This week’s Hyundai Venue is a top-seller in a rapidly shrinking segment of the auto marketplace — cars that list for under $20,000.

Once a mainstay of the industry, with every automaker offering at least one, if not more, entry-level priced vehicles to entice consumers to that brand, few automakers still embrace that business philosophy. Hyundai established its roots here with this strategy, as did many other auto-brands, but now you only need to use a few fingers to count the models you can buy for under $20,000 (with destination fee included).

Given the average new vehicle transaction price has sky-rocketed during COVID-19 — up to over $42,000 in early November from less than $35,000 only a year ago — any consumers who have been in the new car-buying market are also being assaulted by the full retail, no incentives, no discounts, scenario for the majority of new vehicles at all of the brands.

While the move away from affordable entry-level compact and sub-compact vehicles like our diminutive Venue — which starts at $18,750 with our SEL model shown, stickering for $23,480 — has been an ongoing event for almost a decade. These prices will leave millions of drivers shopping in the used vehicle market —three times larger than new — or, the recently developed certified-used-car segment that automakers are expanding.

Top sellers like the Chevy Sonic, the best selling small(est) car only three years ago is now out of production. Budget priced Civics’ and Corolla’s are all cars of the past. The Kia Rio ($16,990) Mitsubishi Mirage ($15,100) or the Nissan Versa S ($16,000) are good transportation devices, yet their small margins vs. the on-going computer chip shortage mean they will be in short supply, as both automakers and dealers aim to maximize profits during the current strained economic paradigm.

Under this environment, buying a new vehicle, as we recently attempted, is a far different experience than in the past. The shift fracturing the retailing of automobiles — and other consumer goods — will continue to alter the landscape, and not necessarily for the good of the consumer. Caveat Emptor, for sure, now exists in every segment of consumerism.

At 159-inches long, the four-door Venue is barely longer than a Mini-Cooper, making it one of the smallest offerings in America. Four adults will fit; five passengers is asking for lots of compromise unless three are children in the back. The cargo hold is larger than expected, with a deep well swallowing multiple soft bags, a month’s worth of groceries, or enough gear for a vacation. There is no power liftgate, nor is it necessary, as lightweight (only 2,650 pounds) is paramount to the Venue’s efficiency.

Our Galactic Gray sample actually flattered the car’s design better than some other paint colors, while the interior proved to be the model of analog convenience with large knobs, dials, and buttons. Taller than the similarly sized Kona (six inches longer than the Venue), the Venue actually proved to be a very good commuter car with Sirius radio, navigation, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, rear camera, and driver attention warning aiding in the drive. SEL trim included LED lighting all around, heated cloth seats, power sunroof, Android and Apple compatibility, plus a proximity key and push-button starting.

Hyundai Venue interior. Photo courtesy of Tim Plouff.

Power comes from a 1.6-liter straight-four, without the turbo found on several other Hyundai models using this motor. With only 121-hp on tap, you won’t be the quickest from the traffic lights, however, you will pass a lot of gas stations; realized economy for our urban/rural travel week together maxed out at 39-mpg, well ahead of the EPA estimates of 30/33-mpg. A CVT automatic transmission handles the power to the front wheels — no AWD is offered.

Hyundai and other Asian-based automakers remain committed to small cars like the Venue, as they build these machines for many more markets outside of the United States. Circumstances indicate new car prices are sure to rise, as inflation is seemingly boundless under the current administration’s economic policies, while computer chip shortages are sure to persist for at least another year — further straining what vehicles are built and delivered to the market. Combined with a push for EV’s — which consume even greater quantities of computer chips, as well as other materials in short supply, consumers may well soon lament not buying cars like this Venue, right now.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.