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

Two of the weapons seized in a Nov. 8 traffic stop in Black Creek. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP seize guns, drugs in Black Creek traffic stop

Two arrested in connection with incident

Canadian Tire Courtenay’s Owner Bert Heeringa and General Manager Keith Pistell displaying the donated sanitizer. Photo supplied.
Courtenay Canadian Tire donates 2,400 litres of hand sanitizer to local not-for-profits

Organizations can request sanitizer via the Comox Valley Community Foundation

Christmas will look a bit different in Cumberland this year, not only because of COVID restrictions but due to changes from BC Hydro about hanging decorations on the poles. Record file photo
Snowflakes a no-go for Cumberland’s power poles

Village, business association looking to promote shopping local for holidays

The Trenton Golden Hawks are changing their name and uniform for one game on Nov. 27 as they become the Trenton Snowbirds for one game to honour Capt. Jennifer Casey. Twitter photo
Hockey team honouring fallen Snowbird with Comox Valley connection

The Trenton Golden Hawks will become the Trenton Snowbirds for one game

A late-blooming Welsh poppy gave the Cox garden some unexpected colour last month. Photo by Leslie Cox
DUCHESS OF DIRT: La Nina signs not necessarily steeped in science

LESLIE COX Special to The Record I am beginning to think climate… Continue reading

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

3L Developments president Dave Dutcyvich is pictured during a 2018 meeting at the regional district boardroom. File photo
Denied developer prefers not to log Comox Valley land: Planner

At its inaugural meeting Tuesday, the Comox Valley Regional District board refused… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read