First Drive: 2021 Toyota Venza Strikes an SUV Sweet Spot

This efficient, well-equipped hybrid is impressive, but there are some annoyances

2021 Toyota Venza Consumer Reports

The Venza name returns to Toyota's lineup for 2021 after a six-year hiatus, and it is applied to a whole new vehicle that fills a gap between the RAV4 and Highlander SUVs.

Much like other manufacturers’ recent offerings, this is a two-row midsized SUV that offers style over utility, similar to what Chevrolet has done with the Blazer and Volkswagen with the Atlas Cross Sport. Unlike its rivals, Toyota has a twist: The Venza will be available only as a hybrid.

The Venza is a bit more premium than its like-size competition, striking a halfway point between Toyota and Lexus in terms of feel, refinement, and features. It also splits the difference in size between the small and midsized classes because it's narrower than direct competitors such as the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. The Venza hits a sweet spot that should appeal to shoppers who want a thrifty, smartly packaged SUV but don’t want to pay a premium for a model from a luxury brand. It is large enough to seat four comfortably and compact enough to negotiate city streets.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the new Venza we rented from Toyota is available to you below. We since purchased a Venza of our own and put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members have access to the full road-test results.

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Update: Since this first drive was originally published in July 2020, we finished testing the Toyota Venza.

Read the complete Toyota Venza road test.

What we rented: 2021 Toyota Venza Limited
Powertrain: 219-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid; continuously variable transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $39,800
Destination fee: $1,120
Total cost: $40,920

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