The 2021 Venza can only be bought as a hybrid. Unheard of perhaps five years ago, the move is not entirely surprising as hybrid costs have come down. The base price is an estimated $38,000, including destination charges. PHOTO: TOYOTA

The 2021 Venza can only be bought as a hybrid. Unheard of perhaps five years ago, the move is not entirely surprising as hybrid costs have come down. The base price is an estimated $38,000, including destination charges. PHOTO: TOYOTA

FIRST LOOK: 2021 Toyota Venza

It’s a bold move to bring back a retired name, and even bolder to only offer it as an AWD hybrid

It’s funny about automotive nameplates. Some, after years in retirement, are returned to the fold for a repeat engagement. That’s the case with the Toyota Venza, which for 2021 is back after a five model-year absence, but only in spirit and general body proportions.

The new version — available early this fall — is a clean-sheet design that’s only available as an all-wheel-drive hybrid. You read that correctly.

In Toyota’s hierarchy, the five-passenger Venza wagon (which originates in Japan where it’s called the Harrier) slots between the RAV-4 and Highlander utility vehicles. The RAV4 is smaller, but its interior is actually more spacious by virtue of the vehicle’s boxier shape.

Compared with the previous Venza, the new model’s smaller dimensions translate into less cargo volume, with the rear-seatback in place or folded flat. The wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear wheels — is the same as the RAV4’s.

Is it a mistake to not offer a Venza base model with front-wheel-drive and an internal-combustion engine? Probably not. Toyota has other vehicles so equipped. It’s clear the Venza — as a hybrid only — is intended to be a technology statement for the brand. PHOTO: TOYOTA

Is it a mistake to not offer a Venza base model with front-wheel-drive and an internal-combustion engine? Probably not. Toyota has other vehicles so equipped. It’s clear the Venza — as a hybrid only — is intended to be a technology statement for the brand. PHOTO: TOYOTA

The passenger environment is typical of most Toyota vehicles, offering a blend of modern styling with traditional overtones. The 20- and available 31-centimetre touch-screens are perched well above the dashboard, potentially blocking (especially with the bigger screen) the driver’s field of vision.

On the plus side, the Venza uses a traditional console shifter instead of trendy (but frequently confusing) dials or switches for gear/direction selection.

That process engages the standard all-wheel-drive hybrid propulsion system consisting of a 176-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder and three electric motors (including one supplying power to the rear wheels) for a combined output of 219 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. That seems a bit light to handle the Venza’s 1,775-kilogram heft, but the electric motors provide significant low-speed power.

The gasoline-electric combo works through a continuously variable transmission with selectable Normal, Eco and Sport drive modes.

The lithium-ion battery pack is beneath the rear seat so it doesn’t interfere with cargo stowage or passenger room.

What the Venza might lack in outright performance, it makes up for in lower fuel consumption. Toyota estimates 5.9 l/100 km in combined city/highway driving. That’s better than any of its non-hybrid competitors by a wide margin.

When launching from a dead stop or in slippery/icy road conditions, awd sends up to 80 per cent of the system’s torque to the rear wheels. In normal steady-state cruising, 100 per cent of the hybrid’s power is sent to the front wheels. When cornering, light braking pressure is applied to the inside rear wheel to slow it down (a form of yaw control), which helps the Venza turn with less understeer and therefore more stability.

The 2021 Venza. PHOTO: TOYOTA

The 2021 Venza. PHOTO: TOYOTA

Venza pricing starts at an estimated $38,000, including destination charges, which compares with $34,200 for the RAV4 hybrid and $47,300 for the larger Highlander hybrid (that has three rows of seats).

The base Venza LE comes with a decent degree of content, such as a power-operated front seat, interior ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, hands-free power liftgate and a six-speaker audio system. You also get most of Toyota’s active-safety technology and driver-assist features.

The XLE adds roof rails, front- and rear-parking assist, heated and ventilated power front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror and fancier interior/exterior trim.

Along with the 31-centimetre touch-screen, the Limited gets a 360-degree surround-view camera, puddle lights (to illuminate the ground when the doors are opened), heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel and a nine-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL-brand audio package.

Optional for the Limited is Toyota’s Star Gaze panoramic glass roof that can go from clear to frosted at the flip of a switch.

If you’re in need of cavernous cargo capacity with off-road capability, then other Toyota utility vehicles are likely better suited to your needs. But with all-weather versatility combined with upscale looks and content, the reconstituted fuel-sipping Venza is definitely a contender.

What you should know: 2021 Toyota Venza

Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive midsize hatchback/wagon

Engine (h.p.): 2.5-litre DOHC I-4 and three electric motors (219)

Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)

Market position: Toyota has revived the Venza name and the general shape as an addition to the company’s range of utility vehicles. Making a hybrid power team and all-wheel-drive standard is unheard of.

Points: A modern interpretation of the Venza is as good looking as the original.

• Standard hybrid system plus AWD is a gutsy move, but should pay off.

• Horsepower and torque output is on the modest side, but fuel economy should make up for any perceived shortfall. • Wide assortment of standard active-safety tech.

Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (std.); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian/bicycle detection (std.)

L/100 km (city/hwy combined 5.9; Base price (incl. destination) $38,000

BY COMPARISON

Honda Passport

  • Base price: $44,500
  • Shorter version of the Pilot comes with a 280-h.p. V-6 and standard AWD.

Chevrolet Blazer AWD

  • Base price: $41,800
  • Good-looking model seats five people and offers a choice of three engines.

VW Atlas Cross Sport

  • Base price: $40,900
  • Atlas offshoot comes with standard AWD, and a 235-h.p. I-4. A V-6 is optional.

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

AutomotivecarsSUVsTrucks

Just Posted

Saanich Fire Department is responding to a structure fire in the 3300-block of Quadra Street on May 18. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Smoking pot on stove ignites Saanich fire call on Quadra Street

Traffic impacted in northbound lanes of 3300-block shortly after 11 a.m.

Local cyclist Max McCulloch catches air off a jump in the newly redesigned Organ Donor trail at Mount Work mountain biking park. The Capital Regional District approved its regional parks mountain biking guidelines and a list of short-term actions at the CRD board’s May 12 meeting. (Black Press Media File Photo)
CRD approves mountain biking guidelines that drove spoke between advocates, environmentalists

Guidelines aim to find new biking opportunites in region, while protecting park ecology

Howard English Hatchery volunteer Joscilyn Jupp poured one of many buckets of salmon fry into Douglas Creek on May 11, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
35,000 salmon fry released in Saanich park during closed event

Chum from Goldstream Hatchery trucked in to restore Douglas Creek salmon spawning

The Victoria Police Department is seeking information on an assault that occurred in downtown Victoria on May 10. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police investigating downtown Victoria assault on youth

Witness also attacked after trying to intervene

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The Nanaimo Timbermen and Victoria Shamrocks compete in Western Lacrosse Association action in Nanaimo during the 2019 season. (News Bulletin file photo)
WLA cancels another senior A lacrosse season due to COVID-19

Western Lacrosse Association, Major Series Lacrosse announce cancellation of Mann Cup

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Most Read