Venza makes triumphant return to Toyota lineup

The all-new 2021 Venza comes equipped exclusively with the Toyota Hybrid System II powertrain and advanced Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. It has a starting manufacturer estimated retail price (MSRP) of $32,470 for LE, $36,000 for XLE and $39,800 for Limited (excluding the delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,175). Toyota photo
The all-new 2021 Venza comes equipped exclusively with the Toyota Hybrid System II powertrain and advanced Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. It has a starting manufacturer estimated retail price (MSRP) of $32,470 for LE, $36,000 for XLE and $39,800 for Limited (excluding the delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,175). Toyota photo

Midsize SUV brings the number of Toyota hybrids available to 10

The legendary baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” And that silly saying seems apropos this week as I drive a vehicle that is back after a five-year hiatus.

Truth be told, when I informed people the Toyota Venza was gone for five years, they didn’t believe me.

“I thought Toyota made that all these years,” more than one person said.

In reality, the midsize Venza is back and better than ever for the 2021 model year.

Slotting into the Toyota lineup between the RAV4 and the Highlander, the Venza stands out, showing a longer hood and a sleek, short back end. This differentiates it on profile from other SUVs.

The grille is interesting, with enough style to differentiate it from some of its Toyota stablemates that are a little longer in the tooth. Without a doubt, the headlight design is the most distinctive feature on the front end, giving it personality during the day, but also at night.

A rear spoiler is a nice touch; a horizontal light bar spans the width of the back and adds more distinction. For a redesign/relaunch of a vehicle, Toyota got it right with the Venza.

The Venza returns to the Toyota lineup with a hybrid powertrain only. While this adds fuel economy to its appeal, it also makes for rather dull, uninspiring performance. If you value comfort over exhilaration, then the Venza is something to consider.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has two electric motors that combine for 219 horsepower. That number feels low and the Venza drives low. It’s pokey off the line. What it lacks in athletic performance it more than makes up for with comfort and control.

The all-wheel drive Venza has a continuously variable transmission that isn’t bad. And for me that’s the most praise a CVT will ever get. The switch from electric to gasoline is seamless. You don’t notice that it’s a hybrid, except in the fuel economy.

The interior is where the wow factor kicks in for the Venza. The last time I was in one, it was quite forgettable. The ’21 Venza’s interior made a much bigger positive impression.

My tester was the top-of-the-line Limited trim which, quite frankly, felt like a Lexus. I’ve actually had a few Lexuses that didn’t feel as luxurious as this Venza. That shows just how far the Venza has come. Heated and cooled front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and even a digital rearview mirror add value. Other smaller touches don’t go unnoticed either, like the illuminated foot wells and faux wood inlay.

The rear seats are comfortable for two adults, but the Venza is rated for five passengers total; three adults might struggle for comfort when it comes to shoulder room. The neatest new feature is the panoramic sunroof that allows a switch from normal daylight to filtered or frosted light. You still get good light in when it’s filtered, but it helps keep the sun from beating down on you, which families should appreciate in the summer time.

Cargo room is adequate with 28.7 cubic feet of space behind the seats and 54.9 cubic feet with seats folded down.

Toyota’s infotainment system continues to improve but still feels a little unimpressive compared to other systems out there. It’s better but not the best as it lacks some intuitiveness.

Toyota keeps the trims simple with three options for the Venza. My top-tier Limited trim came with a starting price of $39,800. As tested and with the aforementioned star gazer moonroof feature, added along with the advanced technology package, my tester had a final price of $43,100.

A midsize SUV with an EPA rating of 40 mpg/city and 37 mpg/highway is impressive. My tester averaged just over 38 mpg. You can forgive its poky nature when you get fuel economy like that.

It’s nice the Toyota Venza didn’t fade into oblivion and makes a triumphant and memorable return to the Toyota product line this year.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

2021 TOYOTA VENZA LIMITED

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $39,800/$43,100
  • Mileage.......................................... 40 mpg/city; 37 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid
  • Horsepower................................. 219 hp/163 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. CVT
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Aichi, Japan

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