The revived 2021 Toyota Venza is merely the latest in a steady flow of newcomers to the growing midsize crossover segment. Toyota’s entry into this crowded — but somewhat narrowly defined — midsize two-row class comes out of left field, for better or worse.
It may seem like we’re slicing this segment a bit thin, but identifying size classes in the crossover space can be nigh impossible, as manufacturers don’t seem to agree at all on how large (or small) these things really ought to be.
But if we set aside our attempts to define this niche, we find that it’s not that difficult to see how the Venza will fit into the larger picture. In addition to the Chevy Blazer and the Honda Passport — both of which were new for 2019 — the new Toyota’s primary competition will include the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Murano.
This handy chart shows just how the Venza stacks up.
Note that the specifications for the Venza are preliminary and somewhat incomplete. We will update our Toyota Venza page here on Autoblog as more information becomes available.
Toyota is taking a unique approach to the segment with the Venza, at least initially. It will exclusively be available as a hybrid at launch, making it the only mainstream midsize two-row crossover to be sold with an electrified powertrain. Because of Toyota’s unique approach to crossover powertrain architecture, this also means the Venza will have standard all-wheel drive. The electric assist comes from the powertrain’s rear axle, which is powered directly by the battery pack.
The Venza will slot in nicely with the competitors offered with smaller engines. The Ford Edge wins here with its 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, followed by the Venza at 212 total system horsepower. The Chevy Blazer is next, but at 193 horsepower, it's barely ahead of the 185-horsepower Santa Fe.
Like the Venza, the Passport has only one engine option: Honda’s trusty 3.5-liter V6. You can find this engine in both the Pilot and Ridgeline, and we like it in all its applications. But if you're looking for something more affordable or more frugal, you're out of luck. Like the Venza and Passport, the Murano has only one available engine.
The Ford Edge ST's turbo V6 makes the most power and torque at 335 ponies and 380 pound-feet. Next up is the Blazer, the only other to break 300 horsepower. The Passport does beat the V6 Murano and the turbocharged Santa Fe, though.
Toyota has not furnished city and highway fuel economy figures for the Venza just yet, but its estimated 40 mpg combined puts it light years ahead of anything else in this segment.
Among the non-hybrids, the front-drive four-cylinder Edge and Santa Fe are tied for the best mileage, with the all-wheel-drive Edge getting one more mpg on the all-wheel-drive Santa Fe on the highway. The Murano comes up next. It gets the same fuel economy regardless of drivetrain, and so its all-wheel-drive version has the same highway fuel economy as the all-wheel-drive Edge, but is one behind in the city. Again, the Honda Passport is roughly in the middle, along with the Chevy Blazer.
Most of the crossovers here use traditional automatics, with eight-speed units in the Ford, Hyundai and Jeep, and nine-speed versions in the Chevy and Honda. Only the Nissan uses a CVT. Most of these crossovers also offer both two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive on each version. But if you opt for the four-cylinder in the Blazer, you'll be stuck with front drive. Choosing the high-output engines in the Ford and the Jeep lock you into powering all four wheels. The Jeep boasts available four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case for serious off-roading. And when coupled with air suspension, the Grand Cherokee has best-in-class ground clearance at 10.8 inches. Even the non-air-ride Grand Cherokee tops the ground clearance chart at 8.6, with the all-wheel-drive Passport second with 8.4 inches.
Exterior and interior dimensions
The Venza not only boasts the least-powerful engine of the bunch; it’s also the smallest of the crowd, and noticeably so. It has the shortest wheelbase and overall length and it’s considerably narrower than any of its competitors. If anything, its dimensions are closer to that of a compact crossover than a true midsize.
The longest entry here is the Nissan Murano by about an inch and a half, followed by the Blazer, which also sports the longest wheelbase. The Passport is the tallest, followed by the Ford Edge and then the Murano. The Honda is also the girthiest, for better or worse.
There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of correlation between exterior size and interior spaciousness among these crossovers, though. For headroom, the Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Edge are the best choices. If you have long legs, definitely go with the Santa Fe. And if you're built broadly, the Passport has the most shoulder room. The Venza manages to beat out the Blazer and Murano in second-row headroom, and also offers more rear legroom than the latter.
If you're more concerned about carrying the most stuff, though, this is where the Venza manages to punch above its size class. The Passport is the unquestioned champ. With all the seats up, it has 2 more cubic feet than the next most capacious Edge, and with the seats down, it has 4.5 more cubes than the Edge, which still sits in second place. The Venza slots in third, with what Toyota claims is more than 36 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. Toyota has not yet provided a figure for total volume with the rear seats folded.
We'll see how some of these vehicles compare with a few key standard features. Like Honda, Toyota offers its suite of active safety features, dubbed Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, as standard equipment. This means the Venza will match up nicely with Honda’s Passport, as both will come with adaptive cruise and lane keeping assist. Ford also made its suite of driver assistance features standard, but adaptive cruise is not included in this feature set.
Hyundai makes nearly all of its driver assistance features standard at its base price too, but like the Ford, adaptive cruise is not part of it. The Rogue offers far more than the Murano does as far as features like lane keep assist and others similar to it. Honda beats Nissan here with the new Passport. Honda also makes an overhead camera view standard for all trims, a luxury-like feature on a cheaper vehicle. Features such as adaptive cruise, lane-keeping, and advanced cameras require higher trim levels or option packages on the Blazer.
In terms of “Hey, neat!” features, the Venza will have an available panoramic glass roof with what the company calls “frost control,” which makes the roof translucent at the push of a button in order to reduce sunlight intrusion (and corresponding glare).
We don’t know how Toyota is going to price the new Venza just yet, but we don’t expect it to undercut the segment’s value leader: the Hyundai Santa Fe. The base four-cylinder model starts at $26,545, which is over $3,000 less than the next cheapest Blazer. For V6 power, the Murano is the cheapest at $32,315, but the four-cylinder Edge shouldn't be ruled out, as its power and torque is very close to the Murano's.
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