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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP don’t want to see you having your vehicle towed away after an aggressive driving infraction. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP hand out more than 500 tickets in aggressive driving crackdown

Police say they’ll continue to focus on speeding, aggressive and distracted driving

Home sales for November in the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board were profitable for sellers because of historically low supply. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)
Historically low supply leads to higher prices in Chilliwack real estate market

City dwellers want to relocate to the eastern Fraser Valley and are willing to pay a high price

Riders will need to don face coverings to ski and snowboard at Manning this winter. (Manning Park Resort photo)
Manning Park slopes open early

Early season snowfall allowed for opening this weekend, 56 centimetre snow base recorded Nov. 30

Mr. Bergen, a statue of a working man, was stolen from a porch in Popkum on Nov. 18, along with a marble statue. (Submitted photo)
Heavy statue and fountain thieved off porch in Popkum

Rightful owner has had statue for 27 years and wants it returned

The winning home of the 2019 Hope Christmas Lights contest was on Cypress Street. Residents have until Dec. 5 to sign their street up for this year’s contest. (Submitted photo)
Holiday cheer, even in a pandemic year

Here’s what is happening in Hope and area as the holiday season kicks off

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Lefeuvre Road, near Myrtle Avenue, was blocked to traffic on Thursday (Dec. 3) after an abandoned pickup truck was found on fire. Police are investigating to determine if there are any links to a killing an hour earlier in Surrey. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Torched truck found in Abbotsford an hour after killing in Surrey

Police still investigating to determine if incidents are linked

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Most Read