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

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Island’s COVID-19 case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Emergency service vehicles respond to motor vehicle incident at Highway 1 and 1st Avenue in Ladysmith. (Submitted photo)
Truck hits person using mobility scooter at northern entrance of Ladysmith

Northbound traffic is down to one lane and southbound traffic is being diverted to Oyster Bay Drive

RCMP outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre investigating a report of a suspicious person. The incident resulted in hold-and-secures at two nearby schools, but those emergency procedures have now been lifted. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Police response a result of man walking around Nanaimo marsh with airsoft rifle

Two schools had gone into hold-and-secure procedures Thursday morning, May 13

Nanoose Bay volunteer firefighters work to extinguish a bush blaze on Ida Lane on Monday, May 10. (Mandy Moraes/Black Press)
Flames from backyard burn in Nanoose Bay shoot higher than owner’s home

Fire chief reported blaze took more than an hour and a half to suppress

Over 60 Indigenous youth from Qualicum to Malahat are participating in the Step Up Work Placement Program. (Submitted photo)
New Mid-Island Indigenous youth work placement program seeks employer partners

So far, more than 60 youth from Qualicum Beach to the Malahat are participating in the program

RCMP outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre investigating a report of a suspicious person. The incident resulted in hold-and-secures at two nearby schools, but those emergency procedures have now been lifted. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Police response a result of man walking around Nanaimo marsh with airsoft rifle

Two schools had gone into hold-and-secure procedures Thursday morning, May 13

Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

Nanaimo city council has approved funding for an upgraded bridge crossing Millstone River in Bowen Park. (News Bulletin photo)
New bridge in Bowen Park part of City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plans

Replacement of Lenhart Bridge next year expected to cost $237,000

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read