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2021 Toyota Venza vs. 2021 Subaru Outback: Which Is Better?

The  2021 Toyota Venza and the 2021 Subaru Outback have a unique take on the midsize crossover segment, but which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Toyota Venza returns for 2021 as a hybrid mid-sized crossover.
  • All-wheel drive comes standard on the Subaru Outback.

2021 Toyota Venza

2021 Toyota Venza Front Left in Red
Above: The 2021 Toyota Venza in Ruby Flare Pearl

Base 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 wagonlike thing, but in keeping with the times, it returns for 2021 as a hybrid-powered midsize crossover, slotting in between the smaller RAV4 and the three-row Highlander. Its hybrid gasoline/electric drivetrain comes from the RAV4 Hybrid and, in this case, powers all four wheels. 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. However, cargo space is smaller than average, with 28.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats expanding to 55.5 with them folded. Standard features are abundant and include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features, including lane departure warning and a pre-collision system. 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 single-engine/transmission choice and three different trim levels. The base LE trim has an 8-way power driver seat, hands-free liftgate, 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 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 across the range 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. See 2021 Toyota Venza models for sale near you

2021 Subaru Outback

2021 Subaru Outback Front Left Side in Silver
Above: The 2021 Subaru Outback in Ice Silver Metallic

0Base Price: $27,845 / Read our Subaru Outback Review

What we like: Standard AWD; optional 2.5-liter turbo flat-4; off-road capability thanks to more than 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

What we would change:  Improve the feel of the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); smooth out the start/stop system; offer a manual gearbox again.

Overview: Good-looking and competent, the Subaru Outback returns immediately following its 2020 makeover. A practical and smarter alternative to traditional SUVs, it features the cargo-hauling capabilities of a crossover without the skyscraper feeling of a tall sport-utility. We appreciate the off-road capability and that it can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

What’s new for 2021: Following its 2020 refresh, the Subaru continues with a few minor enhancements. Among them are active headlights that track the steering angle of the front wheels. Also new is a rear seat check reminder and unfastened seatbelt chimes for both front and rear passengers.

Features and Technology: Each level is very well-equipped, but the Outback Limited really brings it, with leather-trimmed upholstery, machine-finished black 18-inch alloy wheels, power front seats, 2-position driver’s seat memory, heated back seats, a hands-free power rear liftgate pushbutton start, Harman Kardon premium audio, blind-spot detection (with lane-change assist) and rear cross-traffic alert (with reverse automatic braking).

What does the future hold: This model was just refreshed in 2020, so expect just minor tweaks for the next few years. See 2021 Subaru Outback models for sale near you

Venza vs. Outback: Strengths Comparison

2021 Toyota Venza vs 2021 Subaru Outback Interior
Above: The 2021 Toyota Venza Interior
Below: The 2021 Subaru Outback Interior

Venza Benefits: Fuel economy; outward visibility; reputation for quality.

Subaru Outback Benefits: Less expensive; good off-road capabilities with more ground clearance.

2021 Toyota Venza vs. 2021 Subaru Outback: Which Is Better?

We really like the Outback in this comparison — mostly because it comes with more space and more off-roading capability. The Venza is great if you need to toddle around town and don’t plan on doing any light off-roading. See 2021 Subaru Outback models for sale or See 2021 Toyota Venza models for sale

Popular Powertrains 2021 Toyota Venza 2021 Subaru Outback
Engine 2.5-liter I4 hybrid 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 219 hp @ 5,700 rpm 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 163 lb-ft 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission CVT CVT
Fuel Economy 39 mpg (40 city/37 hwy) 29 mpg (26 city/33 hwy)
Also Available 2.4-liter turbo I4
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 108.1 inches
Overall Length 186.6 inches 191.3 inches
Width 73.0 inches 82.0 inches
Height 65.9 inches 66.1 inches
Turning Diameter 36.1 feet n/a
Headroom, Front 38.6 inches 40.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.0 inches 39.1 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 42.8 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.8 inches 39.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.4 inches 58.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 56.9 inches 57.4 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 98.3 cubic feet 109.0 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 55.0 cubic feet 75.7 cubic feet

Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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