Behind the Wheel

2020 Hyundai Venue Review: You can do a lot worse than this subcompact crossover

The subcompact Hyundai Venue is a proper choice that doesn't feel like a compromise.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Jeremy Clarkson once pointed out that things sold by the gram are always more exciting than things sold by the pound. I don't think he was talking about small, Korean-built crossovers, but the 2020 Hyundai Venue is my test car this week and I was very impressed. It's not sold by the gram, but it is very small.

The Venue is the smallest SUV that Hyundai makes — a subcompact crossover in industry parlance — with a tiny 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 121 horsepower. That's not a lot, but then the Venue is not a lot of car.

2020 Hyundai VenueTwo-tone versions of the model are available.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

This is a city car, aimed primarily at singletons and young couples. You know this because Hyundai uses the word "urban" about 8,200 times in its marketing and press materials for the car. A Chevy Suburban it isn't, but this might be a car for potential future Suburban buyers, before they move out of downtown and have three kids.

Being a tiny SUV, there isn't a ton of room in the backseat or the trunk, though it makes the most of the space. It has more storage than a small hatchback (like the Mazda 3 or the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, which might be cross-shopped against the Venue), largely because it's taller. With the 60/40 split-folding second-row seats folded down there's plenty of room for a fairly epic Costco run.

Up front, though, is where the Venue really shines. The interior is standard Hyundai fare, which is a compliment. If you opt for a higher trim package, you've got an 8.0-inch touchscreen sitting high atop the dashboard, compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Down the middle, there are large controls for the single-zone climate control, a hefty storage bin complete with 12-volt and double USB ports.

2020 Hyundai VenueThe interior of the Venue is typically Hyundai - good.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Considering that I've written entire reviews hanging off the fact that I didn't have a good place to put my phone, I'll reiterate the fact that this bin is a great place for it — or for a bag of Skittles or whatever snack strikes your fancy.

There's a straightforward shift knob (PRND), a couple of cupholders, and a smallish covered bin that is also your armrest. Decent sized bins in the doors complete your storage ensemble. It's not as well-designed inside as a Volvo XC40, which includes a small trash bin fore of the center console, but it's close — and half the price.

For a small, inexpensive city car (my nearly-fully loaded test unit priced out at $23,405), it comes with a raft of useful features including a power sunroof, LED head- and taillights (if you get the Premium Package), and a whole host of safety features.

The Venue comes with Hyundai's excellent safety suite with one notable exception. There's automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention warning system and Hyundai's terrific lane-keeping assist system that can do a bit of steering for you on the highway. But it's missing adaptive cruise control, which is supremely disappointing.

2020 Hyundai VenueMost Venue models have an automatic transmission though a limited number of manuals are available.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Venue buyers do get an awful lot of car for their money, but this is a particularly disappointing miss — and it's odd that the car would feature active lane keeping (you can even take your hand off the wheel for a few seconds and it'll steer for you) but not the more common adaptive cruise.

As a primer, adaptive cruise is perhaps the most useful feature on any new car today. It allows you to set a cruise control speed, but uses a combination of radar and cameras to detect vehicles directly in front of you and will lower your car's speed to match. In other words, if you're in traffic, you can set it and forget it — your car will automatically slow down to meet the speed of the car in front of you. Some systems will even bring your car to a complete stop. It makes traffic considerably less frustrating to sit in, and once you have it, you'll never buy another car without.

2020 Hyundai VenueThe Venue, as tested, comes with an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

But, it's not the end of the world. If you're on the market for a small crossover or first new car or something fuel efficient (32 mpg combined), you can do a lot worse than the excellent (inside and out) Hyundai Venue.

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The Hyundai Palisade got a mild refresh for 2023.

Hyundai

Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeA new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeTop trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.

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The N Line forms a midpoint between the standard Kona and the Kona N.

Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot going on, with new EVs hitting the market, but the brand has been on a surprising run with performance models lately. The Veloster N is an excellent, rowdy hot hatch, and the brand followed that act with the Kona N and Elantra N. Hyundai’s Kona N takes the hot hatch formula to the next level with an incredible powertrain and useful space, but it’s too much for many people. The mid-point is Hyundai’s N Line, which borrows styling cues from the hottest N variants but lacks the all-out grunt of those vehicles.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe N Line gets aggressive styling cues from its sportier N counterpart. Hyundai

The styling works for the Kona N Line, as it does with the Kona N, but the powertrains couldn’t be more different. Where the Kona N gets a 286-horsepower four-cylinder, the N Line comes with a milder turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 195 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which adds a layer of engagement not found in the continuously variable transmission that standard Kona models get.

That modest output lends the Kona N Line modest performance, with more noise generated than expected. In motion, the powertrain feels decently responsive, but it lacks the razor sharp nerves of steel that the Kona N brings. Shifting into sport mode changes the gauge cluster to a bright red and hastens the vehicle's responses, but again, it's important to temper expectations for a milder experience here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe digital gauge cluster responds to drive mode changes. Hyundai

Styling is more aggressive than the standard SUV, with 18-inch wheels and mean-looking exhaust tips. The Kona’s front-end design is still busy and will still be polarizing, but the dark trim and sporty aero bodywork help the situation. The N Line’s all-black interior gets red stitching and accents that help break up the otherwise monotonous color scheme. The seats are supportive and comfortable, but could be deeper for better body-holding during spirited driving sessions. There’s plenty of room up front and a surprising amount of space in back, aided by the Kona’s large-ish rear door openings. Parents will find an easy time loading kids, and older children can ride in relative luxury with plenty of legroom.

A 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster is standard, which offers configurable colors and legible information. It’s paired with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, but a 102.5-inch screen with navigation is available. Hyundai’s excellent infotainment software runs flawlessly on both units, and offers an intuitive and straightforward way to interact with the vehicle. A Harman Kardon eight-speaker stereo also comes standard.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineRed accents liven what is otherwise a dark, monotone interior.Hyundai

The Kona N Line, while not as hot as the Kona N, offers a reasonable styling upgrade for people wanting a small SUV with sporty looks. Enthusiasts should look at the full-on N model for thrills, though, because the N Line should be viewed as more of an appearance package than a performance model.

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