2021 Toyota Venza

2021 Toyota Venza
2021 Toyota Venza Aft View
2021 Toyota Venza Dashboard

2021 Toyota Venza Test Drive Review: Who Needs A Lexus?

It's been a few years since the Venza was last sold but with nearly every other automaker reviving old nameplates, it's no surprise that Toyota has decided to bring it back. Last time around, the Venza was based on a lifted version of the Camry platform. Now, it sits on the Toyota New Global Architecture, which underpins models like the RAV4, but instead of cannibalizing sales within the brand, is targeted at two-row midsize crossovers like the Honda Passport, Nissan Murano, and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. You can think of it as a shortened Highlander with two rows.

Though longer overall than the RAV4, the Venza's proportions don't really feel midsize like those aforementioned models. Instead, its proportions feel quite comparable to the compact RAV4 only the Venza looks more coupe-like and has a more plush, almost Lexus-like interior. Even the drivetrain, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a hybrid system, is shared with the RAV4 Hybrid, giving the Venza 219 horsepower. You could argue that the Venza is the perfect midpoint between the Toyota RAV4 and a Lexus NX. But with the NX being long overdue for a replacement, the Venza may actually be the better choice over its Lexus counterpart.

Read in this review:

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2021 Toyota Venza Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 Venza?

The Toyota Venza is an all-new arrival for the 2021 model year. Available solely as a hybrid with an electronic on-demand all-wheel-drive system, the efficient Venza's powertrain is wrapped in a stylish midsize crossover body, positioning it above the RAV4 and below the Highlander within the brand's range. It rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K) platform which Toyota says is expected to achieve top NHTSA safety ratings. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and three electric motors produce a combined 219 horsepower, transferred via an electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT) to all wheels. Inside, the two-row crossover features available equipment like a 12.3-inch touchscreen interface, a nine-speaker audio system, a 10-inch color head-up display, and new Star Gaze panoramic moonroof.

Pros and Cons

  • Sophisticated, Lexus-like styling
  • Premium interior fixtures
  • Efficient hybrid powertrain
  • Many standard and available features
  • Quieter than most Toyotas
  • Less passenger space than other midsize crossovers
  • No power increase over RAV4 Hybrid
  • RAV4 offers greater cargo capacity
  • Touch-sensitive controls are finicky
  • Looks might be polarizing

Best Deals on 2021 Toyota Venza

2021 Toyota Venza Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 Toyota Venza Trims and Specs

2021 Venza Exterior

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  • Length 186.6 in
  • Wheelbase 105.9 in
  • Height 65.9 in
  • Max Width 73.0 in
  • Front Width 63.0 in
  • Rear Width 63.7 in
  • Curb Weight 3,847.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Coastal Gray Metallic
  • Black
  • Titanium Glow
  • Blueprint
  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Ruby Flare Pearl
  • Celestial Black

2021 Venza Performance

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine
    2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain

Handling and Driving Impressions

Predictably, the new Venza drives much like the last RAV4 Hybrid we tested. Sharing the same drivetrain and platform tends to do that. This isn't to say that the two are identical. With the Venza, Toyota has added more sound-deadening materials, improving one of our most significant gripes with the RAV4 Hybrid, its road noise. On the highway, the Venza feels considerably quieter than its more mainstream sibling. We'd never call it sporty but thanks to MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension, the Venza hugs the road admirably using a combination of on-demand all-wheel-drive and Active Cornering Assist, which uses stability control to reduce understeer. This suspension setup also helps the Venza ride smoothly over rough roads without bouncing around or disrupting the peace.

Drivers can select from Eco, Normal, and Sport modes, which do little more than adjust the throttle mapping. In most conditions, the Venza leaves silently from a stop before engaging the engine, creating a near-seamless transition from electric to gas propulsion. You won't be able to feel the engine kick on but you'll certainly hear it when you need to get up to speed in a hurry. Toyota's eCVT has a tendency to create some less than exotic sounds from the gas engine but we found that if you drive the Venza like a reasonable person, the engine remains mostly quiet. As we mentioned, a little more power in the Venza would have been welcomed but Toyota customers likely prefer improved fuel economy over grunt. The Venza does more to straddle the line between a Toyota and Lexus product than any other model in the lineup and it should make you think twice about purchasing an NX Hybrid.

2021 Venza Interior

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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
  • Front Leg Room 40.9 in
  • Front Head Room 38.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.8 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.0 in

2021 Venza Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Venza Safety and Reliability


  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Hybrid/Electric Components:
    8 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    2 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 25,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: Is the 2021 Toyota Venza A Good car?

The 2021 Toyota Venza is clearly not the shrunken two-row Highlander some people wanted or expected it to be. If cargo capacity is your number one priority, you should choose one of the multitudes of more spacious midsizers like the Chevy Blazer, Honda Passport, Nissan Murano, or Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, to name a few. But despite its lack of space, the Venza is not a failure. The Venza is more of a "Premium Coupe-Like RAV4" than "Sportier Highlander." If you think of Venza that way, it starts to make sense.

It may share similar proportions to the RAV4 but the two look and feel completely different. The RAV4 gives off a rugged, adventurous personality while the Venza looks more sleek and sophisticated. We think the Venza will appeal to a former Lexus owner who is ready to downsize and save a bit on their monthly payment. In fact, the current Lexus NX Hybrid is so in need of a refresh, we'd actually suggest the Venza over it, no questions asked. The Venza is not so much a rival for mainstream midsize SUVs, it's a question of whether the Lexus badge is actually worth as much at the moment. If you are currently shopping for a Lexus crossover, you may want to run across the street to check out a Venza first.

2021 Toyota Venza Comparisons

Toyota RAV4 Toyota
Toyota Highlander Toyota
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Toyota Venza219 hp40/37 mpg$34,920
Toyota RAV4 203 hpTBC$28,475
Toyota Highlander 265 hp22/29 mpg$39,120

2021 Toyota Venza vs Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 has been the brand's best-selling SUVs for years, so the Venza could introduce an interesting conundrum for Toyota customers since the two are both similar in size and, in the case of the RAV4 Hybrid, have identical powertrains. With its smaller cargo area, the Venza isn't quite as accommodating as the RAV4, but some may prefer its classier cabin and more sophisticated appearance. In terms of efficiency, the difference between the Venza and the RAV4 Hybrid is close enough to be negligible, so that is a non-factor. However, the RAV4 offers both cheaper gas-only/FWD versions as well as a potent plug-in hybrid in the RAV4 Prime, so there is more diversity within the RAV4 range as a whole. Of the two SUVs, the Venza is a bit better equipped from the base level; for instance, it has a bigger eight-inch touchscreen on the entry-level trim. Whichever crossover you choose, both provide a strong mix of quality, efficiency, and value.

See Toyota RAV4 Review

2021 Toyota Venza vs Toyota Highlander

Higher up in the Toyota range is the bigger Highlander. At close to 10 inches longer than the Venza, the Highlander offers three-row seating for up to eight passengers. Behind its second row of seats, it has a commodious 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space, easily trouncing the Venza's effort. The regular Highlander uses a 3.5-liter V6 with 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque, so it's more powerful than the Venza but can't match it for efficiency. There is also a Highlander Hybrid, though, which makes 243 hp, although it does have quite a bit more weight to lug around. The Highlander's more ungainly styling speaks to the fact that it's the much more practical, spacious option between these two, whereas the Venza is a more elegant SUV that will find favor with buyers who don't need the extra space and seats. Parents will be happy to know that both SUVs feature a full spread of active and passive safety gear.

See Toyota Highlander Review

2021 Toyota Venza Video Review

Check out some informative Toyota Venza video reviews below.

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