2022 Toyota Venza: Classy affordable hybrid crossover
With all the hype over all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles these days, conventional hybrid are getting little attention. That's a shame because many drivers will never be able to conveniently recharge an EV or PHEV, including those who live in apartment buildings. But most hybrids these days not only get excellent mileage, but drive as well or better than a lot of gas-only powered vehicles.
Take the 2022 Toyota Venza hybrid. It is a stylish, affordable midsize crossover that delivers good performance, high mileage and an impressive level of comfort and technology. The Venza comes standard with all-wheel-drive and is a good choice for those who don't want a rugged-looking SUV or more expensive luxury model.
That's because Toyota his wisely targeted the Venza between its RAV4 SUV and the NX crossover of its Lexus luxury division. They all use the same platform and hybrid engine with electric motors at both ends. The RAV4 and NX are also both available with gas-only and plug-in hybrid engines. But the Venza — which is only available as a hybrid — strikes a balance between them that is reasonably-priced and surprisingly refined. And it delivers an impressing EPA rated 40 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway.
Toyota pioneered the mass-produced hybrid market with the original Prius. Switching power between an electric motor and a small gas engine resulted high mileage, especially in town where the battery pack powered the electric motor most of the time.
But truth be told, the original Prius had some shortcomings, including being much slower than gas-powered vehicles. The styling was also dorky, an attempt to appeal to early adaptors who Toyota thought wanted everyone else to know they were environmentally conscious. It also carried a premium because of the high cost of its battery pack.
Much has changed about hybrids since then, with Toyota leading the way. The company has refined the technology for better performance and dropped it into more attractive cars, SUVs and crossovers, like the Venza. And the cost of batteries has also come down. Many hybrids do not cost that much more than equivalent gas-powered vehicles these days, and it is reasonable to assume they will pay for themselves if gas prices remain high.
In a week of daily driving, it was hard to even remember the Venza was a hybrid. Unlike the original Prius, it looks and drives like other well-designed crossovers. The exterior is sleek without being flashy, while the interior is clean and refined. The only reminders were the lack of engine noise and the fact that the gas gauge hardly moved. On the few occasions when I pushed it hard enough for the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine to get a work out, it was relatively quiet while boosting acceleration, especially in the surprisingly responsive Sport mode.
The Venza is also one of the few two-row midsize crossovers on the market, which means it provides more rear seat room than three-row models. That is a benefit for smaller families who don't need to haul more than four or five people around.
The Venza comes with the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) package on every trim level. TSS includes lane keeping assistance, automatic high beams, road sign assistance, and rear seat reminders. The Venza also includes standard adaptive cruise control to help you follow prevailing traffic speeds. Every Venza also includes standard blind spot monitoring, while higher trims add front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
One option worth considering is the Star Gaze panoramic glass roof. This is a tech feature that uses electrochromatic glass that you can change from clear to frosted with the touch of a button to cut the heat or the glare of a clear glass roof.
Toyota offers more hybrids than any other manufacturer. They include updated versions of the Prius and hybrid versions of gas-powered vehicles, ranging from the compact Corolla to the midsize Camry sedan and large Highlander SUV. All offer the fuel efficiency of the technology the company pioneered and has improved over the years. Anyone considering a midsize crossover should put the 2022 Venza at the top of their shopping list.
2022 Toyota Venza
Base price: $33,240 (LE)
Price as tested: $44,515 (Limited)
Type: Midsize crossover SUV
Engine: 2.5-liter hybrid (219 hp, 163 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 40/37
Overall length: 186.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,913 pounds
Final assembly: Kashihara, Japan
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