In a bold but not unexpected move for Toyota, the Japanese manufacturer brought the Venza back for a second generation in 2020 with a major twist: the former station wagon slash minivan is now exclusively sold as a hybrid. Oh, and it now looks like a proper crossover as well.
“Toyota Venza reinvents the segment for the modern age with a perfect blend of smart, stylish design, a refined interior thoughtfully appointed with premium materials, and cutting-edge entertainment and connectivity technology,” says Cyril Dimitris, Toyota Canada vice president, in a media release.
The model was actually discontinued in 2015 due to poor sales and the future of the vehicle seemed grim at the time. Perhaps that was reason enough for the brand to shake things up the second go-round.
First lets address the aforementioned appearance. Yes, the predecessor really was in a unique class blending a couple of form factors. Now though the aesthetic is more mainstream, whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the buyer to decide. Built upon the TNGA-K platform, the slim LED headlamps and full-width LED taillight bar, sloping roof and large 19-inch multi-spoke “super chrome” two-tone alloy wheels on the Limited grade Darpan evaluated make for quite a handsome product, actually. At 4,740 millimetres long the size is just right. Not too big or small.
Also found on the Limited trim is the Star Gaze fixed panoramic glass roof. A tap of a button switches the electrochromic glass from clear to opaque and vice versa, bathing the cabin in varying amounts of natural light. The display audio infotainment system remains a contentious topic for consumers — I personally find the knob-less 12.3-inch touchscreen a nuisance to tune radio stations, for example, which is a shame because there’s a 1200-watt, nine-speaker JBL stereo wanting to be enjoyed.
Toyota has gotten pretty good at the partially-electrified powertrain game having perfected it for over two decades now. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and three electric motor setup, mated to an automatic CVT transmission, in the Venza is the same one used in the uber-popular RAV4 Hybrid and outputs 219 net horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. And while there is a pure EV driving mode available, the range is miniscule and is only meant for short in-city trips.
Not exactly a performance SUV, the vehicle nonetheless feels zippy enough during acceleration thanks to the electric motor boost. In addition, the aforementioned TNGA-K, utilizing a lot of high-strength steel, combined with the front strut and rear multi-link suspension provide a quiet, stable ride and fairly agile handling experience.
The company says behind the scenes, Active Cornering Assist (part of the electronically-controlled brake system) engages onboard stability control to reduce understeer during certain cornering situations. A differential torque pre-load function enhances traction and steering control on slippery surfaces as well.
As with all models in the lineup, a robust driver assistance package is standard as part of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite bundling radar cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beams and many more.
Highlights (as tested)
Motor: 2.5-litre four cylinder + three electric motors
Horsepower: 219 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 163 @ 5,200 rpm
Layout: front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 8.0 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)