The rise of the crossover has all but killed the family sedan in the United States, thanks in no small part to a great deal of marketing, but also because people view larger vehicles as being safer. It’s also true that crossovers provide a better, taller vantage point on the road ahead, but that’s not all there is to the story. Some, in fact many, crossovers today are smaller than the cars upon which they’re based. Many are stylish, but many more are anonymous boxes on wheels. After another week in the Hyundai Venue, I can say that it’s a great vehicle, but why not buy a car instead?
Cargo and Interior Space
The Venue is a comfortable vehicle, especially in the Denim trim, where there’s actual denim covering the seats. But in the same breath, it’s just as easy to praise the Hyundai Elantra––a car that costs a few hundred dollars more but returns vastly superior fuel economy––for the same thing. The Elantra is more stylish, better on fuel, and easily maneuverable.
Cargo space is where the Venue separates itself, but not to a high degree. Unless you really need the ability to fold down seats and carry large items, there’s no true reason to opt for the Venue over the Elantra. The Venue can squeeze in 18.7 cubic feet of cargo with the seats up, compared to the Elantra’s 14.4 cubic feet. That doesn’t sound like a ton, but keep in mind that the Venue’s cargo hold is tall and wide, whereas the Elantra’s is a trunk.
I’ll again use the Elantra as a benchmark here. Though it has a CVT, the base Elantra has 147 horsepower, which is more than enough to motivate the little car with gusto. The Venue has just 121 horsepower, and while it can be equipped with a six-speed manual, the majority of them will leave the factory with a CVT as well. That’s the only engine that comes with the Venue, but the Elantra GT has a 161-horsepower engine and a real-deal automatic transmission. To be fair, neither vehicle is fast, and the Elantra GT is more expensive, but it serves to illustrate the point that cars are inherently more fun to drive than most crossovers.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we are truly in a new golden age of automotive design. Cars like the Elantra and even the Hyundai Sonata have been styled so boldly that their predecessors look almost unrecognizable sitting next to them. There are sharp angles, strong lines, and seductive curves on both cars’ sheet metal, and both are quite easy on the eye. Contrast that with the Venue, which is totally inoffensive visually but plain by comparison, and you start to see the point. One might argue that it’s the “chicken or the egg” scenario, where automakers are styling crossovers in a more mainstream manner because of their popularity, but I’d argue that more standout design is better than less any day of the week.
I have two kids, one of whom is still riding in the big full-size car seat. The other, a seven-year-old, rides in a booster-style seat. In all but the largest vehicles, I have to install the full-size seat on the passenger side to allow for me to have enough legroom upfront. I’ve comfortably carried those two kids with their car seats in coupes, convertibles, and small sedans, and while I can say without a doubt that more space equates to more comfort, it’s inaccurate to say that a crossover is a requirement for families. The disclaimer here is that three kids really do require more space, or everyone will be annoyed.
After reading that, you might be thinking that I’ve got an ax to grind with crossovers, but that’s not the case. My family owns a Subaru Outback, the most crossover-y wagon there is, but we’ve made do with smaller vehicles over the years. What I can say with certainty is that owning a smaller car is cheaper. They’re cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. In many cases, they’re also easier to drive, park, and maneuver.
We live in a country where people can (mostly) do as they please, which means that, as long as they’ve got the money, they can buy the biggest SUV or pickup truck on the market with little to no hassle. I won’t even try to stand in their way, but I will keep preaching the virtues of cars, because if nobody’s buying them, nobody will make them. That’s a sad situation, and one that we’ve already started seeing play out, as automakers like Ford Motor Company phase out all but the Mustang from their once vast American car lineup.