by Paul Herrold
Life is all about decisions. Some decisions can be so trivial you barely even notice making them, like – do you take the jammed-up expressway to work this morning, or do you stick with the local road? Naturally, there are also those more important life decisions, like – do you take that new job offer in Seattle or stay with your current one in Chicago? And of course, there are those decisions that really create an impact on your life, like– for around $23,000.00, do you buy a brand-new Hyundai Venue SEL or do you go with a used luxury crossover?
OK, that last example may have been grossly exaggerated, but it is a real question that many people face when shopping for a vehicle. Do you buy a brand-new entry-level car with a full warranty, no wear and tear and comes with that new car smell OR for the same money, do you get a 3-4 year old used luxury car with a shortened warranty, some wear and tear and the smell of pizza and air fresheners? Well, Korean car giant Hyundai is betting that you will want to go with the new car – and they have just the one to sell you, the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL.
While the base Venue SE starts at a shockingly low $17,470.00, the SEL comes in at a still very low $19,250.00. When you add in the Convenience and Premium packages you get a car with a lot of features and tons of safety tech for a MSRP of $23,405.00 including destination. Not to mention, the price includes a 5-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty which is currently the best standard warranty in the business. The warranty is important to mention as it is one of the biggest factors that buyers look at when comparing a new car to a used one.
So, now that we have the new car figured out, let’s find a comparable 3-4 year old, entry-level luxury small SUV that comes in front-wheel-drive and costs around $23,000.00. Well, after searching for a similar body style and something that has many identical features and options, I was able to find a -drum roll please- 2017 Mercedes Benz GLA250 FWD with 32,500 miles and still in warranty – all for the preowned price of $23,110.00. Close enough!
Come on, a Mercedes vs. a Hyundai? Yes, this Hyundai is surprisingly good. Good for what it is, a small (borderline tiny) crossover/SUV that is classified as a subcompact, but delivers the interior room of a midsize sedan mostly in the cabin (cargo room, however, is lacking). Power from its 1.6L 4-cylinder engine is only 121 horsepower, but the Venue feels peppy and 0-60mph launches take about 8.5 seconds; you’re not going to be smoking the tires when the light turns green, but you’re not going to be blocking traffic either. At highway speeds, however, you would think the anemic power is going to make passing miserable, but the Venue manages to punch above its weight class here and, as long as you keep your foot on the gas, it keeps pulling willingly until the party stops at 116mph (as indicated on the speedo). Ironically, what this car lacks in power it makes up in agility – with a short wheelbase and quick turn-in, the Venue is actually a blast to drive in the twisties! OK, don’t expect Porsche 911 levels of grip here, but the Premium package upgrades the standard 15” wheels to 17” rubber and it holds its own. The Venue not only delivers in the turns but provides good feedback and confidence as well. Even though it has electric steering, you can feel the suspension and tires working together underneath your fingertips. And there is no need to guess what the adhesion limit is as the tires will gently call out when they have had enough without going into panic mode.
The ride is on the firmer side but definitely not harsh and for being only available with front-wheel-drive, torque-steer in a straight line is non-existent. Even when turning, where so many other FWD cars get all squirrely and even wheel-hop, the Venue tracks like a champ. And, speaking of front-wheel-drive on a crossover, isn’t that like against the law? Aren’t SUVs and crossovers only supposed to be all-wheel-drive? Actually, you don’t miss the AWD in the Venue as it just goes in the direction you point it – regardless of how slick the road is. If things turn really nasty, there is a “Snow Mode” that softens the throttle response and adds more traction control, and it works pretty well.
The Venue offers two transmissions, a 6-speed manual and a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) which has nicely programmed shift-points that make it behave like a true automatic. It’s one of the better CVTs on the market. Unfortunately, Hyundai has decided that only the most basic, no frills SE model will offer the manual transmission. If you want to spend more money for the SEL or top-of-the-line Denim versions, then apparently Hyundai believes you don’t deserve to have as much fun as those are CVT only. Go figure.
Like all Hyundai models in the past 4 years, the interior absolutely nails it. If, back in the 90s, GM made inexpensive materials look as nice and feel as nice as Hyundai does today, we would probably still have the Pontiac and Oldsmobile brands around. Hyundai interiors are just that, – surprisingly good! From the 8-inch touch-screen infotainment center stack, to the texture on the buttons and knobs, the Hyundai Venue certainly has a class-leading interior with good visibility too. I only have two gripes. First, the seats are not extremely comfortable, the worse part being the left side arm rest. There is zero padding under the faux leather and, after about 20 minutes, it downright hurts your elbow to the point that you stop using it. Second, rather than a rubberized mat, the center storage box directly in front of the shifter uses a textured hard plastic bottom that has absolutely zero ability to keep stuff from sliding around. You get to hear your items bang against the compartment walls every time you accelerate, brake or turn – it’s really annoying!
So, getting back to the preowned Mercedes GLA250FWD, how does it stack up? Well, both vehicles have many similar options including emergency call-center connectivity, a leather wrap steering wheel w/ audio and cruise control buttons, automatic climate control, remote key-less entry w/ push button start, a power sunroof, heated front seats, and much more. However, where the Mercedes’ options list eventually stops, the Hyundai’s bag of goodies keeps going with forward collision avoidance and pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning, tire pressure monitoring, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and a boatload more. Of course, the Benz has more power with its 208hp 2.0L turbo engine, has more luxury with power front seats, leatherette throughout as well as a killer Harman/Kardon stereo system, and has more prestige with that three-pointed star bolted to the front grill. But for roughly the same $23,000.00, it really comes down to priorities – do you want to drive a “nameplate” without all of today’s newest safety and connectivity tech that perhaps complete strangers will respect OR do you want to drive a vehicle that has it all and you, the driver, will respect? I think I speak for most people when I say that the all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL makes a great case for getting that new car. It’s really good – surprisingly good!
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