Not so boring anymore. Hyundai was once known for cars that blended into the background. Good value, but nothing to get excited about. The 2020 Hyundai Venue is more evidence that things have turned around. The Venue's spunky looks and feature-packed trims should get plenty of buyers excited.

It slots in as the smallest of the brand's lineup, balancing the release of the huge Hyundai Palisade. While other releases have drawn heavily from Hyundai’s existing design elements, the Venue forges its own identity with chunky proportions and a bold contrast roof. The grille is busy and the colors may be too loud for some buyers, but the design works well overall.

The Venue’s small wheelbase (2 inches shorter than the Hyundai Accent sedan) positions the car as a runabout meant for zipping through traffic and sliding into tight parking spaces. Like its most direct rivals, the Nissan Kicks and Kia Soul, the Venue wants to make sure you do it in style.

Practicality squared. To make the most of its diminutive proportions, the Venue squares its edges and raises its roof. It works on the outside, but it’s nice from the inside, too.

Head room is excellent in both rows, with rear passengers enjoying 38.6 inches. The short wheelbase isn’t as accommodating for second-row leg room, but the Venue’s 34.3 inches best the Kicks (33.2 inches). The larger Soul offers 38.8 inches of rear leg room.

The interior, in general, is a standout feature on the Venue. Plastic remains plentiful, but the mesh-grained dash and integrated touchscreen feel more upscale than competitors like the Ford EcoSport. For a vehicle at this price point, it feels reasonably premium.

Sacrifices must be made somewhere, and the Venue loses some ground on cargo capacity. Its 18.7 cubic feet behind the seats puts it behind most of its rivals, though the hatchback shape and folding bench do add utility.

Hyundia Venue

Understandably slow. The Venue wears many hats, but racer isn't one of them. The 1.6-liter engine needs more than 10 seconds to get the Venue up to 60 mph.

The suspension is more of the same, with a simple strut-and-beam suspension managing small 15-inch wheels. It’s simple and direct, though the vehicle can start to squirm above 80 mph.

We don’t hold the Venue’s performance against it too much. In an economy car, simplicity is a virtue, and it does an admirable job managing its short wheelbase over bumpy city roads. It isn’t exciting, especially with the continuously variable transmission that most buyers will want, but it’s stable and predictable.

The upside is good fuel economy. Although Hyundai’s sedans are still the stingiest of the lineup, the Venue turns in a respectable 32 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA. That’s about average for subcompact cars, but it still bests many hatchbacks and crossovers.

What buyers want. One thing hasn’t changed: Hyundai still puts a lot of effort into its feature lists. The Venue comes packed with standard equipment, ticking a surprising number of boxes for a small economy crossover.

That starts with a generous 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment, boasting good software and compatibility with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The cloth upholstery is quality, and the details are thoughtful, like a storage groove for the cargo cover.

The Venue comes with plenty of active safety tech. Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams all come standard, with blind-spot monitoring on the options list. It’s an impressive kit for a small vehicle – about the only feature missing is adaptive cruise control.

If that’s not enough, the Venue comes with Hyundai’s excellent five-year/60,000-mile warranty, at a starting price that undercuts the Kicks, Soul, and EcoSport. What buyers want most of all is value, and the Venue delivers it in spades.

Final thoughts. The Palisade may have stolen the spotlight, but the 2020 Hyundai Venue may be an equally important car for the automaker. As small crossovers gain popularity, the competition becomes sharper.

Hyundai gets a lot right in the Venue. It looks great, drives well enough, and packs decent usability into a small frame. Small economy vehicles are still the realm of the cheap and the cheerful, and Hyundai has proven that it can do both.

Some buyers may look for more space, but dealers can direct them to the Hyundai Kona across the showroom.

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