DETROIT -- The 2020 Hyundai Venue Denim provides a road map to how automakers will offer entry-level models despite their shift to more profitable SUV-style vehicles: in part by omitting one of the defining features of most SUVs, but nonetheless offering lots of other goodies and tons of room.
Objectively, the Venue is a compact station wagon or hatchback, but it delivers the design and packaging benefits buyers love about SUVs, successfully dodging the 'cheap car' stigma that dogged compact and subcompact hatchbacks for generations.
In many ways, the Venue is the automotive apotheosis of Stephen Colbert's concept of 'truthiness,' which Merriam-Webster defines as "the quality of seeming to be true but not necessarily or actually true according to known facts."
It doesn't actually have the off-road capability widely expected from SUVs -- not even the most rudimentary all-wheel-drive system is available -- but The Venue sure seems like an SUV, thanks to a clever design that delivers a little more ground clearance, interior volume and better sight lines than people expect from small cars.
Forget what the Venue isn't. It is an outstanding value and a strong competitor to be the best entry-level vehicle you can buy. It belongs on the shopping list of parents looking for max quality and safety per dollar for young drivers.
The Venue competes with small vehicles -- call 'em SUVs or cars, whatever you like; the distinction barely matters any more -- like the Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR. Like the Venue, they all offer only front-wheel drive. Because it has the look, room and ground clearance of a small SUV, and because it's inexpensive, shoppers may also consider vehicles that offer AWD, including the Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Honda H-RV and Mazda CX-3.
Venue prices run from $17,350 to $22,050. All prices exclude destination charges. Front-wheel drive, a 1.6L 122-hp four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission are standard. The Venue is in dealerships now.
The Venue offers lots of safety, comfort and convenience for the money.
I tested a top of the line Denim model that came with dark blue paint, a white roof, denim-style upholstery with accent stitching and matching interior trim.
It stickered at $22,185 and had a single option: $135 carpeted floor mats.