Base Camp: 2021 Toyota Venza LE
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
Some grumbling about the fact that car-based crossovers have usurped four-door sedans as the family ride of choice can certainly be directed at Toyota. After all, the RAV4 was instrumental in introducing the charms of easy off-roading to the masses, while the aspirational Lexus RX300 charmed well-heeled buyers out of their sedans in the late ’90s.
This makes it all the more puzzling that, for the last six model years, Toyota didn’t have a direct competitor for two-row crossovers like the Ford Edge and Honda Passport. Sure, the RAV is popular but the discontonued-in-2015 Venza fit the bill much better. For 2021, the model returns and it warrants being examined by the critical Base Camp lens.
Toyota has chosen to price the Venza LE at $38,490. Its styling choices are unique, with aggressive flank flaring creating a good bit of visual interest in its side profile. A chrome spear connects the LE’s parabola LED headlamps but is generally consumed with a large black plastic fascia. Costlier XLE and Limited trims break up the monotony with extra brightwork.
Base models are the only ones to get 18-inch alloys with the rest of the line earning 19-inch hoops. A de-icing grid helps defrost the wipers in winter, sideview mirrors are heated, and puddle lamps with the Venza logo illuminate upon entry. Once inside, you’ll find cloth heated seats for front row passengers with dual-zone climate control keeping all hands content. Push button start and wireless smartphone charging are included in the deal.
The LE makes do with an 8-inch screen, by the way, while all other Venzas get a ‘zooty’ 12.3-inch jumbotron. Nevertheless, the cheapest Venza still gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel on a power-adjustable steering column (that really should be heated at this price) plus Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and satellite radio baked into the smaller-than-its-brothers infotainment screen.
No such class warfare exists under the hood, where a 2.5L inline-four plays in harmony with Toyota’s hybrid system to produce 219 horsepower and an estimated combined fuel efficiency of just 6.1L/100km. Venza, no matter the trim, features an electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system that switches from 100 per cent front-wheel drive to up to 80 per cent of driving force being sent to the rear wheels depending on driving conditions.
What We’d Choose
The entry-level LE is a strong value, especially considering the inclusion of Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 which bundles lane keeping and dynamic cruise control with a pre-collision system. The $6,000 walk to the next-rung XLE is hardly chump change but is worth considering for its extras which include heated/ventilated leather-like seats, better infotainment, hands-free power liftgate, and rear cross-traffic braking.
Or, one could save six grand by opening the liftgate with a button and looking out for the neighbourhood cat while reversing out the driveway. Best to sock away some of those savings for a good set of winter tires that will play well with the Venza’s all-wheel drive system.
Hey, it’s not like you’ll be spending that money on a sedan.