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Musical Chairs: The 2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited front 3/4 view

The previous decade's Toyota Venza was an interesting vehicle. Not a class-leader in any category, not especially head-turning in terms of styling, it evokes a great big "I love it" from most everyone who bought one. And we, at the old TireKicker site, were among its fans, calling it what the Camry wagon should have been.

During its seven-year model run, the original Venza filled a nice niche between the RAV4 and the Highlander.

The Venza is back for 2021 and its place in the Toyota universe is a tighter squeeze. At first glance, it's a winner on style alone. The Venza looks like Toyota decided to compete with sister division Lexus' RX model. But the actual competition comes from down the chart. Little brother RAV4 has grown up in five years and the Venza's struggling for elbow room at the family table.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited hood up

2021 Toyota Venza Limited hybrid powerplant

All U.S.-market Venzas are hybrids. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a combined system net horsepower of 219, connected to a continuously variable transmission. The EPA numbers are impressive at 40 miles per gallon city, 37 highway. But that's only 16 horsepower more than the gasoline-powered RAV4 makes. And it's identical to the power output of a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. The RAV4 Prime plug-in will blow the Venza's doors off with its 302 combined horsepower and deliver an EPA-estimated 39 for both city and highway, not counting the 39 miles of pure electric driving it gets per charge.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited rear liftgate open

2021 Toyota Venza Limited cargo area

2021 Toyota Venza Limited interior

2021 Toyota Venza Limited rear seat

2021 Toyota Venza Limited front seats

The "elbow room at the table" metaphor gets literal when you get to the interior. There is actually slightly less passenger and cargo room in the new Venza than there is in the RAV4.

The base price of the 2021 Toyota Venza Limited is $39,800. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights are the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite, 19-inch multi-spoke super chrome alloy wheels, a nine-speaker JBL premium audio system and navigation.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited instrument panel

2021 Toyota Venza Limited gauge cluster

2021 Toyota Venza Limited infotainment and HVAC

Our test vehicle also had two extra-cost options, the Advanced Technology Package (head-up display, rain-sensing wipers) for $725 and the Star Gaze fixed panoramic roof, which can go from transparent to opaque at the flip of a switch, for $1,400.

With $1,175 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2021 Toyota Venza Limited is $43,100.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited front view

2021 Toyota Venza Limited side view

2021 Toyota Venza Premium rear view

So here's the thing. If you like the looks of the 2021 Toyota Venza (and we do) and you like the design and materials of the interior (and we do), you'll likely be very happy with the car. But if you're a comparison shopper and you do some serious analysis, you're likely to find that the RAV4, in its hybrid model, checks every box save styling that the Venza does. And if you're willing to pony up the extra bucks for the hot-rod RAV4 Prime, well..."302 horsepower hybrid" speaks for itself.

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