- Strong exterior design
- Large standard infotainment screen
- Attractive interior
- Lots of cheap plastic
- Weak engine
- No available AWD
Any automotive engineer will tell you: Small, inexpensive vehicles are the hardest ones to make. Low selling prices mean small profit margins, which means small development budgets. Issues that could be improved or solved with a bit more work or more expensive parts go unaddressed when there isn’t any money left in the budget. To make a good car at a bargain price, you have to compromise somewhere, and the 2021 Hyundai Venue shows how it’s done.
No one expects a Rolls-Royce for $23,000 fully loaded, but expectations for entry-level cars have risen over the years, so they can’t be disposable, either. The Venue comes out of the gate strong by focusing on emotional appeal. Editors appreciated the stylish exterior with its optional two-tone roof.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the upmarket interior design and large standard infotainment screen. This top-shelf Denim trim level packs a lot of visual appeal for such an inexpensive car.
Poke around a bit, though, and you quickly figure out where Hyundai found the money to spend on bringing fun design to production. Quality, soft-touch materials are strategically placed where the driver and front-seat passenger are most likely to look and touch, but everywhere else, it’s hard, cheap-looking plastic that scuffs easily.
And that’s in the front. Sit in the back seat, and you’ll discover far more of that easily scratched, dull-looking plastic and little else. Hyundai engineers clearly prioritized the front occupants, as even on this loaded model there are zero features for those sitting in the back—and almost as little legroom. You’ll find the same plastic in the cargo area, which might as well come pre-scuffed from the factory considering the wear it’ll show once you use it.
Low-cost materials are to be expected in cars that start at $18,490, so fair enough. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only way Hyundai saved money. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is as “thrashy and weak” as it sounds, senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said.
The standard CVT (the six-speed manual is no longer available) does a good job of making the Venue jump off the line, but once you’re moving, it has nothing more to work with. Pressing the gas harder makes noise, not power. Its most redeeming quality is the fuel economy it returns, above 30 mpg across the board. The price of that, though, is being relegated to the right lane for the life of the vehicle.
Then there are the philosophical issues. For one, Hyundai does not offer all-wheel drive on the Venue at any price. Although it looks like a convincing little SUV, this choice makes the Venue more of a tall hatchback car. We also were reviewing the most expensive Venue. If you’re on a really tight budget, you’ll have to settle for even fewer nice features.
Still, we have to give the Venue credit. For $23,380 fully loaded, you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a big touchscreen running Hyundai’s excellent software, keyless entry and starting, lane keep assistance, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warnings, LED headlights, and a boatload of style.
“It’s a great little car that looks stylish, offers decent tech, and has a young appeal,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “If I were graduating high school, I’d love for my first new car to be like this. Of course, the Kia Soul is better.”
Any car at this price is going to have compromises. Hyundai has tried to make the Venue’s as livable as possible. We’ve seen better compromises, but we’ve also seen worse.
|2021 Hyundai Venue Specifications|
|Base Price/As tested||$18,490/$23,380|
|Power (SAE net)||121 hp @ 6,300 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||113 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||9.4 sec|
|Quarter-mile||17.2 sec @ 80.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||125 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||28.7 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||30/34/32 mpg|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine/Transmission||1.6L DOHC 16-valve I-4/cont variable auto|
|Curb Weight (F/R Dist)||2,676 lb (60/40%)|
|Length x Width x Height||159.1 x 67.9 x 61.6 in|
|Energy Cons, City/Hwy||112/99 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 Emissions, Comb||0.61 lb/mile|