Hyundai’s crossover chess board is nearly complete. The recently introduced Palisade fulfills the role of profits-raking king, and now, five nameplates down the roster and eager to do battle on the front lines of the hotly contested subcompact segment comes the brand’s pawn: the all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue.
Before we get to what it is, let’s clear up what it is not. It is not a pared-down Kona, and it is not some hand-me-up from a distant developing market. It is a mini-ute tailor-made to suit American tastes that’s gunning for good government and third-party safety rankings. It’s also a pretty savvy piece of packaging, measuring ever so slightly smaller outside than the current class-runt Ford EcoSport on an identical 99.2-inch wheelbase (the Ford is actually 2.3 inches longer and 3.2 inches taller) while packing 0.8 cubic foot more passenger room inside. Yes, it cedes 2.2 cubes of seats-up cargo space to the Ford, but this looks to our eyes like a wise investment in style.
Motivating the new Venue will be a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated Gamma four-cylinder engine featuring Hyundai’s new dual-port fuel injection. This system places injectors in all eight intake runners. Doubling the injector count and giving the injector nozzles more spray holes greatly improves fuel atomization. This, combined with the tumble-inducing combustion chambers and externally cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, results in more complete combustion for improved power and efficiency. Output figures are not yet available, but we expect horsepower in the 130s and torque in the 120s (lb-ft). Teamed with the Hyundai Group’s new CVT (which is marketed as an intelligent variable transmission, or IVT), we’re told to expect an EPA combined fuel economy rating of around 33 mpg.
As the brand’s pawn, the Venue will naturally attract younger buyers and hence may be exposed to greater danger than other Hyundais, so it will offer an all-star roster of advanced driver assistance and safety acronyms (no word yet on which will be standard on the base car). These include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW), Rear Collision Cross-Traffic Warning (RCCW), and Driver Attention Warning (DAW). One key driver assist system northerners might miss: all-wheel drive. Like the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks, the Venue will only be sold with front-wheel drive, but at least there’s a drive mode selector with a snow mode to help make the most of what traction there is in the slippery stuff.
It wouldn’t be a very chess-like strategy to send a new subcompact ute out into the market without world-class connectivity, and indeed the Venue boasts an 8.0-inch Display Audio touchscreen infotainment system and rearview monitor that comes equipped for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Built-in navigation is also offered, featuring free Real-Time Traffic provided by HERE plus three years’ worth of free map updates via Hyundai MapCare. The Blue Link mobile app provides remote starting with climate-control access to the rear glass and side mirror defrosters. Your Venue can even be connected to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for seamless integration with your home automation systems.
One more strategic move Hyundai hopes will give its pawns an edge—eight color choices: Ceramic White, Black Noir, Steller Silver, Galactic Gray, Scarlet Red, Intense Blue, Green Apple, and Denim. The latter can be coupled with a denim cloth and leatherette interior (gray or black cloth is the default interior option) and a white contrasting roof like you’ll find dressing up the Nissan Kicks.
With pricing expected to start just a bit above $20,000, bold styling, great feature content, and fun colors, we like the odds of this new pawn surviving on a crowded chess board.
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