s hip height, making it easy to get in and out of quickly when you’re running around town.
The engine is city-sized, too: the 1.6-liter engine with 121 horsepower and 113 torque is enough power to merge onto the highway and zip through traffic but not so much it’ll tempt you to misbehave.
Fun and Easy to Drive, and Super Easy to Park
Don’t you love it when you can park in a spot that other cars pass by because it’s too small? That’s what happened here; we were able to park right in front of the restaurant where we had lunch, and still have room to maneuver in and out!
Venue’s parkability and the drive experience might be even more memorable than the car’s cutie pie appeal. We were also able to easily park in a tight parking garage and maneuver in the hotel valet area.
The drive experience is zippy enough to feel confident in busy city traffic, which we experienced a lot of. We were able to speed up to slip into a turn lane, merge onto the highway and get up to speed once we did.
And, more than a few times I had to whip around in a u-turn to nab a parking spot and that was super easy, too. The Venue’s size and agility results in a very small turning radius and its squarish shape make it easy to see out all four corners while you do. That’s priceless in the city.
This Car is Tailored For the City Driver
Rather than being designed at Hyundai’s HQ, the Venue “started at the downtown Seoul design studio,” Mike O’Brien, Hyundai’s VP of product and planning, said as he told us about the Venue. There, the designers could get away from the corporate environment and really think about what Millennial and GenY, city-dwelling, first-time car buyers want and need, both in design and function. The result is a first ever Venue with solutions fit for the city and a price that will keep car buyers thinking about a new car rather than a used one.
Which is part of the strategy here: One third of used cars sold—13 million of them— were bought by people who wanted a new car, Mike told us. Ideally, these buyers want an SUV with a long warranty, the latest safety features, and top technology.
Seeing this, Hyundai’s challenge was to outfit the Venue and price it to compete used cars. With a starting price of about $16,000 —this one is a stick shift, y’all!!!—and easing up to $17k with an automatic transmission and some nice standard features, the Venue tops out at about $23,000 for the fully-loaded SEL or Denim editions.
What You Get for the Money
A pretty nice selection, actually. Standard features include:
- A rearview camera with guidelines
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Safety and driver-assist features include pre-crash detection with pedestrian detection, automatic high beam headlights and lane keep assist
- A great sound system
- A phone cubby with a USB port that is easy to reach
- 8” touch screen infotainment system
- A spare tire
- An adjustable cargo floor that allows you to create more space if you need it
You can also add these features for about $1,500:
- An additional USB port
- Smart key with proximity lock/unlock and push-button start
- Roof rails
- A sunroof (though, this option is not available in the Denim edition)
- Safety and driver assist features including blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert
- Normal, sport and snow drive modes (for more on this keep reading)
Yes, Color is Everything, and Denim is My Fave
The Venue has it’s own palette of colors, too. Beyond the standard Red/Silver/Black it comes in Galactic Gray, which is an almost flat ceramic gray, Green Apple, which is a bright, happy green and Intense Blue, which is just that: intense.
But the Denim edition was my favorite: this is the top-of-the-line trim with some special interior features that make it really stand out. On the outside, it’s a dark wash denim color capped with a white roof.
Inside the denim idea plays out on the vegan leather-trimmed seats with denim seating surfaces and white stitching and white piping along the seat edges. The blue and gray color scheme is also seen on the textured surface of the dash, the doors, and the ceiling panels. It all feels very cool and fresh. And comfortable, like your favorite pair of jeans feel.
More Tech Than You Need, But All that You Really Want
“Younger buyers don’t want old technology,” C.J. Eckman, connected car manager at Hyundai, told us. “They get a new phone each year, they have a connected watch,” and they want the newest tech in their cars. “Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the top requested features” by tech-driven new car buyers he said. So Hyundai included these systems standard.
Also in the tech suite is Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which operate through the Blue Link connected car system, which you can also use to remote start and lock or unlock the car through your smartphone or smartwatch. Users set it up by putting their Blue Link PIN number into Alexa or Google and voil: Press a button and “Hey, Alexa” or “Hey Google” works in the car, too.
All Wheel Drive — Sort Of; Plus Sport Mode
I’m a huge fan of all wheel drive. Huge. It very nearly replicates four wheel drive in nearly all of the conditions that you’d need 4WD to drive or better, to get you unstuck. But. 4WD adds a lot of weight and uses a lot of gas, even when you’re not using it. And, AWD can use more fuel, too, plus both systems add cost to the car—typically a extra $2,000. As a result, budget-conscious car buyers only opt for AWD about half of the time
Hyundai’s answer to this? A little tweak of the Venue’s computer system that allows the wheels to detect a slippery surface and apply more power to the wheels that need it. They call this snow mode, and it’s not a substitute for AWD, so don’t think it’ll crawl you up the ski slope, but it will work to get you through snow as well as mud or wet grass.
When not needing Snow mode, you might want to opt for Sport mode. Or you might not. Sport mode is designed to give you a bit more stiffness in the steering wheel and a bit more oomph when you hit the accelerator. I found it to be extremely similar to normal mode.
But seeing the ‘Sport’ light illuminated on the dashboard made me feel just that much sportier. And that much cooler. In this cute little city car that, lucky for me, my teenage daughter likes enough to ride around with me. I wouldn’t mind at all if this was her daily driver.
What We Listened to in the Hyundai Venue
Music is a requirement in this fun little car. And with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, you can easily pop into a Spotify playlist. We put our favorite Venue tunes into this Spotify playlist; follow us for more great playlists inspired by our favorite cars!
Disclosure: I was Hyundai’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions (and travel for my daughter) are my own.