The operative word when it comes to the 2021 Hyundai Venue is small. It’s only 159 inches in length. Not only is that smaller than subcompact crossovers like Hyundai’s Kona, but subcompact sedans and hatchbacks, too. It’s over a foot shorter than the diminutive Accent sedan, which has historically been the tiniest, cheapest Hyundai in the United States. It’s also an inch shorter than the related Kia Rio hatchback and more than 2 inches shorter than the discontinued Honda Fit.
Yet, by some strange miracle, Hyundai has made the Venue’s interior a livable space. Thank the crossover body shape for much of this. The Venue is an upright and sharply-styled little thing, but those good looks means that it has excellent head space for taller folks. There’s no swooping roofline with coupe-esque styling. Nope, just a vaulted ceiling that helps make this tiny car feel a lot bigger than it is.
What’s the penalty for making a “big” tiny car? Neither the Venue or Accent are particularly exciting to drive, so does the Accent even have a reason for being anymore? It does, if you care about fuel economy. That spacious headspace comes with the trade-off of losing 5 mpg combined versus an Accent, and the penalty climbs to 8 mpg on the highway (41 mpg vs. 33 mpg). Is the extra space worth an extra $200/year in fuel costs? That’s for you to decide.
Rear legroom is more limited than headroom at just 34.3 inches, but it’s easy to get in and out, and complaining too much at this price point is difficult to justify. Where the crossover advantages really start to make the difference is in cargo space. You can throw the rear seats down and uncover a cave of space that maxes out at 31.9 cubic-feet (or 18.7 cubes with the seats up). I stuck four wheels and tires back there without issue, and the low, flat loading floor made it supremely easy to get heavy items in and out. There’s even a spare tire under the floor, which is a real luxury these days.
As for interior luxuries in general, the Venue is a mixed bag. You get the all-important 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — it even has Hyundai’s soothing Sounds of Nature program built into it. Hopping up to the SEL trim (as my test car was), you get single-zone automatic climate control, a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, striped seat fabric (heated seats are optional), plus a pair of USB outlets for charging. The center stack is laid out with big buttons and knobs for easy use, and there’s a big storage compartment ahead of the gear lever that is perfect to hold your phone and accompanying wires. It’s not a wireless charging pad, but that’s a missing feature we can forgive.
Hyundai designed it with a relatively short dash for more cabin space, but that also helps forward visibility. The dash itself is textured plastic, but not soft. That means it looks acceptable, but probably doesn’t cost much more for Hyundai to manufacture. I dig the rectangular door handles — they’re reminiscent of the Dodge Challenger in operation. And while the seats aren’t sculpted or anything special, they remain comfortable for hour-plus stretches of time.
Not everything is perfect on this cheap, economy crossover, though. The door armrests are the worst offenders of all in here. Instead of a patch of soft padding, Hyundai simply uses hard plastic on the doors for your elbow to rest on. It’s uncomfortable and annoying from the second you lay your elbow down on it. Even the Nissan Kicks has door padding to relieve elbow fatigue. There’s just no excuse for its lack of padding. You’ll also never forget that you’re in a cheap car when at speed, which is less of a complaint and more of an observation of what you might expect in a Venue. Still, it’s worth pointing out that road and wind noise is among the most intrusive out there. I found myself constantly cranking the audio volume up just to cancel out the outside noise pollution getting into the cabin. The car is cheap, and it sure does sound it.
Those couple items make up the worst of my complaints, which isn’t all too horrible when you put it into perspective. Hyundai’s little Venue has an interior befitting its price, and if you opt for the quirky Denim trim (pictured above), you’ll find that it punches shockingly high. “Denim” is the top trim and comes with an entirely blue and cream interior combo. The seats are most intriguing, as they’re covered in a mix of textile fabric (meant to simulate denim) and leatherette. All the plastics and other parts of the interior are either blue or cream — Hyundai truly committed to the theme. The Denim even fixes the armrest problem, as it uses a stitched leatherette covering where the hard slab of plastic was before.
You will pay for the extra niceties, though, as the Denim starts at $23,235 versus my SEL test car’s starting price of $20,985. No matter the trim (though we recommend the SEL or Denim) the little Venue looks like a sneaky value with big interior upsides.