Despite what some might call challenging looks, the original Toyota Venza was a popular model. Even four years after its discontinuation, Toyota sold nine last year. Come 2020, just a few days ago, guess who made a comeback along with the new Sienna? The all-new 2021 Toyota Venza.
Well, when we say all-new we mean all-new for North America. The Venza already exists in Japan as the Harrier. The platform is the same TNGA-K as the RAV4 but unlike the RAV4, the Venza will be available with a hybrid powertrain only. Plus, Toyota plans to launch it as a premium offering and cover the gap that exists between the RAV4 and the Highlander. So you could either think of it as a more premium RAV4 or the two-row version of the Highlander.
It sits in a strange class-of-one of sorts without a clear rival. But there are a few crossovers which will be in the Venza’s crosshairs and vice versa. Here is what we think are the chief rivals of the 2021 Toyota Venza and how it will stack up against its rivals.
The two vehicles could not be more different from each other. Where the Venza uses the RAV4 as its base, the Honda Passport is the “lifestyle” version of the three-row Pilot SUV. So you essentially get the utility of the Pilot but in a cabin with two rows only.
The Passport, at 190.5 inches is shorter than the Pilot but shares the same 111-inch wheelbase. Compared to the Venza, it is longer by four inches and has a wheelbase that is longer by little over five inches. It is also significantly taller and wider than the upcoming Venza. The cargo capacity behind the second row, at 50 cu-ft, outclasses the Venza’s 36.3 cu-ft cargo volume. In terms of size and interior space at least, the Passport has the battle won without breaking a sweat.
Engine and Gearbox
Like the Venza, the Passport comes with just one powertrain. It’s not a hybrid however, but Honda’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6. Compared to the 219 combined horsepower of the Venza, the Passport makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, which proves to be ample both on the road and off it. Also, the Venza will feature an ECVT gearbox while the Passport uses a more industrial 9-speed automatic gearbox.
With a much smaller 2.5-liter four-pot hybrid powertrain, the Venza will be significantly more frugal than the Passport. Toyota claims that it will return 40 mpg overall which is almost double the 22 mpg of the Passport.
One of the key differences between the Venza and the Passport though is the focus. Only available with a hybrid powertrain, the Venza will be a city slicker and a crossover to stick to the tarmac despite the standard AWD. The Passport, available with AWD and raised suspension compared to the Pilot, offers decent off-road capability.
The interior quality should be comparable on both the Venza and the Passport. But being the newer vehicle, the Venza will offer better tech and equipment. For starters, it will offer a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system straight from the Highlander. It will also offer the Star Gaze fixed panoramic sunroof that frosts up at the touch of a button.
The smart air-con from Lexus, which only cools the occupied seats, will be available along with a 1,200 watt JBL sound system, the most powerful ever fitted to a Toyota. Safety features will include Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard. It will include adaptive cruise control, pedestrian, cyclist recognition, collision mitigation, lane tracking and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. Rear parking assist with auto-braking will be available on the XLE and Limited trims only.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Honda Passport Review
By contrast, the Passport, which starts at $33,110 offers a 5.0-inch infotainment screen in the base trim while the more premium system measures 8.0-inches and is available EX-L trim onwards which is starts from $37,530. Passport also doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard either. In terms of safety, though the Honda offers its Sensing Safety Suite as standard, the blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert is available from the EX-L trim onwards only. The Touring and Elite trims of the Passport start from $40,400 and $44,900 respectively.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai’s Santa Fe probably comes the closest to the Toyota Venza in terms of size. At 187.8 inches in length it is just 1.8 inches longer than the Venza— it’s also just one inch wider and one inch taller as well. But the wheelbase is three whole inches longer which will probably result in a roomier cabin compared to the Venza. Despite the shorter length and wheelbase and a lithium-ion battery pack occupying space near the rear seats, the Venza offers 36.3 cu-ft of cargo space behind the second row compared to 35.9 cu-ft in the Santa Fe.
Engine and Gearbox
You can choose between two powertrains in the Santa Fe lineup: a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 185 hp and 178 lb-ft and a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor that makes 235 hp and 260 lb-ft. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission that comes with FWD as standard. AWD is optional on all trims. Speaking of trims, the 2.4-liter engine is available with SE, SEL, and Limited trims while the 2.0 turbo is available with the SEL and Limited trims only. In comparison, the Venza will come with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain only. Though the combined 219 hp might fall short of the Santa Fe’s 236 hp from the 2.0 turbo, it will offer AWD as standard.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review
Then there is the question of the fuel economy, where the Toyota promises an overall figure of 40 mpg, the Santa Fe claims to return 25 mpg overall as a best-case scenario for the 2.4 and 23 mpg for the 2.0 turbo. The AWD versions shave another mpg off those figures.
Hyundai cars are best known for being packed to the rafters with convenience features and the Santa Fe should be no different. But it pales compared to the Venza because, as we mentioned before, the Venza is the newer car. The Santa Fe offers a 7.0-inch touchscreen system in the lower trims while the 8.0-inch touchscreen system is available in the Limited trims only.
The Base SE trim ($27,415) skips a lot of features like heated seats, powered adjustable drivers seat and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert all of which are available SEL trim ($29,165) onwards. A panoramic sunroof is available on the SEL 2.0T ($36,415) along with power-adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster. The Limited and Limited 2.0T trims start from $37,165 and $39,015 respectively and feature top-of-the-line features like the 8.0-inch touchscreen system, surround-view, and blind-spot monitor, ventilated front seats and a heads up display.
The Venza will come with a fixed panoramic sunroof with frost function, a 12.3-inch infotainment system but both features will likely only be available on the top Limited trim. Other unique features include the smart air-con from Lexus and a Predictive Efficient Drive system that directs drivers when to lift off the throttle to maximize fuel efficiency. The biggest draw of the Venza though is the driver-assist features that will be part of the standard package.
The Subaru Outback is the closest comparison we can have with the Venza, the only difference being, the Outback doesn’t come with a hybrid powertrain. But let’s talk about the size first. At 191.3 inches long from headlamp to tailgate, the Subi is five inches longer than the Venza and also sports a 108.1-inch wheelbase which is longer by 2.1 inches. Both crossovers are similar in terms of width and height which means the interior space should also be quite similar.
Trunk volume however, despite the shorter length is more on the Venza. The cargo capacity measures 36.9 cu-ft in the Venza compared to 32.5 cu-ft in the Outback.
Engine and Gearbox
Like its previous rival, the Outback is also available with two engine options, a 2.5-litre engine making 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque and a 2.4-liter turbo-four making 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are pair with a CVT gearbox just like the Venza. And also like the Toyota, the Outback comes with AWD as standard as well.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Subaru Outback Review
Fuel economy is low compared to the Venza’s overall claim of 40mpg. The 2.5 claims 33mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in the city while the performance-oriented 2.4 turbo returns 30 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in the city.
The Outback lineup offers a host of features as standard kit like the EyeSight safety suite that features lane-centering along with adaptive cruise control. The base Outback starts at $27,655 and comes with a 7.0-inch Starlink system as standard with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Premium trim ($29,905) onwards, the screen size increases to 11.6 inches which is very close to the 12.3-inch system that will feature in the Venza.
As standard, the Venza will offer an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Alexa compatibility. The 12.3-inch system will be available as an option on the XLE and as standard on the Limited trim. In the Outback, the powered moonroof is available with the top Touring trim that starts from $38,355. Although it is not yet clear, the Star Gaze roof on the Venza will likely feature on the top Limited trim only.
Other features on the Venza include a 10-inch color head-up display, 4.0- and 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster depending on the trim, and a digital rearview mirror with feed from the rear camera.
In terms of size, the Chevrolet Blazer, at 191.4 inches is almost as long as the Honda Passport. But Chevy’s Camaro-aping crossover sports an even longer wheelbase measuring 112.7 inches versus the 111-inch wheelbase of the Passport. Compared to the Venza, its wheelbase is seven inches longer. Needless to say, the cabin is also a lot more cavernous than the Toyota.
Ironically though, despite the length and the humungous wheelbase, the Blazer offers just 30.6 cu-ft of cargo space behind the second row. The Venza, despite being considerably shorter and carrying a battery pack offers a cargo volume of 36.3 cu-ft of cargo capacity.
Engine and Gearbox
For the 2020 model year, Chevrolet has added a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powertrain to the Blazer lineup bringing the total number of powertrains to three. The new 2.0-liter turbo is available with the LT trims and produces 230 hp of max power and 258 lb-ft of peak torque. Only the base L trim comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and makes a rather measly 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the lineup sits the 3.6-liter V6 that is available as standard on the RS and Premier models and as an option on the 2 and 3 LT trims.
All three engines come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all trims get FWD and AWD except for the base L which is available with FWD only. Plus, it costs $500 to upgrade to the V6 powertrain from the 2.0-liter turbo on the 2 and 3LT.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Chevrolet Blazer Review
Compared to the Blazer, the Venza will get the solitary hybrid powertrain comprising of a 2.5-liter four-pot engine and three electric motors producing a combined output of 219 hp.
Chevy has a rather unique equipment distribution across the trims of the Blazer. It offers the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment as standard across the Blazer range but with varying degrees of functionality. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard offerings. The RS ($41,695) and Premier ($43,895) trims get add-on enhanced voice recognition, in-vehicle apps and add on space for vehicle applications. Also, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat is available 1LT ($29,995) onwards while the six-way passenger perch is available 3LT ($38,195) onwards.
The Blazer does come with a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel with cruise control as standard. But compared to the Toyota Venza, it seriously lacks in terms of safety features. Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 is standard across the range and includes features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision mitigation, and blind-spot detection. The Blazer gets none of the driver assistance features as standard. Automatic braking is optional even on the top tier trims. The same is the case with blind-spot detection, pedestrian detection, and lane-keeping assist. For a vehicle that starts at almost $30,000, the safety package is truly dismal.