Part of the buzz came from its looks: tall and square and 5 inches shorter than the Kona. It may be all car underneath, but the Venue looks like a crossover.
“When people are walking around a parking lot and talking to their friends, and they see that SUV shape, they feel like they are getting a vehicle that’s got more space and more versatility,” O’Brien said.
“Automatically, that shape provokes something that’s going to be a longer-lasting, lower-cost ownership product.”
The Venue offers safety features such as standard forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alert, which are difficult to find at its price in a new or used vehicle. Buyers can add a sunroof, heated seats, two-tone paint and additional safety equipment that are not universally offered by rivals.
O’Brien knows that the Venue, when it arrives in showrooms this fall, won’t be the only entry-level kid on the block.
Hyundai’s sibling company, Kia, has long had a runaway hit with the Soul hatchback, now in its third generation, which is an inexpensive surrogate for a crossover. The Soul leads the subcompact car segment; it sold 104,709 units in 2018. The Venue is a natural rival.
“What we do like is the role of [the Soul] in their lineup,” O’Brien said. “They’re getting those millennial buyers that want something very versatile.”
Nissan adapted its Kicks crossover from developing markets to be an entry-level utility vehicle in the U.S., as Ford did with the EcoSport.
O’Brien sees them all, along with the Honda Fit hatchback and economy cars in general, as potential competitors for the Venue.
The wild card is that automakers are still trying to figure out where the consumer will land, with subcompact crossovers coming in a wide range of sizes just like compact crossovers before them. “We really don’t know 100 percent,” O’Brien said, “how to make those trade-offs.”