Just five years separate their respective introductions, with the HR-V triggering a relentless wave of small-scale crossovers that hasn’t slowed since. Honda’s smallest CUV wasn’t the first of its kind – the quirky Nissan Juke came before it, as did the Chevrolet Trax – but it certainly was different, with less focus on what it isn’t (an SUV) and more on what it is (a small car alternative).
The Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona followed shortly thereafter, rendering their small car counterparts all but obsolete here. (Don’t believe me? Honda’s fantastic Fit, which was named the 2020 autoTRADER.ca Best Overall Car, is unlikely to return to Canada next year. And there’s a good chance we’ll see others like the Hyundai Elantra follow suit in the near future.)
If the HR-V represented the crossover revolution then the Venue is the evolution – the logical next step as the market shifts away from cars in favour of crossovers. With an emphasis on affordability that’s akin to the Nissan Kicks, the Venue does without expensive items like all-wheel drive in order to appeal to budget-conscious buyers. But does that make this new crop of crossovers the next best thing?
Let’s start with the stuffed elephant in the room: The HR-V is more expensive than the Venue – somewhat significantly so, in fact. Both crossovers here are the most expensive versions you can buy, but about $8,000 separates them. That means any kind of dollar-for-dollar comparison between the two is handicapped in favour of the Hyundai.
Rather than a direct comparison of how much they cost, however, it comes down to whether the inherent differences between the two matter to you, and whether it’s worth spending more to get the Honda. It features a standard advanced safety system and available all-wheel drive, the latter of which isn’t offered in the Venue. Putting features aside, the HR-V is simply the better built of the two. But the budget-conscious buyer is surely going to be swayed by the value-packed Venue.
It’s the most affordable crossover in Canada, but a base version won’t get you much for its $19,000 price of admission. Sure, there’s an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and heated front seats, but that’s about it. In fact, a base version with its six-speed manual transmission doesn’t even have cruise control.
There’s a decent selection of features further up the trim ladder, which we’ll get to a little later, but the Venue’s value story is more about what you’re sacrificing in the name of affordability. Again, all-wheel drive isn’t offered here, which will undoubtedly take it off some Canadians’ shopping lists. But if you can live without it – and trust me, you probably can – then the Venue’s got some serious appeal.
The top-of-the-line Ultimate is priced at a rather reasonable $27,009 with freight and fees, which isn’t much more than the cheapest version of the HR-V. If you’re shopping for an economy crossover, this is about as good as it gets in terms of bang for your buck.
The Honda’s big sell is its standard safety suite; there’s adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking – even in the front-wheel-drive base model, which is priced at $26,205 before tax. Adding all-wheel drive to the entry-level HR-V pushes the price up to $28,505 with freight and fees, while a fully loaded Touring trim will set you back $34,705 before tax.
Is the HR-V worth the price premium? For the majority of shoppers in this segment, I suspect not, though the standard safety gear is enticing. However, considering most of the same safety systems are offered in the Venue from the second trim and up, those looking to maximize their budgets will find what they’re looking for in the Hyundai.
HR-V: 8/10; Venue: 9/10
The evolution of the subcompact crossover is evident with these two parked side by side. The clamshell shape of the HR-V is the same one that forms the foundation of the CX-3, C-HR, and Kona that came after it. The Venue, meanwhile, is much more boxy and upright, with shades of the Kia Soul in its silhouette.
A styling refresh for 2019 added Honda’s so-called “solid wing face” to the HR-V, though some folks (your humble author included) would call it a step in the wrong direction. The Venue features bolder body lines and can be had with a two-tone exterior package that paints the roof, mirror caps and a few other exterior accents in contrasting colours. (Unfortunately, it’s only offered on the Trend trim.)
Despite its exterior shape being shared by at least a handful of other CUVs, the HR-V’s outward appearance is a unique one. Unfortunately, its interior is a bland, black-on-black affair. That stands in stark contrast with the Venue’s cabin, which features contrasting accents in all but base models. Better still, the Ultimate trim can be optioned in a couple of different interior colour combinations, including a unique denim blue.
HR-V: 8/10; Venue: 9/10
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Subcompact crossovers can’t be good at everything and often sacrifice cargo space in favour of passenger comfort (or vice versa). Carrying stuff is what the HR-V does best, its diminutive dimensions capable of accommodating stuff of all shapes and sizes. With 657 L of space behind the back seats and 1,583 L with them folded, the HR-V is a segment leader. It also has Honda’s configurable seats that can be folded and flipped in a variety of ways to make the most of the space inside.
The Venue rides on a shorter wheelbase (2,520 mm versus 2,610 mm) and measures shorter overall (4,040 mm versus 4,348 mm), and cargo space suffers as a result. With 355 L behind the back seats and 1,148 L with them folded flat, hauling stuff around isn’t the Venue’s forté – though it’ll handle most day-to-day jobs without issue.
What the Venue does better than the HR-V – and most little crossovers like it – is provide the kind of headroom that’s hard to find in the segment and beyond. First-row comfort is the clear priority here, with the rear seats rather cramped. The Venue’s boxy shape and rear doors that open almost a full 90 degrees do, however, make loading little ones into car seats easier than it is in other vehicles this size.
The HR-V’s shape makes for less generous confines – particularly for taller occupants. While there’s a bit more legroom in the second row, the sloping roofline makes the back seats a bit tougher to access. Kids who can buckle themselves in won’t have a problem with the HR-V’s back seats, but find yourself a good chiropractor if you have smaller children that need help getting settled inside.
HR-V: 8.5/10; Venue: 7.5/10
Outward visibility is another of the Venue’s strengths, its raised roofline resulting in good sightlines all around. The upright driver’s seat, too, provides a commanding view of the road, with handy height adjustability for users of all shapes and statures. By comparison, the HR-V is penalized once again by its clamshell shape, with the rearward view in particular compromised by a roofline that slopes toward the hatch.
The Venue’s controls also boast a bit more approachability than the HR-V’s, with a clean and clear layout that takes no time to adjust to. Climate controls, which are automatic in the top trim, use big, chunky knobs to control fan speed and temperature, with a simple screen between them to display the chosen settings.
Featuring a generously proportioned 8-inch touchscreen running Hyundai’s easy-to-use infotainment software is also an advantage in favour of the Venue. Functionality is fantastic, with the crisp and responsive display operating (mostly) seamlessly during testing. The only issue I encountered was an Apple CarPlay connection that occasionally failed to recognize my phone when it was plugged in. This issue was prone to happening when restarting the car after only a short stop – a trip to the grocery store, for example – and was solved simply by unplugging my phone and plugging it back in.
Beyond its limited outward visibility, the HR-V’s cabin also suffers from a somewhat odd and awkward layout of the stuff you interact with the most. The USB ports, for example, are located in a centre pass-through beneath the gear selector, making them difficult to access while seated. The infotainment screen is also slightly tilted away from driver and passenger, making it challenging to reach while buckled into either front seat.
The infotainment interface itself is laggy, stuttering its way from one function to the next when you tap the touchscreen. And then there are the HVAC controls, which are easy to see but less so to operate. The touch-sensitive panel doesn’t respond to inputs from gloved hands, leading to frustrating mornings during testing. Thankfully, automatic climate control is standard in the HR-V.
HR-V: 7.5/10; Venue: 9.5/10
The Venue is bound to suck buyers in with its standard touchscreen and connectivity features, as well as its heated seats, but its features are somewhat limited otherwise. That’s especially true of the base model, which doesn’t even include cruise control if you stick to the manual transmission. It’s not as stripped out as, say, a Nissan Micra, so power locks and windows are included, but that’s about all you get for $19,000.
The good news is it gets significantly better from there, with the second trim’s roughly $4,400 price premium coming with an automatic transmission, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection and, yes, cruise control – though, interestingly, it’s not adaptive.
The lane-keep system, however, is among the most intrusive I’ve ever experienced. It doesn’t simply work to keep you inside lane markings, it fights to keep right in the middle of them. I’d go so far as calling it one of the worst systems I’ve ever experienced, and I turned it off completely after a few troubling days of use.
All but base versions get a heated steering wheel and a drive mode selector – more on that later – as well as push-button start, while other handy features like steering-responsive headlights and a second USB port enter the fray higher up the trim ladder.
Paying up for the top-of-the-line Ultimate model is the only way to get four-wheel disc brakes (the other trims come with rear drum brakes), automatic climate control, satellite radio, and navigation. There’s no leather upholstery offered, but the cloth choices are unique and stylish. It’s not an especially outstanding list of features, but it’s reasonable relative to the price.
A base HR-V is the only version offered with front-wheel drive like the Venue; the rest feature a part-time all-wheel drive system. Otherwise, features are far better here, with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist standard in every HR-V sold in Canada.
The base version also gets automatic climate control, heated front seats, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, while all kinds of other goodies are offered in the rest of the lineup. Rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, and active noise-cancellation all make the list of features available in the HR-V that can’t be had in the Hyundai. If there was one glaring omission on the HR-V’s options list it would be a heated steering wheel, which isn’t offered at all.
HR-V: 9/10; Venue: 7.5
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the HR-V is a Top Safety Pick, with good crash test results and full marks for its standard front crash prevention system. The Venue wasn’t tested by the IIHS at the time of this writing, though most of the same advanced safety gear is offered.
HR-V: 9.5/10; Venue: 8.5/10
Compared to the Hyundai Kona, which is available with a punchy turbo engine, both the HR-V and Venue are devoid of engine bay excitement. In the case of the Honda, a gutless 1.8L four-cylinder resides under the hood, cranking out 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. It comes mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that, in the case of the tester here, sends engine output to all four wheels.
The Venue is even less impressive on paper, with the same style of automatic transmission sending 121 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels only. Yet the naturally aspirated 1.6L and CVT pairing here manages to make the Venue feel peppier than the HR-V despite the numerical shortcomings.
Acceleration in the HR-V is all but abysmal, with the CVT generating all sorts of sounds but no performance to match. Making the turbocharged 1.5L Honda offers in the Civic and CR-V available seems like the perfect upgrade here, but alas, it’s not to be. And while acceleration isn’t that much better in the Venue, the transmission’s ratios seem better tailored to passing manoeuvres.
HR-V: 7/10; Venue: 8/10
Contrasting the HR-V’s engine performance is just about every other aspect of how it drives, with a playfulness that’s similar to the Hyundai Kona. Part of it comes down to how far the wheels are pushed out to the corners, helping the HR-V dart around like a fun little hatchback, but it’s also about the way the suspension and steering are tuned. Adding to the playful nature of the Honda are the paddle shifters mounted to the back of the steering wheel, which aren’t offered in the Venue.
Hyundai’s smallest crossover drives much more like an economy car than the HR-V, providing a rigid and uneventful experience behind the wheel. It’s also prone to understeer that’s particularly noticeable when using highway onramps – a by-product of its drive configuration.
The Venue makes up for its lack of all-wheel drive through an available drive mode selector that includes a snow mode that tailors the engine and traction control system to help the little crossover claw its way through wintery conditions. Flicking the dial the other way engages sport mode for a more aggressive throttle map that makes the Venue feel even quicker when required.
HR-V: 9/10; Venue: 7/10
Of course, outright performance isn’t the aim of either of these subcompact crossovers. Instead, it’s fuel economy, and that’s something they both excel at. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) claims the all-wheel drive HR-V will consume 9.1 L/100 km in the city, 7.7 on the highway, and 8.5 combined. Real-world results weren’t far off, with the tester returning an average of 8.6 L/100 km while in my care. autoTRADER.ca editor-in-chief Jodi Lai managed to get that number down to an impressive 7.9 L/100 km following a short weekend road trip that was done largely on the highway.
The front-wheel-drive Venue is rated at 8.0 L/100 km around town, 7.0 during highway driving, and 7.5 combined – a number that I managed to nearly match during my test week, this despite its winter tires and the weather to match. That I managed to consume just 7.6 L/100 km in mostly city driving makes it all the more impressive.
HR-V: 8/10; Venue: 8.5
The Honda isn’t the smoothest over bumps, but its suspension is far smoother than the Venue’s and is comfortable enough that it’s noticeable when transitioning from one to the next. It’s also filled with far more sound-deadening materials – and an active noise cancellation system in the top two trims – that helps quell road noise.
This area is yet another reminder in the Venue that you get what you pay for. Chock full of cheap and hollow plastics, the Venue isn’t going to impress your friends with its interior materials. Road noise is also far worse here, with a lack of insulation behind the door panels and beneath the carpet an unfortunate trade-off.
HR-V: 8.5/10; Venue: 7/10
Some will say these two crossovers are targeting different buyers, but that seems unlikely given their size and price points. While Hyundai is quick to point out it’s looking to appeal to millennials with the Venue, just because it’s cheap and comes in some cool colours doesn’t mean 30-somethings in search of cheap transportation will be chomping at the bit to buy one.
Instead, it’s more likely that both the Venue and the HR-V will appeal to realists looking to live within their means rather than buying more vehicle than they need. In that way, the Venue ticks plenty of boxes, and it’ll save you a few bucks along the way.
For its few shortcomings, the Venue comes together quite nicely, and if you can live without all-wheel drive – trust me; you can – then it’s a pretty good bet.Revolution meets evolution. 3/9/2020 9:45:00 AM 3/9/2020 9:45:00 AM
||2020 Honda HR-V Touring||2020 Hyundai Venue Ultimate|
|Peak horsepower||141 hp @ 6,500 rpm||121 hp @ 6,300 rpm|
|Peak torque||127 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm||113 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Fuel economy||9.1/7.7/8.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||8.0/7.0/7.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo space||657 / 1,583 L seats down||355 / 1,158 L seats down|
|Price as Tested||$34,705||$27,009|
|Optional Equipment||None||$200 – Denim Blue Paint, $200|