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2021 Toyota Venza reinvented as an upscale, 2-row hybrid Featured

Posted On Sunday, 04 April 2021 21:40 Written by
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Toyota has revived the Venza model for 2021, this time as an upscale 2-row crossover hybrid. Toyota has revived the Venza model for 2021, this time as an upscale 2-row crossover hybrid. Photo courtesy of Toyota


What is the Toyota Venza?

The name may sound familiar, as it was sold from 2009-2015 by Toyota as a wagon-type vehicle based on the Camry platform.

The Venza is back for 2021, but nothing like the original. Instead, Version 2.0 is a two-row crossover that is sold as a hybrid only, and features an attractive and modern design inside and out.

Its competition will be primarily other two-row crossovers that offer hybrids — such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V — a tough battle since many of these models are among the best-sellers annually.

I recently tested a Venza and I’m back with a full report.


With the return of the Venza, Toyota has hit a design home run.

Between its sharp-looking front end, attractive headlight design, smooth side lines, and high-end interior, it debuts high up on the list of two-row crossovers in terms of overall design.

To put the looks of the Venza vs. its leading hybrid crossover competition, it’s without a doubt that the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape hybrids lack the style and design quality you’ll find in the Venza.

You can tell it’s new and different compared to the mainstays in the category, and it has decent cargo space, too. (28.8 cubic feet behind the second row).

The Venza features 19-inch wheels on its top two trim levels (18-inch wheels on the base model), and a hands-free power liftgate.

The interior features SofTex-trimmed seats, heated & ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and an optional panoramic roof. The Star Gaze glass roof is unique in offering both “transparent” and “frosted” modes, with frosted mode reducing direct sunlight.

The design of the Venza has a goal of offering sedan-like driving comfort while also offering crossover versatility, and it achieves that goal for the most part.


The 2021 Toyota Venza features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and three electric motors, offering a 219 combined horsepower. The latest Toyota Hybrid System can be operated in several modes, including: EV, Eco, Normal and Sport.

It features an electronic continuously variable transmission, and All-Wheel Drive is standard on all trim levels of the Venza, which is nice.

The big question with hybrids is what kind of driving experience they will offer. 

As far as the overall driving experience, I found it to be among the better options among hybrids I have tested. Acceleration is enhanced through the hybrid system’s low-speed torque boost and you get moving quickly.

The Sport mode approaches a normal driving experience. But keep your expectations at a realistic level: Don't expect a ton of power in any mode. And Save the EV and Eco modes for situations where you won’t be holding up traffic. Most of the time you can stick to Normal mode and get around in a reasonably enjoyable manner.

For those looking to maximize fuel mileage, a Hybrid System Indicator shows the system output and regeneration status to encourage eco-driving habits by offering a scoring function for the driver.

The Venza is agile and handles well, is responsive to driver input and is extremely quiet inside. Road noise is also kept out, as the Venza is extremely well-insulated.

If you’re more into off-roading, I would recommend opting for the RAV4 hybrid or other crossover options that are better equipped for such excursions than the Venza.

The Venza also features something called Predictive Efficient Drive (PED), which analyzes driving habits to help optimize hybrid battery charging. This system is designed to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop, then uses that information to help reduce energy consumption, and optimize battery charging and discharge ahead of hills or traffic congestion.


As per usual, Toyota delivers with an impressive array of safety offerings, as well as strong tech features on the Venza.

Starting with safety, the Venza has you covered with a full array of features to keep you safe in the vehicle.

The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system features a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams and Road Sign Assist.

For those worst-case scenarios, there are 8 airbags throughout the vehicle to keep you protected during a crash.

The backup camera, including dynamic gridlines, is a big help when backing up and in tight parking situations. There’s even a rear camera washer on the Venza.

Other helpful safety features on the Venza include a Blind Spot Monitor, Front and Rear Parking Assist with automatic braking, and a Bird's Eye View Camera that shows you everything around you.

Also, the Toyota Star Safety System features Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Brake Assist, Anti-lock brakes and more.

Moving on to the technology inside the Venza, I found that the voice commands worked very well, but the touch controls took some time to master. You’ll get there, but the learning curve is a bit longer than you’ll find in other vehicles.

A couple different touchscreen sizes are offered. The LE and XLE editions of the Venza feature an 8-inch touchscreen, while the Limited trim level offers a 12.3-inch touchscreen.

The Venza is in line with the latest technology, compatible with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity for streaming of phone calls and music. A 3-month trial of satellite radio is included, as well as a trial subscription to Toyota Remote Services, which allow you to start your vehicle and unlock/lock doors remotely.

Audio options include the standard 6-speaker system; or a JBL Premium Audio System with 9 speakers, including a rear subwoofer, which is powered by a 12-channel, 1,200-watt amp.

Another safety option is the 10-inch color Head-Up Display, which projects vital information at eye level to keep your eyes on the road. This is offered in an Advanced tech package that also includes rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Another very cool option is the digital rearview mirror. If the rear view is blocked by cargo or people in the back seat, simply flip a switch to get an unobstructed view from a rear camera.


The official fuel mileage numbers on the Venza are 40 city/37 highway/39 combined. I only averaged 31 mpg, but was mainly driving in Sport mode, which will lower your results. More eco-focused driving should keep you close to the listed numbers.

For comparison, the RAV4 hybrid and Ford Escape hybrid both list a combined 40 mpg, while the Honda CR-V hybrid offers a combined 38 mpg. 


One thing that may keep Venza sales numbers lower than its competition is the pricing. My test vehicle was priced just over $43,000 and the base price starts about $33K. Trim levels include LE, XLE and Limited.

While the vehicle is quite upscale, the numbers may steer potential buyers in another direction. Most other vehicles are easier on the bottom line, and some are also more off-road friendly than the Venza.

As far as warranties, Toyota offers a 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty, and 60-month/60,000 warranty on the powertrain. Hybrid component repairs are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles. And battery coverage is for 10 years/150,000 miles.


While the Venza is not likely to become one of Toyota’s best-sellers, it’s yet another strong crossover option that buyers can choose from in a sea full of competition. With attractive and modern looks and design, strong technology and hybrid fuel mileage, there is a lot to like.

I also find it interesting that it comes as a hybrid only, which is another way it distinguishes itself. If you’re looking for a 2-row SUV, particularly one that is a hybrid, it’s worth exploring the Venza with a test drive.

======= can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Toyota Venza
  • Price as tested: $43,100 (starts at $33K)
  • Best feature: Strong fuel mileage, upscale design 
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Crossover buyers seeking a two-row hybrid option that looks sharp
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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