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2021 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2021 Toyota Venza: What’s the Difference?

One of the kings of the compact crossovers, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is offered in a variety of trims, including a new plug-in hybrid model for 2021. So how does it compare to Toyota’s brand-new Venza hybrid? Let’s take a closer look.

Quick Facts

  • Toyota Venza returns for 2021 as a hybrid compact crossover.
  • New for 2021 is the Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid.
  • RAV4 TRD Off-Road has genuine off-road chops.

2021 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4 Front Right Side in GreenBase price: $27,225 | Read our 2021 RAV4 review 

What we like: Quality and reliability; roomy interior; off-road trim; optional hybrid; generous standard equipment.

What we would change: Expensive, particularly the top trims; no leather upholstery option; navigation only available on upper trims.

Overview: Now in its fifth generation, the Toyota RAV4 has consistently been ranked near or at the top of the compact crossover class. That’s for good reason thanks to excellent safety features, a roomy interior for both passengers and cargo, loads of standard equipment, and a confident and comfortable ride.

A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine sends power to either the front wheels or optionally, all four. If you’re looking for better fuel economy, there’s a hybrid and, new for the 2021 Toyota RAV4, a plug-in hybrid that makes an impressive 302 horsepower while returning 40 mpg on the highway.

Inside, the cabin is comfortable and very well made, with some nice premium touches and plenty of soft-touch materials. One ding, though, is that leather upholstery is not available. There’s a 7-inch (8-inches on upper trims) touchscreen that controls audio and navigation, along with knobs for volume and temperature controls.

Cargo space is abundant, with 37.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats that expands to 69.8 with all seats folded. There are numerous trim levels, ranging from the base (but still well-equipped) LE up through the plusher Limited and the rugged TRD Off-Road that has a different suspension and all-terrain tires. Resale values remain good.

What’s new for 2021: New for 2021 is the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid variant, with up to 42 miles of electric-only range. The TRD Off-Road version also gets a new front skidplate.

Features and technology: With a choice of engines and both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, there’s a 2021 Toyota RAV4 for all tastes, with six trims of the gasoline model and two of the plug-in hybrid. Standard features on the base LE include a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, a USB port, satellite radio, and a 6-speaker audio system. Also included are 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 safety suite with adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assistance, and lane-tracing assistance.

The next XLE trim adds dual-zone automatic control and an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, while the Premium adds amenities like a power moonroof and simulated leather upholstery. Next is the Adventure, with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, an 8-inch touchscreen, 19-inch wheels, and 120-volt power outlet.

The TRD Off-Road trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, and a TRD off-road suspension. The top Limited trim adds a navigation system, heated front seats, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system, which to our ears is one of the best out there.

 What does the future hold: Toyota is a fairly steady and conservative company, so we only expect incremental changes and different safety features as they become available, and perhaps some tweaks to interior trim or colors before the next redesign. Find a 2021 Toyota RAV4 for sale

2021 Toyota Venza

2021 Toyota Venza Front Driver Side In Steel BlueBase price: $33,645 | Read our 2021 Toyota Venza review

What we like: Fuel economy; good standard safety features; standard all-wheel drive.

What we would change: Single engine choice; no plug-in hybrid; limited cargo space; negligible off-road capability.

Overview: When we last saw the Toyota Venza several years ago, it was a boxy wagon-like thing, but in keeping with the times, it returns for 2021 as a hybrid-powered midsize crossover, slightly larger than the smaller RAV4.

Its hybrid drivetrain comes from the RAV4 hybrid and in this case powers all four wheels. As with most hybrids, it’s not a thrill ride, but the electric motors provide a good boost of acceleration when necessary. Steering is precise and the brakes are strong.

The interior isn’t the most exciting thing, but the seats are comfortable, with 8-way power adjustment and decent space. Cargo space is smaller than average, however, with 28.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats expanding to 55.5 with them folded.

Standard features are good and include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features with a pre-collision system, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Also included are an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Options include a glass roof that can switch from transparent to frosted at the touch of a button.

What’s new for 2021: Everything, as the 2021 Venza represents a brand-new model.

Features and technology: Keeping things simple, the 2021 Toyota Venza comes with a sole engine/transmission choice and three different trim levels. The base LE trim has an 8-way power driver seat, hands-free liftgate, and an AM/FM sound system with six speakers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa compatibility. Also included are Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features, all-wheel drive, and a backup camera.

Next up is the XLE, which adds a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a Smart Key system, and on top is the Limited with heated and ventilated front seats, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Options include the above-mentioned panoramic glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, a 12-speaker/1,200-watt JBL premium audio system, a surround-view camera, and a 10-inch color head-up display.

What does the future hold: As the Venza is brand-new this year, we don’t expect much to change too radically, with possibly some new paint colors and the addition of new safety tech features. Find a 2021 Toyota Venza for sale

RAV4 vs. Venza: Strengths comparison

RAV4 Benefits: Lower starting price; cargo space; optional plug-in hybrid; off-road ability.

Venza Benefits: Fuel economy; standard all-wheel drive; top trim is less expensive.

2021 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2021 Toyota Venza: What’s different?

If we’re completely honest here, we’re not entirely sure what Toyota is doing reintroducing the Venza. Although more of a styling statement, it’s basically the same size as the RAV4 but comes as a hybrid only, whereas the RAV4 not only has a hybrid option but now a plug-in hybrid. It feels as if the Venza might cannibalize some RAV4 hybrid sales, and vice-versa.

The RAV4 also has an optional off-road TRD model and six different trim options to the Venza’s three. The RAV4 has better driving manners, more cargo and passenger space, and more options across the board. In other words, the 2021 Toyota Venza is a perfectly nice little crossover. It just happens to be nearly the same as another crossover from the same company.

Find a 2021 Toyota RAV4 for sale or find a 2021 Toyota Venza for sale

2021 Toyota RAV4 2021 Toyota Venza
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter I4 2.5-liter I4 hybrid
Horsepower 203 hp @ 6,600 rpm 219 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Torque 184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm 163 lb-ft
Transmission 8-Spd automatic Continuously variable
Fuel Economy 30 mpg (27 city/35 hwy) 39 mpg (40 city/37 hwy)
Also Available 2.5-liter I4 + electric motors; all-wheel drive n/a
Basic warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 105.9 inches 105.9 inches
Overall Length 180.9 inches 186.6 inches
Width 73.0 inches 73.0 inches
Height 67.0 inches 65.9 inches
Turning Diameter 36.1 feet 36.1 feet
Headroom, Front 37.7 inches 38.6 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.5 inches 39.0 inches
Legroom, Front 41.0 inches 40.9 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.8 inches 37.8 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.8 inches 57.4 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 56.4 inches 56.9 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 98.9 cu. ft. 98.3 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 40/69.8 cu. ft. 28.8/55.1 cu. ft.


Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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