Road Test: 2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid


by Kivi



Reborn Hybrid,
All-Wheel-Drive Family Hauler

The Toyota Venza is an all-new
vehicle with an “old” name. In the super competitive “utility” field, it’s an
effective people mover with style that features a hybrid powertrain and all-wheel
drive on all three trim levels.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
Last generation’s wagon morphs into a crossover

Toyota is playing to its strengths.
Long known for reliability and quality, it is also responsible for the legendary
Prius hybrid, ubiquitous Camry midsize sedan (also with a hybrid), and market-sweet-spot-dwelling
RAV4 compact crossover (now with hybrid and a plug-in hybrid options). The reinvigorated
Venza integrates the virtues of all three in one pleasing package. While the
growing trend in vehicles has been SUVs/crossovers/utilities, the Venza manifests
as a tall wagon, with flowing, interesting styling inside and out.

Toyota has not brought out an
all-electric vehicle yet (other than the small-volume hydrogen-fuel-cell Mirai
and limited runs of the RAV4). Instead, for now, they are proliferating their
famous hybrid and plug-in hybrid tech throughout their lineup. The RAV4 and
Corolla are recent examples, while the Prius remains, recently adding an
all-wheel-drive variant.

The Power

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
Another Toyota hybrid application

The Hybrid Power System generates
219 combined net horsepower from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of
electric motors (88 kilowatt [kW] and 40 kW. Standard electronic on-demand AWD
and a continuously variable automatic transmission complete the drivetrain.
This is a familiar and effective system, which moves the 3,919-pound,
five-passenger Venza down the road with good EPA miles-per-gallon numbers—40
city/37 highway/39 combined. The EPA Green numbers are 7 for Smog and 8 for Greenhouse
Gas. I averaged 34.0 mpg during my limited test.

Hybrid vehicles are efficient while
requiring no action from the driver. There is no plug to charge the battery—it
gets its electricity from regenerative braking every time you press the brake
pedal. This means you just get in and go; however, you can improve your mileage
by driving smoothly and gently and avoiding excessive speed. The vehicle emits
227 grams of CO2 per mile, which is about half of what a gas-only midsize
car with this size engine would put out.

The Space

The Venza is roomy. None of its
maximum of five occupants should feel cramped, and there’s plenty of headroom.
Cargo volume is 28.7 cubic feet (cf) with the rear seats up, expanding to 54.9
cf with them folded. That’s plenty for most purposes.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
A comfortable, high-tech environment

While many of Toyota’s vehicles are
built in U.S. factories, the Venza is assembled in Aichi, Japan. Today’s
vehicles are made up of thousands of parts from suppliers all over the world,
so that information may not be particularly meaningful, but it does impact
shipping charges (see below).

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
Storage in back

There are three trim levels, which
use the standard Toyota nomenclature—LE, XLE, and Limited. As usual, you get
more as you ascend the levels. My tester was a Limited, so it had everything on
the menu, plus an optional Star Gaze Fixed Panoramic Roof ($1,400). This is likely
more entertaining for passengers than the driver. The XLE and Limited share
many upgrades from the LE, but most of the good stuff is included on all

The Limited enhances some aspects,
such as seats, and includes some unique features. It provides additional safety
by giving you a better view of your surroundings with a digital rearview
mirror, an integrated backup camera (with dynamic gridlines and a washer), and
the Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan. Add in dual-zone climate control,
heated and ventilated SofTex-trimmed seats (artificial leather). And you get
illuminated door sills up front. See Toyota’s website for details.

The Looks

My Limited tester wore evocatively
named Coastal Gray Metallic paint over 19-inch Multi-Spoke Super Chrome rims so,
although the proportions were 2021 crossover, there was a little extra curb
appeal. The exterior styling is a clean iteration of Toyota’s recent stretched
taffy, fierce face design, with pointed rear side windows and taillamps that protrude
like clipped fins in the rear. A deep spoiler projects over the rear window to
aid aerodynamics. It does not have the upright lines or chunky wheel wells of
an off-road truck-based SUV.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
Classic Toyota touches throughout

Inside, you’ll find a lot of Prius
and Camry influences, with flowing panels and elegant matte finishes. The start
button sits in plain sight on the center dash console. The center stack
features long metallic parentheses around the controls with an information pod
sitting above filled with useful data. The home screen displays audio, phone,
map, and hybrid system data and graphs. Tap one to get the full screen for

The instrument panel is more
rounded, visible through the leather-wrapped steering wheel, and features crisp,
traditional needle gauges. The left gauge offers CHG (charge), ECO, and PWR
(power) sections of the dial, so you can see how efficiently you’re driving at
any time. The center panel displays the by now common info, from fuel economy
to audio settings to vehicle configurations.

The Cost

Pricing starts at $32,470 for the
LE, $36,000 for the XLE, and $39,800 for the Limited. Add $1,175 for delivery
(it’s coming from Japan, remember) to each price. My tester came to $43,100.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD
Jumping into a crowded field

The new Venza is a pleasant,
attractive, highly functional vehicle that should find some buyers in the crowded
midsize SUV segment (check out below if you have any doubt of that). As a
Toyota, it really doesn’t have a downside, and my short test turned up no
issues. It didn’t stir up any passions, either, but that’s likely not its job.
As a nearly-40-mpg hybrid, it’s a good car for today if a plug-in vehicle won’t
work for you. However, I recommend leasing, so your next car can be fully electric.
By then, even Toyota should have something to offer you.

Story by Steve Schaefer. Photos by Toyota.

[See image gallery at cleanfleetreport.com]

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Clean Fleet Report is
loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at
a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle.
Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total
cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events
highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be
offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our
unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class,
which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and
diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among
the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and
news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome
any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for
alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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