Review: 2021 Hyundai Venue Is affordable and fun transportation
Almost exactly a year after I was impressed with Hyundai's newly introduced compact crossover, the Venue, I had the chance to revisit the cute mini 'ute from the South Korean auto giant. After having the chance to drive other offerings in the meantime, I was excited to reacquaint with a surprising favorite. Yes, you read that right, I was genuinely looking forward to this sub-$25,000 Hyundai. Just because it's affordable doesn't mean it can't be a fun way to navigate through your day.
At an as-tested price of just $23,480 and starting under $20,000, this is one of most affordable cars on the market right now and the deal is sweetened when taken into consideration the equipment included on this SEL. The SEL trim includes the sharp 17-inch allow wheels, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning in addition to the more normal front collision avoidance assist. The steering wheel is wrapped in a comfortable and luxurious leather that is a delight to hold, also part of the SEL; it's the wheel you want in your Venue. On top, there's an additional $2,350 Premium Package fitted here that includes LED headlight and running lights, a touchscreen display, sunroof, keyless/proximity entry (such a wonderful feature that you can't live without once you have it) with push-button start, and the sunroof. The touchscreen for infotainment is an attractive and functional center display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that is easy to use.
While the interior is crafted to a high standard and is a pleasant environment for spending time, many of the plastics on the doors and dash are of the hard variety; not that you spend your days touching those parts of the car. Also the passenger seat belt, when unused, does have a knack of clunking against an interior panel, too, which might be annoying to the most OCD of people. I liked the the seats' comfort, but they are made from cloth and with the lighter color you will have to be careful in keeping them clean. They also will easily collect dog hair. I do wish a leather or full leatherette option were available, but the best you can do is the top-of-the-line Denim trim that bestows a higher quality denim-colored fabric paired with a leatherette trim. The Denim adds some other good-looking design touches and color options at only marginally more money, making it the pick of the bunch for me personally.
Inside, there's enough space to fit four adults, and the rear cargo can even make a home to an 80 pound yellow lab. The sunroof, while not a large panoramic unit seen on more expensive cars, does help to create more light and thus enlargen the space further. Length is a short 159-inches, but the wheelbase is a relatively generous 99-inches, which when combined with a 70-inch width and 62-inches of height makes for a surprisingly spacious interior. The looks are simple and clean, the exact opposite of a rival like a Toyota C-HR. I'm a fan of the looks that also seems to have some retro-inspired design elements to the shape. If the Kia Soul was too funky for you, the Venue will fill that gap perfectly. The square LED running lights are a personal favorite for me. While a Honda HR-V is bigger inside and over 10-inches longer overall, the Venue might be enough for most people. Parking is extremely easy with the short length, too.
Performance is not the main mission of the Venue. With a 0-60 MPH time of nine seconds, you will only be winning drag races against Toyota's own rival, the lethargic C-HR, and Priuses. Around town, accelerating from stoplights and such, with its 121-horsepower 1.6L inline-four, the Venue feels plenty perky enough. Only on uphill freeway onramps do you start to feel the lack of punch, and you definitely have to plan out passing maneuvers in advance. However, this performance is to be expected at this price point. At least it'll beat the C-HR rival, which takes a dreary ten seconds to hit 60. But again, it's perfectly viable in the real world in most situations, and the continuously variable transmission proved a smooth and capable counterpart to the engine, only becoming annoying as the engine flares to 4,000 RPM on freeway hills in order to maintain speed. Engine noise is prevalent once the powertrain starts to work harder, providing a somewhat buzzy and unpleasant sound, but resists excess vibrations. With the small motor comes thrifty gas mileage, averaging 32 MPG and recording 38 on the highway. I do think on the highway it could be thriftier still, as hitting 40 MPG would be a welcome sight in such a small vehicle.
My real favorite part about the Venue from last year was the handling and just how it drove, and the '21 Venue definitely holds up a year later. For such a simpleton of a car, the Venue steers and corners with an enthusiasm waiting to make itself known with its inherent agility. Overall grip might be low thanks to skinny 205/55 tires, but the balance is certainly there, and the tall sidewalls allow you to really lean on the rubber to provide confidence and feel. A curb weight of under 3,000 pounds also does wonders to aid the driving experience as does that lovely leather steering wheel. Even on a favorite test route of mine, the Venue possesses a verve for cornering that one would not expect, displaying a fine handling balance that resists the temptation of relentless understeer. Instead, you can be aggressive with the wheel and really flick it about between corners. You won't be going all that fast in the process, but it is entertaining and makes me yearn for an N-line performance version.
On the highway is where things do take a slightly worse turn, though. While great to drive and with friendly behavior on 55 MPH roads, once you hit 70 the Venue changes demeanor. At these freeway speeds, the normally compliant ride quality can become busy and skittish over bumps and the steering starts to wander slightly, requiring small little inputs. I was unfazed by this in my 10 mile highway commute, but if planning an interstate road trip, this might turn tiring. I did notice the highway manners were improved over the 2020 actually, with that prior year model being even more busy at speed, so the '21 is an improvement, but it's still the only place that really displays nervousness. Road and wind noise are noticeable at speed, but again it was quieter than I remember last year's model being. Not a quiet car, but easily livable; two friends and I had no issues communicating nor complained of noise on a 45 minute trek together.
I was glad to have had the opportunity to reassess the Venue. It was even the same color and trim as last year's edition. In that week, though, I immediately rekindled my fondness for this cute little 'ute. It's stylish, has an attractive and well-equipped interior and amenities, and is fun to drive for this class of vehicle. Cars this affordable don't get much better.
2021 Hyundai Venue SEL
As-tested price: $23,480
Pros: Fun to drive; spacious despite the size; the price
Cons: Not much, but highway manners could be refined further still
Verdict: Fun and affordable mobility.