The 2021 Toyota Venza is basically a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with sleeker styling and a more luxurious interior. In return for those elements, it sacrifices utility, which is one of the RAV4's stronger attributes. The Venza has 28.8 cubic-feet of cargo space behind its raised back seat versus the RAV4's 37.5 cubic-feet. The difference largely comes down to the Venza's chopped roofline, resulting in less space up high. As such, the difference when talking about usable space may not actually be that great.
Let's break out the luggage and have a closer look.
The Venza is on the left, RAV4 on the right. Specifically, the latter is a TRD Off-Road rather than one of the Hybrid trims, but Toyota says there's no difference between them in terms of cargo space.
To begin, I kept the cargo cover in place to see how much will fit should you be unable to remove it for some reason. As in every luggage test I do, I use two midsize roller suitcases that would need to be checked in at the airport (26 inches long, 16 wide, 11 deep), two roll-aboard suitcases that just barely fit in the overhead (24L x 15W x 10D), and one smaller roll-aboard that fits easily (23L x 15W x 10D). I also include my wife's fancy overnight bag just to spruce things up a bit (21L x 12W x 12D).
All the bags fit, albeit with the fancy bag awkwardly on an angle and a bit squished. I also had to flip the rigid bit of the cargo cover's end up, which isn't really a problem. Of course, the bags still ended up above the cargo cover meaning you couldn't actually cover all this stuff with it.
By contrast, all of these bags fit neatly below the RAV4's cargo cover as shown below. So, it's not just a difference in roofline here; the RAV4's shoulder line is higher too, or at least the bulk of the cargo area.
Let's now remove the cargo cover and see what kind of difference it makes in the 2021 Venza.
Removing the cargo cover made it possible to stand the tallest bags length-wise and still clear the hatch. Unfortunately, doing so completely blocks the rear view, which I try to avoid in these tests.
A shorter bag could stand on one side, though, which is a big reason for all the extra space left over when all the bags are added. So what can you put in that extra space?
That would be one Graco Pack 'N Play added to the pile. This is actually better than average for a compact SUV even if the RAV4 outdoes it as shown below by swallowing a 38-quart cooler and a duffel bag in place of the playpen. That, effectively, is the difference between the Venza and RAV4 cargo areas.
There is another area of utility, however, where the Venza is inferior to the RAV4: roof rails. My Venza test vehicle lacked any way to mount something to the roof (Yakima is still in the process of "fitting" it to see if a "naked roof" Venza can accept door clamps and feet attachments), but flush-mounted rails are available. The RAV4, by contrast, offers both flush rails as well as taller, more versatile raised rails like those on the TRD Off-Road.