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The Hyundai Venue debuts for 2020 offering flash, not dash

Miami — Space costs money.

That’s true when buying a house or an airline ticket. And it’s true when buying an automobile. All else being equal, a large car costs more than a smaller one. It all comes down to space.

It’s instructive to compare Hyundai’s least expensive SUV, the all-new subcompact 2020 Hyundai Venue, to the company’s least expensive sedan, the 2020 Hyundai Accent. Both come equipped with the same powertrain: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. A continuously variable automatic transmission is optional; all-wheel drive isn’t offered.

Given the choice between the two vehicles, most buyers would opt for the new Venue over the Accent, and why not? Despite being more than a foot shorter than its sedan cousin, the Venue offers more headroom, legroom, and an additional 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and an additional 18.5 cubic feet with them folded. Of course, the Venue will cost you an additional $100 a year to fuel, according to the EPA, which amounts to less than $2 a week.

Given the Venue’s additional interior space, it’s no surprise that the extra square footage comes at a cost. The Accent starts at $15,295; the Venue, $17,350, a premium of $2,055, or approximately $39 a month on a 60-month car loan according to Bankrate.com.

The added expense delivers a utility that’s hard to match in a subcompact sedan. To start with, you don’t have climb down into the Venue as you in an Accent. Once inside, the Venue’s tall, square shape provides a sense of roominess, a feeling enhanced by the tall side windows and minimal blind spots. Cargo space is massive given the Venue’s overall size, and there are plenty of small spaces to stash things. Its height also allows for a sensibly tall seating position, which when paired with the generous front seat legroom, imparts a sense of spaciousness. In back, there’s more legroom than you’d expect given the Venue’s overall length, especially if front seat passengers surrender some space.

In addition to the Venue’s value is its style, particularly the Denim Edition, the top model in a range that includes the base SE and up-level SEL. Similar to the American Motors Levi Editions of the 1970s, the Denim Edition’s interior evokes the feeling of denim with leatherette and cloth blue seats, and an exterior finished in blue and capped by a white roof. It’s Middle America funky.

But it’s more than flashy trim that makes the Venue worth considering.

Base models get a host of standard equipment, such as tilt/telescoping steering wheel; power windows, lock and mirrors, height adjustable front seats, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone with voice recognition, a USB port, four-speaker audio system, a spare tire, and remote keyless entry. There’s also an impressive list of standard safety technology, including forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a rearview monitor. However, to get blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert, two important safety features, you’ll have to opt for the $1,150 Convenience Package on the SEL, which also adds a power sunroof, sliding armrest storage box and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

An eight-inch touchscreen display audio system, AM/FM/HD Radio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual USB ports, SiriusXM and navigation are optional on the SEL and standard on the Denim model.

Spend some time behind the wheel and you’ll find the controls are simple and sensible. Large rotary knobs control the climate, while a large screen controls the infotainment through an easy to understand user interface. While the Venue lacks the sublime artistry found in recent Hyundai models, there’s little doubt that you’re getting a lot for your money.

But there is a tradeoff.

The Venue’s DNA means that it shares its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with the Accent, and generates nearly identical horsepower and similar acceleration. Off-the-line performance is meager, so merging onto a highway needs a little planning. Once up to speed, the Venue feels sprightly, and the CVT is fairly responsive. Body lean is well controlled, and the Venue’s short length and responsive steering makes it easy to pop through traffic once at speed and surprisingly fun on winding roads.

As you might expect, there is engine, road and tire noise, but there’s less of it than you might anticipate.

If you don’t mind the economy car running gear, you’ll find the 2020 Hyundai Venue offers sophisticated styling, generous cabin space, and loads of equipment at prices mere mortals can afford.

Maybe they should have called it the Hyundai Value instead.

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