Toyota's all new Venza Hybrid is a compelling AWD midsize crossover with Lexus attributes
Toyota’s 2021 Venza is an all newly designed midsize AWD crossover that is an attractive competitor in this segment.
You may recall that the original Venza, that was discontinued in 2015, resembled a station wagon. It was 189 inches long on a 109-inch wheelbase. The ’21 Venza, in comparison, is slightly shorter at 187 inches on a 106-inch wheelbase. This makes the new Venza more maneuverable with a sporty, suave look. It’s now slotted between Toyota’s larger, 3-row Highlander and the hot selling, two-row RAV4. In actuality, Venza combines the best of both SUVs.
Aside from its slightly smaller size, the 2021 Venza differs drastically from its 2015 model as that model had a V6 powertrain. The 2021 has a hybrid powertrain that combines a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine coupled to three electric motors for 219 combined net horsepower. Mated to a CVT transmission, Venza carries EPA mileage ratings of 40 city, 37-highway mpg. And the transition from electric to gasoline power and back is seamless and goes unnoticed.
This pairing gives instant acceleration and for a curb weight of 3,913-pounds, Venza has impressive performance for merging into high-speed traffic lanes and when passing 18-wheelers.
The system provides selectable EV, Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes. Sport mode gives livelier acceleration and changes steering feel for when driving on twisty, curvy roads. Eco provides moderate throttle characteristics plus controls operation of A/C and heating systems. EV mode runs on battery power for a limited number of miles and is used mainly in and around neighborhoods or developments. Normal offers a balance of fuel economy, quietness and sensible performance.
Venza’s AWD system is mainly FWD until more traction is needed and then AWD kicks in on slippery, snowy roads.
With a ground clearance of 7.8 inches, Venza is not really off-road capable, but merely suitable for modest snow depths. Subaru’s Outback and Jeep’s Cherokee, for example, offer 0.9 more, for 8.7 inches.
Venza is offered in LE, XLE and Limited we were privileged to test.
Venza has a sporty and attractive interior with a two-tier dash along with heated/cooled and perforated Soft-Tex front seats that are nicely bolstered and comfy.
Venza’s vertical stack resembles an archway that leads the eyes to the 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen on the Limited model. It offers a tri-view showing climate, audio and navigation, or, individual functions. Of particular note is that the rearview camera has a 360-degree birds-eye view with curb view, frontal view plus a rotating perimeter scan around the Venza that’s really nifty. Kids and grown-ups alike will certainly enjoy watching this feature (the wonders of technology). It also serves a host of niceties like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity and more.
HVAC controls are touch sensitive on a flat dash panel. They’re easy to view and use and selections can also be displayed on the touchscreen.
Below them is a thoughtful wireless phone charger and in front, the robust CVT automatic transmission shifter.
The hooded gauge cluster includes a 7-inch driver information display for operating functions, alerts and a host of other informative features. In place of a tachometer, Venza has a hybrid gauge showing Chg, Eco and Pwr settings. It’s intended as an aid to drive economically, if keeping the needle in Eco range.
Upon a low 19-inch step-in into comfy the rear seats that can accommodate two adults or three youngsters, leg room is spacious provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. And with a low transaxle hump, middle seated kids have decent leg room.
Back in the cargo area, that has a 32-inch liftover, there’s 28.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatbacks upright. The area measures 39 inches deep, 41 wide and 28 high. Flip the seatbacks and space expands to 54.9 cubic feet for 69 inches of cargo loading depth.
The cargo underfloor holds the spare tire around which and within it, some small items can be stowed.
Toyota offers an optional Star Gaze fixed panoramic glass roof ($1,400) in lieu of a sunroof and was installed on our test car.
Venza came standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 pre-collision safety system that includes pedestrian detection, lane departure alert w/steering assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control and road sign assist.
Included as well was Toyota’s Star Safety System that adds enhanced stability control, brake assist and Smart Stop technology among several traction and safety systems.
Aside from the Star Gaze roof, the only option on the test car was for the Advanced Technology Package ($725) that included a heads-up-display, hybrid system indicators and rain sensing wipers plus digital rearview mirror. Those niceties took the base price of $39,800 to $43,100 with delivery.
To its credit, Venza received a full five stars in the government’s overall safety ratings; four for driver frontal crash, five for passenger; five each for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
Venza is covered by a 3 year/36K comprehensive warranty; 5/60K powertrain; 10/150K hybrid battery; 8/100K hybrid system; 5/unlimited corrosion protection and 2/25K complimentary maintenance plan with purchase or lease; plus 24/7 roadside assistance.
Venza certainly deserves consideration if you’re torn between a RAV4 or Highlander. It’s a compelling compromise with a lot of Lexus attributes.
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