- Comfy seats
- Quick bursts of power
- Good hybrid brakes
- Frustrating capacitive controls
- Can’t tow
- Excessive tire noise
When the luxurious Lexus RX is out of reach, Toyota might have the next best thing. The 2021 Toyota Venza wraps the RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain in a longer and more premium package, providing buyers in the midsize SUV market a fresh option with a specific focus.
You won’t find any fancy off-road driving modes inside the Venza, which does have standard electric AWD, thanks to its rear-mounted motor. And the Toyota isn’t rated to tow, either. Instead, the Venza aims to be the best high-riding school-run cruiser in its class. Oh yeah, and because it’s a hybrid, it’s more efficient than its Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, and Honda Passport competition.
“It’s like Toyota is trying to expand to fill whatever gap there may be just below Lexus,” features editor Scott Evans said, adding that “the design is just funky enough to be interesting and different without going too far.”
Although the Venza shares a wheelbase with its sibling RAV4, its design—inside and out—is like no other Toyota SUV. MotorTrend judges didn’t all agree on whether that was a good thing, but we do see value in a hybrid-only entry in a field of mostly turbo-four and V-6 midsize SUVs. Despite some complaints that the four-cylinder hybrid sounded and felt coarse at wide-open throttle, the Venza’s powertrain otherwise delivered smooth power and well-tuned hybrid brakes. (Sometimes the brakes of hybrids don’t feel natural as you come to a stop.)
In addition to 40/37/39 city/highway/combined mpg, this Toyota provides a longer driving range than its non-hybrid competition, and over the course of ownership, it could pay you back in gas savings, depending on what else you’re considering.
Regardless, top-spec Venzas have one ooh, ahh–worthy feature the others (and Lexus) don’t: Star Gaze with Frost Control. The super-cool option is a large fixed glass roof that changes from opaque to clear almost instantly, at the push of a button.
“I’m sure many Tesla owners wish they had something like the auto-dimming panoramic roof,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said.
Besides the fancy roof, fully loaded $43,325 Venzas also include a power-adjustable steering column, a brown and black two-tone interior, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Not bad, but a few practical issues kept it far outside the winner’s circle.
The first problem, mentioned by almost every judge: the irritating touch controls for volume, tuning, and temperature. Included on higher-trim 2021 Venzas, the controls look slick and futuristic. Once you live with the SUV, though, you’ll come to realize why Ford, Honda, and even Toyota itself (on a previous Avalon) abandoned similar controls.
We also wish the 2021 Venza were more spacious, for both people and their stuff. Sure, folks with more stuff can get a Highlander (or even the “smaller” RAV4), but 28.8 cubic feet is low compared to midsize two-row rivals. The rear doors also don’t open as widely as a Blazer’s, and the cargo load floor is too high.
We could also do with less tire noise and an updated infotainment interface, though we appreciate the split-screen functionality on the available 12.3-inch infotainment setup. Despite these issues, the Venza is still worth considering; it carves out its own niche in the midsize SUV segment, reminding us of the original Lexus RX.
In Toyota’s case, this SUV is recommendable if you can accept its flaws. As head of editorial Ed Loh summed up: “It’s like solid 8s across the board.”
|2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid Limited|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||I-4, alum block/head, plus electric motors|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||151.8 cu in/2,487 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||176 hp @ 5,700 rpm (gas) + 118-hp (front elec)/54-hp (rear elec); 219 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||163 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm (gas) + 149-lb-ft (front elec)/89-lb-ft (rear elec)|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.6 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||12.0-in vented disc; 11.0-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||7.0 x 19-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||225/55R19 99V (M+S) Bridgestone Ecopia|
|TRACK, F/R||63.0/63.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||186.6 x 73.0 x 65.9 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||7.8 in|
|APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE||18.4/21.9 deg|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,865 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||56/44%|
|TOWING CAPACITY||Not rated|
|HEADROOM, F/M/R||38.1/36.9 in|
|LEGROOM, F/M/R||40.9/37.8 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R||57.4/56.9 in|
|CARGO VOLUME BEH F/M/R||54.9/28.7 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.1|
|QUARTER MILE||15.7 sec @ 87.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||121 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||NA|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$43,325|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee, passenger thigh|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||2 yrs/25,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||14.5 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||40/37/39 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||84/91 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.50 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular|
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