2021 Toyota Venza Review Canada – In the classic example of the chicken-versus-egg debate, I find it hard to decide whether the new Toyota Venza is important because it is only offered as a hybrid, or if it is only offered as a hybrid because it is also the revival of the once (very) important nameplate. For those not following Toyota’s steady march towards electrification, the company predicts that 40 percent of the cars it sells by 2025 will be hybrids – a figure double that of today. In pursuit of that goal, it was recently announced that the new Venza (along with the recently revitalized Sienna) will only be offered with a hybrid powertrain. No gas engines will be available. Good diesel. Any Venza sold in the country – other jurisdictions will offer the same car with a variety of internal combustion engines – will be electrified.
The flip side of the equation is that Venza was immensely popular in Canada’s first sojourn language, between 2009 and 2016. If it’s not quite the best seller, it’s – at least in Canada – a cult favorite. Owners are fiercely loyal and resale values are stellar, we Canucks appreciate Toyota’s insistence that a hatch-backed wagon makes a good car. It is hardly as popular as the south of the border and it ends up being stopped here, because our American friends can’t seem to recognize good value, even when wearing the Toyota badge.
Now back, though, the question remains, more importantly – the fact that it’s a hybrid, or that it’s the revival of one of the most popular signage in Canada’s Toyota lexicon? Does the Venza nameplate allow 2021 Toyota Venza to take the risk of taking a car with an electrified powertrain one price higher, pumping out its reduced emissions bona fide? Or, will it be the awesome cache that is Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive that will restore a perhaps forgotten nameplate to its former glory?
Well, with apologies to the legion of Toyota dealers who have been waiting for something – anything! – worthy of the Venza badge, I think it’s Toyota’s commitment to hybridization that will make this car. Oh, for sure, it’s a sexy crossover that happens to handle pretty well, and especially in the XLE and Limited trim, it’s really well appointed. But every time you get a sport this big – despite riding on the same platform as the RAV4, the Venza stretches a full 4,740 millimeters from bumper to bumper – which can boast nothing less than 6.0 L / 100 kilometers (47 MPG).
Better yet, that the theoretical “combined” mileage – officially, Natural Resources Canada rates the new Venza at 5.9 L / 100 kilometers in the city, 6.4 on the highway, and 6.0 combined as a whole – is not an illusion. This fully loaded, Limited tester averaged an absolutely stellar 6.3 hooning around the twisty backroad linking Calabogie and Perth. This is the third time in a row that an electric Toyota has been impressed by meeting – or, in the case of the RAV4 Prime, exceeding – rated fuel economy during my tests. Considering how legions are gas-fired cars that don’t come close to meeting expectations (and a growing number of EDVs whose advertised range are magically disappearing long before they’re advertised) it’s refreshing to get the parsimony that’s promised.
Venza also doesn’t stifle performance to reach stellar figures like that. Thanks to Atkinson-cycle 2.5 liter four-cylinder and no less than three electric motors, the Venza feels more than grunty at low speeds, with the internal combustion engine and electric motor tuned to punch right off the line. The combination does run out of puff a bit at high speeds, but the 219’s combined horsepower powertrain doesn’t embarrass the species.
Thanks to all those electric motors, the Venza also offers electronic all-wheel drive on demand – essentially, the Venza operates in FWD mode when economy is the top priority, but can also direct as much as 80 percent of torque backwards when traction is spotty. It can even bias the rear driver at the stoplight to further pop off the line. As powertrains go, you’ll love that Toyota went all-hybrid with the Venza.
That said, the biggest upgrade Toyota could make to the Venza is to upgrade it to the 243 horsepower powertrain of the Highlander Hybrid. The two use identical gas engines, so it would be just a simple matter of upgrading the electric motors and maybe adding a little more lithium in the batteries to power their wind boost. There won’t be much of a fuel-saving penalty either, as the Highlander Hybrid only pours 0.9 L / 100 kilometers more than the Venza – at least half of that because it’s a longer, wider and heavier seven-seater SUV.
It will definitely match the new Venza visage, which is barely as proce as its predecessor. All swooping roofline, sharp folds and (medium) bulging fenders, this isn’t a shy, retirement wagon. Instead, we have another sport-ute on your face from the same guys who brought you the relatively somnolent Avalon (which, by the way, at least some pundits predict will be swallowed up by Venza). Indeed, 2021 Toyota Venza is slowly shedding its checkerboard image and the Venza, although completely mainstream, continues to line up for pseudo-sportiness.
Said sportiness is reflected in the chassis as well, with the suspension setup on the firm side of the comfort equation. It’s not a truck like a buckboard, but the Venza isn’t a flabby, comfortable Highlander. You will feel a bump, but you will also feel the way. I suspect that satisfaction with the new Venza, at least in terms of chassis, will depend on where you live; glide along the sleek twisty southern Ontario and you’ll appreciate the Venza ‘feedback’, but sail the Laurentian lunar landscape of northern Quebec and you’ll probably find you’re getting too many ‘comments’ from something wearing a Toyota badge.
On the inside, Venza more or less lives up to its premium billing. $ 44,490 of course, the XLE, with a 1,200 watt JBL audio system, a humungous 12.3-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen infotainment system, ventilated seats and projector LED headlamps. $ 47,690 Limited feels luxurious – it includes the all tidbit XLE, plus digital rear view mirrors, a bird’s eye view camera system, and most importantly (especially if you’re a Toyota salesperson looking for bigger commissions), something the glass roof company calls Star Gaze fixed panoramas with Frost Control.
The $ 38,490 base Venza LE, however, looks built at a price. The 4.2-inch multi-functional display in the gauge cluster appears to be small in addition to the seven-incher one found on the big boys. Ditto standard eight-inch infotainment display. It’s cutting costs even on lamps – don’t ask me how cheaper technology compensates for economies of scale, because I can’t figure it out, either – the headlights are still LED, but tucked into a regular parabolic reflector rather than a projector setup. Fortunately, the power-operated rear liftgate, power-adjustable steering column adjustment, cordless phone charger, and heated front seat make up for the value on the base model.
This makes me think the Venza XLE is a sweet spot. It’s got all the right stuff, and as long as you don’t have to stare at the stars, no Limited offer makes the $ 3,200 price bump worth it. The XLE is handsome, light on his feet, and comfortable and cozy when just sailing. Just what a semi-large sport-ute should be. In fact, my main complaint is that the Venza has one of those infernal, no-touch knobs, supposedly tactile for adjusting volume, rather than the good old-fashioned knob. Toyota seems determined to always have one faux-pas persnickety in all of its infotainment systems and now eschewing that infernal touchpad control, I guess we should put up a volume control that’s hard to manipulate. On the other hand, as the main complaints go, he talks about how well engineering Venza is.
It’s great, in fact, that I think Venza’s main competition will be Toyota’s RAV4 itself. Both are built on the same platform – Toyota’s TNGA-K platform, which also supports the Highlander – and in fact, ride on the same wheelbase. They are also nearly identical in width, the main dimensional difference between the two being that the RAV4 is 144 millimeters shorter. There’s a lot more headroom on the Venza, but the forefront and rear legroom dimensions are all but identical – no surprise since legroom is pretty much determined by wheelbase. In other words, the cabins were very similar in size.
Not so baggage. Surprisingly – and I’d say surprising because the Venza is, again, 144 millimeters longer overall than the RAV4 – the Venza’s trunk is about 25 percent smaller than the RAV4. And yes, I checked, the difference is identical to the two back seats there and lying down. Blame it on love for love which is the roof of Venza that slopes and slopes, or perhaps its load floor is slightly higher. But whatever the cause, Venza has marked less cargo space than her baby sister despite being almost six inches longer.
Another thing that will give me pause, if I sneak around the Toyota showroom, is that the favored Venza XLE is only $ 500 cheaper than the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime. For roughly the same money, you can have a luxurious interior or a 302 horsepower rocket with a range of up to 70 kilometers on electricity only. I don’t think I need to show which I will choose.
Of course, I’m not everyone, and in the end, it’s all about priorities. What we have on the new Venza is a new hybrid crossover built on the exact same platform as the RAV4 – right down to the wheelbase and powertrain as the Hybrid – only with a much more aggressive styling and a much more distinguished interior, but with less space. , and at least model-for-model, a higher price tag.
I’m guessing that will have a bit of an impact on Venza’s initial sales, there seems to be a pent-up demand for whatever is wearing the nameplate sought. However, in the long run, I think consumers will make a more direct comparison with their smaller siblings. That’s when the hybrid part of the equation will matter more than any loyalty to a specific nameplate. Offering the 243 horsepower version of the Highlander of Toyota’s electrified powertrain may then prove more convincing to customers who cross-shop the Venza and the RAV4. Indeed, I suspect that either the highlander hybrid – or perhaps the RAV4 Prime’s – powertrain will eventually find their way into the Venza lineup.
The two, of course, will mean that they are still offered only as hybrids.