By Eric Peters
Really small crossovers are the new in thing — chiefly because bigger things can come inside taller packages.
The new Hyundai Venue, for instance, is nearly a foot shorter than Hyundai’s smallest sedan, the Accent — yet it can carry more than twice as much stuff because of its shape.
Stubby but tall makes all the difference.
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What It Is
The Venue is Hyundai’s new extra-small crossover wagon, a notch down from the compact-sized Kona and everything else on the road that still has four doors.
Prices start at $18,750 for the base SE trim.
A top-of-the-line Denim trim lists for $22,050.
The previously available six-speed manual transmission has been dropped. All trims are now automatic-only.
It’s stubby but roomy.
It has a smaller price compared with other small crossovers.
It has hand-sized controls instead of finger-swipe inputs.
What’s Not So Good
There’s no longer an option to shift for yourself.
It uses more gas than a small car.
All-wheel drive isn’t available.
Under the Hood
Every Venue comes standard with a 1.6-liter, 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
Happily, the Venue’s little engine isn’t turbocharged — an increasingly rare thing as engines get smaller in practically everything.
Adding a turbo makes up for the smallness in size — by adding boost — but it also adds to the cost of the vehicle.
Gas mileage numbers are 30 mpg city, 33 mpg highway — which brings up an interesting thing.
The Hyundai Accent, which is Hyundai’s smallest car and has the same 1.6-liter engine and the same continuously variable automatic transmission, rates 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway. That’s an 8-mpg difference on the highway — notwithstanding that the subcompact Accent is also very small and very light.
In fact, it weighs almost exactly as much (2,623 pounds), or rather, as little, as the Venue.
But there’s a big aerodynamic difference. The Accent’s shape — lower and longer — is more efficient.
On the Road
The main draw here isn’t driving so much as parking.
At just over 159 inches long — about 13 feet — the Venue will fit into almost any venue that would accommodate a full-sized motorcycle. In your garage, it leaves enough space behind it to park a full-sized motorcycle.
This makes it especially handy in cities, where parking is often hard to come by and larger vehicles often have to pass by spots they can’t fit into.
And small as it is, it doesn’t seem so from behind the wheel because of the fairly broad and flat hood. The abbreviated dimensions are expressed behind you. The end of the Venue begins just aft of the rear doors, in a kind of reversal of the old cab-forward layout that was popular back in the ’60s. This also makes reversing into parking spots an exercise in easiness — without reliance on the backup camera. With the Venue’s bumper almost right behind you, it’s hard to bump into anything — unless you meant to.
At the Curb
In addition to the sensible controls for necessary functions, you will also find the necessary space that’s lacking in small cars.
Though it’s about a foot longer, Hyundai’s smallest sedan, the Accent, only has room in its trunk for 13.7 cubic feet of stuff. The barely 13-foot-long Venue has 18.7 cubic feet of room behind its back seats, and if you fold down the seat backs, the available cargo space opens up to 31.9 cubic feet — which is more room for cargo than in the trunk of even a full-sized sedan that’s twice as long as the Venue.
The Venue is practical in subtle ways, too.
It comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels and a real spare wheel — not an inflator kit — hidden under a cover in the cargo area. Steel is sturdier than aluminum, and having an actual spare wheel — and tire — means that you won’t have to call for a tow truck if you damage a wheel or puncture a sidewall (inflator kits can’t fix them).
Fifteen-inch tires cost less than 16- or 17-inch tires. They usually ride better, too, because they have taller sidewalls.
Also, the Venue comes standard with things that cost extra in the nominally less expensive Soul, such as roof racks and an 8-inch LCD display.
There is also a pull-up/manual emergency brake lever — as opposed to the almost-impossible-to-avoid electronic parking brake button. The lever is more functional and simpler.
As well as more fun.
The Bottom Line
At Christmas, kids usually go for the biggest boxes. But sometimes, the best presents are inside the smallest ones.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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