- Great looks
- Captivating interior
- Roomy interior
- Good standard safety features
- Standard hybrid powertrain
- Splitting hairs with RAV4
- No word on price
- No sporty XSE (yet)
- Will it go off-road?
The 2021 Toyota Venza revives an old name with a new idea that’s wedged between the automaker’s mega-popular RAV4 and Highlander.
The 2021 Toyota Venza is a two-row hybrid crossover SUV that’s smaller than the three-row Highlander, and largely based on the RAV4. It revives an older name for Toyota that was previously applied to a wagon, but the new Venza sheds any resemblance to those cars with its fast roofline and chromed kick near the rear windows.
The Venza will go on sale around August 2020 and will be offered exclusively with a hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive. Toyota hasn’t yet said how much the Venza will cost, but it’s likely to start in the mid-$30,000s. Toyota will offer the Venza in LE, XLE, and Limited trim levels.
Toyota equips the Venza similarly to the Highlander: active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control are standard; an 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on LE and XLE versions, while a 12.3-inch touchscreen is standard on Venza Limited (and optional on XLE); a 10.0-inch head-up display and 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster are equipped on XLE and Limited trims.
Style and performance
The Venza’s shape aligns closer to the Highlander (and even perhaps the hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan) more than the smaller crossovers in the Toyota portfolio. Its front bumpers and body sides are largely missing most of the right angles and hard shadows cast by the RAV4 and 4Runner in favor of smoother surfaces and a nearly blanked upper grille, which is in line with the rest of Toyota’s hybrids. Along the sides, the Venza is free of many creases and sharp edges, similar to the Highlander but also some of Mazda’s latest efforts, too.
Around back, the Venza skips the taller Highlander taillights for thinner LEDs that span the hatch. It’s a different, racier look for the two-row crossover compared to the last Venza and current Highlander, and it works well.
Inside, the Venza’s center stack and console are more angular and dramatic compared to the Highlander. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on most models, but a 12.3-inch is available and standard on top trims.
Eyes will gravitate toward the touchscreen, but a two-tone interior scheme pushes those eyes faster. Our early looks at the Venza’s available schemes were promising.
Under the hood, the Venza uses an inline-4 and three electric motors powered by a lithium-ion hybrid battery pack to make 219 net horsepower but also return up to 40 mpg combined, according to Toyota. (The RAV4 Hybrid uses a similar system.)
All Venzas will use an all-wheel-drive system that powers the rear wheels exclusively via electric motors when the front wheels lose traction. Up to 80 percent of the Venza’s available torque can power the rear wheels. It’s a similar setup found in the Highlander Hybrid, and we’ve found that it works well.
The Venza uses a similar predictive driving system to the Highlander Hybrid to eke out more mpg. The Venza’s system uses navigation information to learn repeated routes and frequent stops to more efficiently travel along that route.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Venza is a two-row crossover that’s geared toward small families or shoppers looking for extra space, but not three rows of seats. It seats up to five compared to the eight- or seven-passenger Highlander.
The Venza is about 6 inches longer from nose to tail than the RAV4, although it can carry 36.3 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row, which is about 1 cubic foot smaller than the RAV4 Hybrid. Cloth upholstery is standard on most models, although leather is available on top trims.
The Venza will be equipped with Toyota’s latest suite of active safety features including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic high beams.
Toyota hasn’t yet outlined what features will be available in all Venzas, but the base versions will get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, active safety features, 18-inch wheels, a six-speaker audio system, power liftgate, satellite radio, and automatic climate control.
Available features include a 10.0-inch head-up display, 12.3-inch touchscreen, 7.0-inch driver information display, a push-button panoramic sunroof that can dim or become clear, heated and cooled front seats, premium audio, a digital rearview mirror, a surround-view camera system, and keyless entry.
The 2021 Toyota Venza will arrive in summer 2020.