When the first Toyota Venza hit our market in 2009, the term “crossover” was still new. He was referring to a vehicle between the sedan and the SUV. Precisely, the Venza of the time was neither more nor less than a Camry to which one had stuck a large cabin.
Disappeared a few years ago, the Venza is back for 2021, in an automotive landscape that has really changed. In fact, crossovers have become the norm. With the disappearance of sedans and small cars, we see more and more pseudo-SUVs based on them.
In this new reality, Toyota is bringing the Venza back, but this time around, as a premium mid-size SUV only offered in a hybrid version, nestled between the RAV4 and the Highlander in the Japanese automaker’s lineup.
Toyota does not use the word premium in any of its communications, but we are still talking about a vehicle priced between $ 39,000 and $ 48,000. What is more, Toyota says it is targeting, with this product, affluent, urban customers who want a vehicle without compromise. Its direct competitors? Think of the Nissan Murano, the Ford Edge and the Chevrolet Blazer, SUVs of similar size also capable of accommodating five passengers.
A flagship model, the Venza?
A lighthouse, as we know, is a large building that serves to guide ships. In the automotive industry, we often talk about flagship products, that is, products that represent the best that a company has to offer.
In many ways, the 2021 Venza offers the very best from Toyota today.
First, it’s available with the RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain, one of the most advanced in the industry. It features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, assisted by three electric motors, one of which is mated to the rear wheels. This ensures that the Venza comes standard with all-wheel drive.
The gasoline engine can be used as a generator, during light acceleration. In situations where acceleration is more pronounced, it sends power directly to the wheels. Interestingly, when starting from a full stop, most of the torque is sent to the rear wheels, to allow maximum electric acceleration. The result? An average consumption that Toyota announces at 6L / 100 km. Even in real conditions, you will easily consume less than 7.5 L / 100 km. For a vehicle of this size, that’s excellent!
This powertrain develops 219 horsepower, and around 250 pound-feet of torque. In fact, Toyota does not communicate the torque of the set, and this is an estimate.
On the road, the Venza’s acceleration is smooth and precise. There is never a delay between the moment you press the accelerator and the moment the car begins to move forward. There may not be a V6 engine like in the past, but the performance of the current model makes us forget that fact.
On the other hand, if you want to tow, you will have to look elsewhere. Toyota states that towing is not recommended with the Venza.
Impeccable road handling … or almost
The older generation Toyota Venza was praised for its comfort, but it was deadly boring on the road. What about now?
Compared to a RAV4, with which it shares the platform, the 2021 Venza is lower and longer. So, barely installed at the wheel, it feels more like driving a big sedan, Toyota Avalon style. But quickly, the additional travel is felt. The Venza is of princely comfort, and even on roads in poor condition, you do not feel the deformations.
Luckily, this time around, comfortable suspensions don’t involve deathly boredom! With just enough firm and precise steering, the Venza is really pleasant on a nice road. It’s not driving a Porsche, but a balance is struck that will pay buyers of the old model as much as new converts from Ford and Nissan.
When you push it around a corner, you feel a stiff chassis, and you can admire how well the vehicle’s rather advanced drive system performs. The only problem is that when certain wheels start to slip, we feel that Toyota’s safety system is actively seeking to bring us back to the right path, rather than letting us have fun. Is it going to change anything in the life of a typical Venza and SUV buyer? Not at all.
A quick word about the interior. It is spacious and comfortable, well finished, and we appreciate the quality and appearance of the materials, especially on the Limited version. The main weak point is in the chapter of the large multimedia screen. It could have been better integrated into the dashboard, but that’s really a matter of personal preference.
The infotainment system is quite easy to use. Toyota could however offer a more modern graphical interface, with better resolution, but slowly, we are getting there. Either way, most techies who might be picky at it will use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Speaking of technology, Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package not only allows the vehicle to avoid collisions and pedestrians, but also to operate alone on the road, even when the curves are sharp. Only problem, after a few seconds, an annoying noise asks you to get behind the wheel.
The Venza, on the Limited trim, also offers a glass roof that can become opaque when a button is pressed, using a transparent film that changes color when a weak electric current is sent to it.
In conclusion, Toyota has succeeded in resuscitating the Venza and making it a hybrid product with road handling difficult to criticize. Offered at a starting price of $ 38,490, the 2021 Venza will arrive in dealerships in the coming weeks.