For the first time in six model years, buyers seeking a more premium two-row SUV than a RAV4 finally have another option from Toyota with the return of the Venza to its SUV lineup. The new 2021 Venza slots between the compact RAV4 and the midsize Highlander SUV in Toyota’s lineup. It is based on the Harrier that Toyota sells overseas, however unlike the Harrier, which is sold with both hybrid and conventional non-hybrid powertrains, the U.S. market Venza is powered by a hybrid system. The second generation Venza is smaller than before, and is based on the same platform as the Toyota RAV4.
The Venza is powered by the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors (each powered by the SUV’s 252-volt lithium-ion battery) which together develop 219 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard: One of the electric motors powers the Venza’s rear wheels while the gasoline engine and the other electric motor work upfront. The powertrain is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The EPA estimates that the Venza will deliver 40 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which is almost double the ratings of other two-row mid-size SUVs such as the Passport and the Ford Edge. In the end that means you can stretch a tank of combined city/highway driving longer with a Venza than you can with any of its competitors. However it is important to know that the Venza is not quick, though the electric motors provide respectable off-the-line acceleration. The Venza aims to be an easy-to-drive, comfortable SUV, and it succeeds. Starting the Venza results in a futuristic whirring sound designed to warn pedestrians that an electrified vehicle is operating nearby, and this is something I am not particularly a fan of. The strut front and multi-link rear suspension, regenerative brakes, and electric steering work well together to produce trustworthy driving characteristics. The Limited’s standard 19-inch tires provided good grip, and Active Cornering Assist, this is a brake-based torque-vectoring feature that helps to eliminate understeer in corners. The ride quality stands out, and the suspension absorbs road imperfections easily.
Front-seat comfort impresses, even though the front passenger does without a seat-height adjuster. The driver’s seat offers eight-way power adjustment plus two-way lumbar support, and in Limited trim the Venza includes heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Based on its dimensions, we expected the Venza’s cabin to be slightly roomier than the smaller RAV4’s in terms of spaciousness, but in reality we found the Venza slightly less roomy. The back seat is spacious enough for two, but a sizable drivetrain hump prevents the middle seat from being as usable. Not only is passenger space tighter here than in the RAV4, cargo capacity suffers as well, although most buyers will find it perfectly adequate. With the rear seats up, the Venza provides 28.7 cubic feet of space. Fold the rear seats down, and that number jumps to 54.9 cubic feet. The Venza is the first Toyota to offer the optional electrochromic panoramic sunroof that the company calls Star Gaze ($1,400). With the flip of a switch, the sunroof’s glass panels go from transparent to opaque; this impressive feature is something we’ve only found until now on luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SL-class. Toyota aimed to give the Venza a more upscale look and feel in comparison to the RAV4, and they have certainly succeeded. Cloth upholstery is standard with LE and XLE trim, while Toyota’s SofTex simulated leather is optional for the XLE and standard on the Limited.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on the Venza and stands proudly atop the SUV’s dashboard; a larger 12.3-inch display is optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited (our test vehicle – $43,100). No matter which display is chosen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa and wireless smartphone charging are standard. Upgrading to the larger of the two displays also unlocks in-dash navigation and adds a nine-speaker 1,200-watt JBL premium stereo system with Clari-Fi music restoration technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Venza a five-star safety rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded it a Top Safety Pick. Toyota equips every 2021 Venza with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, a collection of ADAS that includes numerous technologies. Additionally, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning systems are standard, while XLE and Limited trim offer front and rear parking sensors with automatic low-speed braking. However only the Venza Limited gets a surround-view camera with perimeter scanning.
Toyota’s warranty coverage is fairly standard, Limited warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles and a 5 years or 60,000 miles powertrain warranty. However Toyota also includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance as part of the purchase which is a nice addition. The Venza’s hybrid components will be covered by a special 8 year/100,000 mile warranty, and the battery is covered for 10 years or 150,000 miles.
The all-new 2021 Toyota Venza is a hybrid crossover with solid fuel economy ratings, an upscale cabin, and comfortable seats. However, it also has less cargo space than many of its rivals, lacks athleticism, and it’s not rated for towing. We found the sleek two-row Venza is a stylish choice among its boxier brethren, but it faces heady competition from the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Nissan Murano. If you compare based on the MSRP and fuel costs, however, the Venza becomes a real player. Consider the Venza if you find the RAV4 too much of an offroader. The new 2021 Venza is for people who value comfort, efficiency, reliability, technology and safety with a sense of style and a hint of luxury.