The Venza nameplate returns. This time it’s a hybrid-only crossover.
The Toyota Venza most certainly was not a popular model during its original 2009-2015 run, but it fulfilled its mission as the brand’s lone wagon-like crossover utility vehicle. Like the Chrysler Pacifica before it and the Honda Accord Crosstour that was sold around the same time, the Venza was somewhat of an odd duck in a sea of pedestrian models.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Venza name returns. Once again it is a crossover, but this time it has a more conventional expression. Gone is the wagon-like look of the first-generation model. In its place is a handsome two-row midsize model with room for five.
Oh, did we say that this one is sold as a hybrid only and comes with standard all-wheel drive? Yes, that’s exactly what the current Venza represents.
2021 Toyota Venza Review
The 2021 Venza is here and brings with it three trim levels: LE ($32,470), XLE ($36,000), and Limited ($39,800). Add $1,175 for the destination charge.
Every trim comes with a gas engine, a hybrid drive system, and a continuously variable transmission.
The Venza offers a strong departure from other Toyota models, although some of the current design elements are still apparent. Some of the differences include a flowing coupe-like design with pronounced body sculpting, a high profile that intersects with the falling roofline, narrow lighting elements, and a creased rear fascia.
Squint your eyes ever so slightly and the Venza hearkens to an earlier Lexus RX design, especially with its profile. Likewise, you’re forgiven for holding a similar viewpoint.
Toyota equips the Venza with aerodynamic underbody panels, an active grille shutter, aerodynamic side garnish, and an integrated rear spoiler. These features along with the available low-profile silver roof rails combine to enhance fuel efficiency.
The list of features includes automatic LED headlights, dual LED daytime running lights (except on the base trim), and LED tail and stop lights, and dual chrome exhaust tips. Other features include heated power side mirrors with puddle lights, an available fixed panoramic roof on the top-trim Limited (with a toggle switch to alternate between clear and frosted glass), and rain-sensing wipers.
Alloy wheels are standard across the model line: 18-inch wheels come with the LE and 19-inch wheels dress the XLE and Limited. A height-adjustable power liftgate is included.
Just as the exterior taps Lexus elements, the interior offers a similar vibe. Happily, Toyota made a clean departure from the brand’s smaller crossovers to raise the design level measurably.
The difference-maker is the available 12.3-inch touch-screen display. It simply dominates the center stack, but in an elegant way. The display is the cabin’s focal point, but it also draws attention to the choice materials used throughout the interior, including beautifully stitched surfaces.
The front seats are the best in the house. They’re comfortable, supportive, and offer ample space to move about. On the other hand, the rear seat space is small for the segment and is even less roomy than the RAV4. Part of the challenge back there is the sloping roofline that impedes the headroom. We also found that the standard storage space is on the small size. With the rear seat folded, it still offers below-average cargo-carrying space.
Besides full power accessories, the Venza comes with a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel/column (power-adjustable in the XLE and Limited); LED lighting, an overhead console, an electric parking brake with brake hold, dual-zone climate control, cloth seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar control, and a cargo tonneau cover.
The list of upgrades includes a heated steering wheel, imitation leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, woodgrain trim, and silver scuff plates.
Toyota consistently supplies a strong roster of tech features, including many standard items. We were surprised (happily so) to find a Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charger with this model. Not only that, it’s standard equipment. How many times have you forgotten or misplaced a USB port?
Other standard features include satellite radio, four USB charging ports; a 120-volt outlet, an 8-inch touch-screen display; six speakers; Amazon Alex, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatibility; Bluetooth; and Wi-Fi Connect.
Move up to Limited edition (optional with the XLE) and a JBL audio system, HD Radio, 9 speakers, and navigation are included. Toyota also adds a 12.3-inch touch-screen display.
Another feature we could mention with the safety equipment instead is an available 10-inch color head-up display. This one is optional with the Limited edition.
Why choose safety features when they’re included with your model? Well, at least almost all of them.
Under the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) umbrella, the Venza comes with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, and road sign assist.
What are the only features not included? That would be blind-spot monitoring with front and rear parking assist and automatic braking. You’ll find this bundle included with the middle-trim XLE.
Toyota could have created a Venza with a gas engine and added a hybrid option just as they do with most of its other models. However, this time Toyota chose to go the hybrid route only. By doing so, it claims the most efficient model in the segment.
Powering the Venza is a 2.5-liter gasoline engine, the same used in the RAV4 Hybrid. This one produces 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque and works with a continuously variable transmission. Also at play are three electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. One of the motors turns the rear axle, making this an on-demand all-wheel-drive hybrid.
Under full throttle, the Venza packs 219 horsepower and that’s sufficient to move this vehicle steadily forward with no drama. What’s significant about this arrangement is just how efficient the Venza is – it makes about 40 mpg. And that’s excellent amongst its competitors.
Certainly, the Venza isn’t a performance maven. That’s not its mission. Instead, it delivers a comfortable ride, decent steering and handling, and it’s quiet. Our only qualm was with the brakes – they’re all “hybrid squishy” which means they’re tuned for regenerative braking — designed to harness kinetic energy to send to the battery to create energy to motivate the vehicle.
What wasn’t as easy to detect was the workings of the all-wheel-drive system. Under certain conditions, the system kicks in to send up to 80 percent of the power to the rear wheels. This is ideal for providing stability on wet roads and other slippery surfaces (leaves, for instance). The Venza’s arrangement is less costly too as it utilizes the motor, not the drivetrain to activate the rear axle.
There’s also another point to keep in mind about the Venza: it’s not rated for towing. Where competing models typically pull thousands of pounds, the Toyota just doesn’t pretend to compete in the trailering arena. Happily, there are other Toyota models in the size range that do, including the RAV4, Tacoma, 4Runner, and Highlander.
As a hybrid, the Venza is in a league of its own. But that league is somewhat hard to define as the Venza sits on the same platform as the RAV4 and is barely two inches longer overall. That size differential pushes the Venza into the midsize category where the Nissan Murano, Ford Edge, and Chevrolet Blazer hold sway.
But they’re not the only models in this still underrepresented group (most midsize crossovers have three rows, not two). The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Hyundai Santa Fe, and the Honda Passport are also worth considering.
With three trims available, our pick is the middle one. We think it offers many of the amenities customers want and for a price that’s within the range of competing models. Keep in mind that all-wheel drive is standard – although the kind of system used is different, it still sends power to the rear wheels as needed.
All in all, the 2021 Toyota Venza is a laudable utility vehicle. Where it lacks in performance and utility, it offsets that with posh styling, stellar fuel economy, and build quality that’s second to none.
2021 Toyota Venza Specifications
|Price Range||From $32,470 to $39,800|
|Standard Engine||2.5-liter, I4|
|Horsepower||176 @ 5,700 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||163 @ 5,200 RPMs|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,847 to 3,913|
|Headroom (f,r — inches)||38.6, 39.0|
|Legroom (f,r — inches)||40.9, 37.8|
|Shoulder room (f,r — inches)||57.4, 56.9|
|Hip room (f,r — inches)||54.4, 45.2|
|Storage (cubic feet)||28.8/55.1|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||14.5|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||40/37/39|
|Manufacturing Plant||Takaoka, Japan|
See Also — Toyota Camry Hybrid: Big Fuel Savings
Images copyright Toyota Motors. All rights reserved.