The Toyota Venza is a five-passenger mid-size crossover SUV manufactured and marketed by Toyota; A crossover utility vehicle. The first-generation model was based on the XV40 series Camry platform and sold between 2008 and 2017. It also shared the platform with the AL10 series Lexus RX. The second-generation model is a rebadged Japanese-market XU80 series Harrier and will be sold in September 2020.
Going for $32,470 — $39,800, the 2021 Toyota Venza delivers an upscale interior and a decent mix of style and efficiency.
The new Venza competes with other midsize crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Ford Edge, Honda Passport and Hyundai Santa Fe. These models are known for their abundance of passenger and cargo room. Oddly, this is something the new Venza is a bit short on. However, it does have something they don’t: a standard hybrid powertrain.
Toyota discontinued the original Venza — a Camry-based two-row crossover SUV — after the 2015 model year. For 2021, the automaker has resurrected the Venza name … on a Camry-based two-row crossover SUV. But this Venza is a hybrid. And the hybrid-only Venza.
The 2021 Toyota Venza is also exclusively all-wheel drive and should start arriving at dealerships this summer.
The 2021 Toyota Venza has a nicer interior I’ve seen in a long while, and I suspect it may keep some buyers from making the leap to a Lexus, Toyota’s premium brand. The Materials are nice, particularly the blond wood accents on the doors and center console of the Limited, though quality does take a dip below eye level. Padding could also be more substantial, but at least most touchpoints aren’t hard plastic.
The front seats are nicely sculpted and fit adults of varying sizes, and the backseat has enough legroom and headroom for me to sit comfortably behind myself (I’m 6-foot-1), though I’d prefer the seat bottom be a little higher to keep my knees less bent for longer drives.
The Limited trim level comes with an optional Star Gaze roof, an electrochromic glass panel that switches between transparent and translucent at the touch of a button. It’s a neat trick and in transparent mode makes the cabin feel even more spacious, but it can’t be opened. The Star Gaze roof isn’t available in the XLE trim.
Touch-sensitive climate and audio controls can be frustrating as the only feedback they offer is audible, and the icons can be difficult to see depending on lighting conditions. The icons light up when the headlights turn on, but I found while driving that sometimes the automatic headlights would take long enough to turn on that I was left with an effectively blank panel.
The cargo area is spacious but lacks amenities. Underfloor storage is mostly taken up by a doughnut spare tire, and there aren’t any nifty cargo nets or multitiered organizational systems. It’s not that those are glaring issues or deal-breakers, but in a crowded field of two-row SUVs, little details like that tend to stand out.
The Venza features a standard all-wheel-drive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors (one dedicated to charging) to send power through a continuously variable automatic transmission to its front wheels. A single rear motor also provides power to the rear wheels when you need extra traction. It’s a similar setup to the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid SUVs.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine plus the Toyota Hybrid System’s standard two electric motor-generators power the front wheels while a third electric motor powers the rear wheels.
Total output is 219 horsepower. This might not seem like much given that the Passport’s V6 cranks out 280 hp, for example, but we’ve found acceleration to be perfectly adequate. Plus, it’s smooth, quiet and gets you a Toyota-estimated 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Toyota says up to 80% of the Venza’s torque can be applied to the rear wheels as needed. Total system output is 219 horsepower; while that might seem low for an SUV of this size, the power is more than adequate to get the Venza going from a stop, merge onto a busy highway and provide passing power when needed. Despite all of this, Toyota still estimates the Venza will return a 39 mpg combined rating (official EPA figures haven’t been released at the time of writing). During my driving time, I consistently observed fuel economy readings in the 30-plus mpg range, and I wasn’t trying to maximize efficiency.
The Venza includes Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced safety features as standard equipment, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and lane-tracing assist, forward collision detection, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection, and more. Those features work well without being overly sensitive, obtrusive or otherwise hampering the driving experience, and the semi-autonomous lane-tracing feature — other manufacturers call it lane-centering.
Toyota Venza models
The 2021 Toyota Venza is a midsize SUV that comes with more standard features than most in its segment. It’s offered exclusively as a hybrid with all-wheel drive and comes in three trim levels: LE, XLE and Limited. Highlight features include:
The base LE gets you started off nicely with:
- A hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (219 hp total output)
- All-wheel drive
- 18-inch wheels
- LED headlights
- 8-inch touchscreen display
- 4.2 multi-information display
- Push-button ignition and keyless entry (front doors only)
- Power-adjustable driver’s seat
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Four USB ports
- Hands-free liftgate
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility
- Six-speaker sound system
All Venzas come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 that includes:
- Adaptive cruise control (uses front-mounted radar and camera to maintain a preset speed and distance to the vehicle ahead. Operates down to a stop.)
- Lane centering assist (works with adaptive cruise control and keeps the vehicle centered in the lane with small steering inputs)
- Forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection (warns you of an impending collision and can apply the brakes if you don’t react in time)
- Lane departure alert (alerts you if the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane)
The XLE takes things up a notch with:
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Roof rails
- Auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink
- Projector-style LED headlights
- Heated front seats
- Simulated leather and cloth seats
- Keyless entry for rear doors
- A larger driver information display
The Limited trim bumps the Venza up to the luxury class by adding:
- 12.3-inch touchscreen
- Nine-speaker premium JBL audio system
- Digital rearview mirror (allows you to see out the back even with a fully loaded cargo area)
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Full simulated leather upholstery
- Power-adjustable front passenger seat
- Heated steering wheel
- 360-degree camera system (gives you a top-down view of the Venza and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
Some of the features on the Limited are available on the XLE as options. For the Limited you can also get:
Advanced Technology package
- 10-inch color head-up display
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers
Star Gaze panoramic roof
- Glass switches between clear and frost tinted with the push of a button
- Electrochromic sunshade (think transition lenses)
- Removes the roof rails if equipped