It's already a global success.
Recently re-introduced as an all-new hybrid model, the 2021 Toyota Venza will return to the US market after a six-year hiatus. The Venza is already on sale in its home market of Japan where it's badged as the Toyota Harrier. In its first month of availability, the Venza clocked 45,000 orders, smashing Toyota's initial estimates of 3,100 units. CarBuzz recently had an opportunity to drive the new Venza prior to its on-sale date in the US.
After spending a few days with the vehicle, we have a strong feeling that demand in the US will follow closely behind the Japanese numbers. We even pulled the Venza into our local Toyota dealership and watched as the salespeople poured out in droves to check out the future model. There is clearly much anticipation from the dealership to start selling the Venza, and for good reason. Here are five reasons why the 2021 Venza is poised to be a sales success for Toyota.
There is no doubt in our minds that the Venza's exterior design will be polarizing. But with so many car enthusiasts shouting that "all modern cars look the same," we think Toyota should not be faulted for trying something new. The Venza sits just a bit longer than a RAV4 due to its pointy snout and uniquely-shaped rear end.
We particularly love the projector LED headlights found on the XLE and Limited trims, which give the Venza a very faux-Lexus appearance. At the rear, the connected LED taillight bar and large third brake light give off Jaguar F-Pace and Aston Martin DBX vibes. As a cohesive design, the Venza looks more sleek and elegant compared to the squared-off and rugged RAV4.
The Venza's cabin is a major step up from other Toyota models in terms of material quality. Soft-touch materials cover most surfaces with only a few familiar Toyota elements like the steering wheel, shifter, and switchgear reminding you that you are not sitting in a Lexus vehicle. Whereas the RAV4 prioritizes storage space with various cubbies around the cabin, the Venza sacrifices a bit of practicality in the name of Feng Shui.
Toyota has decided to differentiate the Venza from the RAV4 with a slew of unique features. The Venza is the first Toyota model to receive the cool new Star Gaze panoramic moonroof, which can become opaque at the press of a button. This feature comes in handy when you want to have more light in the cabin but don't want to be burned by the sun's harsh rays. We are certain that more Toyota models (and a few Lexus ones as well) will receive this technology. The Venza Limited also gets the larger 12.3-inch touchscreen out of the Highlander, giving the cabin a more tech-centered feel.
We will mention that the capacitive controls below the touchscreen are very finicky and we would have preferred to have physical buttons and knobs. On the plus side, other standout RAV4 features like the rear-view camera mirror, surround-view camera, head-up display, and JBL audio system are available here.
Under the hood sits the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine found in the RAV4 Hybrid, paired to three electric motors. Total output is 219 horsepower (equalling the RAV4 Hybrid) going out to an electronic all-wheel-drive system. We would have liked to see Toyota add more power in the form of the Highlander Hybrid's 243-hp setup, but that would have likely hurt fuel economy. The Venza is rated at an EPA-estimated 40/37/39 mpg city/highway/combined, which are all excellent figures. Toyota customers are likely more interested in fuel economy than outright power.
The Venza is so premium, we think it feels on-par with the current Lexus NX. But it is still priced like a Toyota. The Venza LE starts at $32,470, making it $4,120 more than a RAV4 Hybrid LE. The Venza XLE costs $36,000 ($6,355 more than the equivalent RAV4) while the top Limited grade starts at $39,800 ($5,500 more than the RAV4). These base prices do not tell the whole story though.
By the time you add every option to the RAV4 Hybrid and Venza so they have comparable features, the price difference shrinks to less than $3,000. It is also worth pointing out that the base Lexus NX Hybrid starts at $39,420, meaning it will be far more expensive than both Toyota models once options are applied. Until the next-generation NX arrives, we think the Venza is the far superior option.