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2021 Toyota Venza: First Look

  • All-new 2-row crossover SUV
  • Slots between the Highlander and the RAV4
  • Estimated 40 miles per gallon from its hybrid powertrain
  • Venza sales set for summer

After discontinuing it in 2015, Toyota is bringing back its 2-row Venza crossover. The new 2021 Toyota Venza is more of an urban SUV than its previous more wagonlike model. Slotted between the 3-row midsize Toyota Highlander and the compact RAV4, the 2021 Toyota Venza comes as a hybrid only with standard all-wheel drive.

The Toyota Hybrid System II in the new Venza combines a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with three electric motors (two on the front axle and one in the rear) to provide AWD. Total system output is 219 horsepower, and Toyota expects a combined 40 miles per gallon from the setup. It’s the same powertrain found in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Three Driving Modes

The Venza features three driving modes — Normal, Eco and Sport. Sport mode sharpens throttle response, while Eco uses less aggressive mapping to boost mileage. An EV mode also enables the vehicle to operate in electric-only at low speeds for short distances.

A new feature is the ability of the driver to sequentially select the level of regenerative braking via a gear lever switch. By increasing the level, the driver experiences the same kind of engine braking that a traditional drivetrain produces when downshifted on a downhill stretch. In standard highway cruising, all the powertrain’s torque is directed to the front wheels, while in slippery conditions up to 80% can be sent to the rear axle.

Sleek Styling

Unlike the previous generation, which had a boxier profile, the 2021 Toyota Venza features sleek, coupelike styling. The nose features Toyota’s signature trapezoid-shaped lower grille, softened up by rounded corners. A small upper inlet is flanked by slim head lamps that wrap into the front fenders and contain LED daytime running lights.

The sides are clean, and while it has a distinctive SUVlike stance, the overall look is more refined than muscular. There’s chrome surrounding the window openings and small wheel arch extensions that give the Venza the look of a luxury cruiser than an off-road basher. The rear lift gate is topped by a spoiler and the LED tail lamps extend from side to side. Base LE models are equipped with 18-in wheels, while the upper trim XLE and Limited ride on 19-in rims.

Interior Refinement

The cabin also projects an upscale feel with a large center console that sweeps up into the standard 8-in center infotainment touchscreen. A 12.3-in touchscreen is available on higher trim levels. The look is clean and uncluttered, incorporating traditional controls.

Venza features an 8-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat and 3-across seating in the rear. Behind the second row is 36.3 cu ft. of cargo space. The standard power rear lift gate features hands-free operation.

The 2021 Venza is also a showcase for the optional Star Gaze panoramic glass roof. This fixed panel of electrochromic glass allows the driver to switch it from transparent to frosted mode within a second. The frosted setting keeps out direct sunlight while giving off light that brightens the interior.

Toyota Safety Sense II Standard

All Venza models are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense II, a suite of active safety and driver assists. The package includes full-speed range adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist. Its pre-collision warning system also includes pedestrian detection, even in low-light situations, as well as daytime bicycle detection.

In addition to its safety features, the Venza offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility with the infotainment system. Options include a 10-in color head-up display, a premium 12-speaker JBL audio, dynamic navigation and a digital key.

Pricing and Competition

The price of the 2021 Toyota Venza will be announced closer to its summer launch. Since it’s positioned between the Highlander and RAV4 Hybrids, which start at $28,350 and $38,200 respectively, the base MSRP is estimated at $33,000. That positioning would put the base hybrid-only Venza below the standard nonhybrid Highlander’s price of $34,600.

The 2021 Toyota Venza competes in the growing 2-row midsize crossover SUV segment, which has seen the recent introduction of the Chevrolet Blazer, the Honda Passport and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Established competitors include the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. Find a Toyota Venza for sale

Matt DeLorenzo
Matt DeLorenzo is an author who specializes in writing news, advice, and car reviews. A member of the North American Car of the Year jury, he has spent more than four decades covering the auto industry and has held key posts at industry and consumer publications including Automotive News, AutoWeek, and Road & Track. He is also an author of automotive books including Modern Chrysler Concept... Read More about Matt DeLorenzo

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