2021 Toyota Venza

By November 6, 2020

The Toyota Venza is a five-seat, all-wheel-drive hybrid crossover SUV that’s based on the RAV4 but looks very different. Its coupe-like roofline, sculpted lines, and chrome trim make it look like a Lexus. The cabin is way more upscale than the RAV4, but it has less room thanks to that sleek roofline. The gas mileage is excellent, as it should be since it’s a hybrid, and the power is decent despite slushy acceleration.

The Venza also borrows its powertrain from the RAV4 Hybrid. It teams a 2.5-liter inline-4 with three motors and a lithium-ion hybrid battery pack (the RAV4 Hybrid has a nickel-metal hydride pack) to make 219 total horsepower. The rear motor can send up to to 80 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels. There’s plenty of power for everyday driving.

The EPA rates the Venza at 40 mpg city, 37 highway, 39 combined.

The Venza comes standard with a long list of safety equipment, starting with eight airbags including a driver’s knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag. It has automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Front and rear parking sensors and a surround-view camera system are optional.

Model Lineup

The 2021 Toyota Venza comes as LE, XLE, and Limited models. All come with all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain.

The Venza LE is well-equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a hands-free power liftgate, automatic climate control, and 18-inch wheels, as well as LED headlights, wireless phone charging, and a power driver seat.

Options include a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a 10.0-inch head-up display, navigation, nine-speaker JBL audio, a digital rearview mirror, and an electrochromatic sunroof that can switch between transparent and frosted. Leather isn’t offered.

The XLE adds roof rails, memory for the driver’s seat, synthetic leather bolsters for the front seats, and heated front seats. More options can also be chosen with the XLE.

The Limited adds a digital rearview mirror, a surround-view camera system, synthetic leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a nine-speaker JBL audio system.

Notable options include a 10.0-inch head-up display and a two-panel electrochromic sunroof with transparent and frosted settings.

Exterior

The 2021 Toyota Venza is not upright like the RAV4, skipping the right angles and hard shadows for a look that’s more sculpted and softer, with its flowing roofline, and a nearly blanked-off upper grille. Its sides are free of creases and edges. It’s shaped more like the Toyota Highlander, or even perhaps the hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan.

The roofline features a coupe-like rake at the rear that makes it look racy compared to the previous Venza. Its chrome trim and either chrome or polished aluminum wheels create an upscale appearance. In the sculpted rear, there are no tall taillights like on the Highlander, rather thinner LEDs that span the width of the hatch.

Interior

In the cabin, wrapped surfaces and contrast stitching and piping on the seats that impart a luxury look and feel, even to the LE. The center stack and console are angular, dramatic, and tech-laden. An 8.0-inch touchscreen comes on the LE, but a 12.3-inch screen is available on XLE and standard on Limited, and Toyota provides capacitive touch controls for some functions.

The touchscreens have large icons that are easy to use, but the capacitive touch controls for the climate, volume, radio tuning, and some infotainment functions aren’t as easy to operate as dials.

The LE has cloth upholstery, but the steering wheel and shift knob are real leather, while the door panels, dash, and center console are synthetic leather. The cloth seats turn into synthetic leather on the other models.

The front seats have eight-way power adjustment, no less, no more. The power tilt/telescoping steering column helps find a good fit if eight seat adjustments can’t.

Front room head and leg room are plentiful. Rear passengers get a decent 37.8 inches of leg room, but head room is tight for tall people, because of the racy roofline. Three in the back is a tight fit.

That roofline also reduces cargo space to 28.8 cubic feet (about 9 less than the RAV4), however that reduction is in vertical space, so it might not be missed so much. And it’s still a reasonable amount compared to rivals.

Driving Impressions

The Venza is smooth and comfortable. The hybrid powertrain delivers what’s asked of it, great gas mileage and decent power. The 2.5-liter inline-4 works with three electric motors powered by a lithium-ion hybrid battery pack, to make 219 horsepower. The rear motor drives the rear wheels, to make it all-wheel drive. Up to 80 percent of the available torque can go to the rear.

Acceleration from a stop to 60 mph will take about seven seconds, which is good; and there’s plenty of power for highway passing. The engine is silent most of the time but begins to wail during acceleration, and gets louder during hard acceleration. The continuously variable automatic transmission lacks fixed gear ratios, so acceleration sometimes feels slushy, but the transmission adjusts its ratios at the right times to bring more power and save the day.

Regenerative braking is standard to help charge the hybrid battery. Many hybrids with this system have a grabby brake pedal, but not the Venza.

Like the Highlander, the Venza chases high gas mileage by using navigation information to travel on repeated routes (which it remembers) more efficiently. The instrument panel shows an Eco score, which encourages drivers to optimize their braking, accelerating, and cruising methods. It rewards a light foot. No surprise.

The suspension tuning is Lexus-like, softer than the RAV4, so the ride is better. But that allows more body lean and less control in corners. So the Venza is pleasant, but not exciting.

Final Word

The 2021 Toyota Venza is for buyers who like the RAV4 but want something prettier, and softer. The hybrid powertrain is solid, with mileage hitting 40 mpg, and it has good acceleration from a start as well as for passing. Even the base LE is classy inside, with trim that makes it feel like a Lexus.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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