2022 Toyota Venza crossover: high-fashion and hybrid-only

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Toyota Venza different?

Toyota could add another trim level – a sporty XSE model is a reasonable possibility. But that won’t fundamentally change the 2022 version of this boutique take on the automaker’s RAV4 compact crossover.

Debuting for model-year 2021, the Venza resurrected a name used from 2009-2015 on a larger station-wagon/crossover mashup. Today’s Venza also seats five but comes exclusively as a gas-electric hybrid and with all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard.

It’s essentially a fashion-plate version of the family-friendly RAV4, using the same understructure and an identical wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles). Stretched over that platform, however, is a body almost 6-inches longer with a roofline an inch lower, the better to showcase far sleeker styling.

The Venza is more expensive than the RAV4 Hybrid with which it shares its powertrain, but it debuted with upscale features unavailable on any RAV4. These included a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a power tilt/telescope steering column, and Toyota’s first application of its Star Gaze moonroof, which can switch from transparent to frosted.

Should I wait for the 2022 Venza or buy a 2021?

2021 Venza XLE

Wait if you like the sporty spin Toyota has given SE and XSE versions of its other vehicles. A bit of areo body addenda, trendy black-out trim, black wheels, some interior flair, and tauter suspension tuning is the formula. An SE or XSE grade would add a welcome dash of brio to the Venza lineup.   

It’s also possible Toyota is contemplating a plug-in hybrid option. Mirroring the RAV4 Prime, a Venza “Prime” would draw enough initial charge from the power grid to travel 40 miles or so on electricity alone. And as in the RAV4 line, the plug-in would be the most powerful Venza, with some 300 horsepower versus the 219 produced by the ’21 Venza’s conventional-hybrid powertrain.  

For model-year 2022, something like an XSE is far more likely than a plug-in Venza. If neither appeals to you, though, buy a ’21 Venza. Returning ’22 models won’t change in any way worth waiting for — but they’ll almost surely cost more. Expect the lineup to reprise base LE, midrange XLE, and top-line Limited grades.  

Will 2022 Venza styling be different?

2021 Venza XLE

An SE or XSE would stand out with a racier, more youthful look inside and out than the other ’22 Venza models. And SE and XSE versions of Toyota’s Camry, Highlander, and RAV4 have snared a significant share of sales of those models.

Returning ’22 Venzas won’t change beyond a new color choice or two. They’ll again showcase Toyota’s latest crossover styling themes. In particular, the thin, wrap-around LED headlights and narrow LED taillamps echo those on the larger, midsize Highlander. So does the body’s ratio of two-thirds metal to one-third glass. It’s a decidedly spicier look than the more upright RAV4, and while it is eye-catching, from some angles it’s more awkward in person than in photos.

Visual distinctions between returning 2022 Venza trim levels should again run to details such as chrome bumper garnishes and more elaborate LED daytime running lights for the XLE and Limited. Those models should also return with sliver roof rails, which Toyota deletes when you order the Star Gaze roof, an option that should again be exclusive to the Limited model. Expect the LE to return with 18-inch alloy wheels, the XLE and Limited with fancier 19s.  

2021 Venza with 12.3-inch touchscreen and two-tone interior trim

The 2022 Venza’s cabin will again pursue a minimalist aesthetic. With its expanses of smooth panels, it can come across as too monastic. The ambient lighting standard on all models enlivens things at night. And the XLE and Limited should return with metal-look plastic accents and dashboard piping keyed to the interior color. But seek out the two-tone treatment available with some color combinations if you really want to brighten the decor.

Expect an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen to return as standard for the 2022 Venza LE and XLE. Look for a 12.3-incher to remain optional for the XLE and standard on the Limited. Both will again support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the larger screen also imbedding GPS navigation that doesn’t depend on a cell signal for real-time mapping.

2021 Venza touch-capactive climate and audio controls

The upsized screen also replaces the climate and audio systems’ physical knobs with touch-capacitive controls. It’s a poor tradeoff. Marked by thin font with insufficient contrast against a piano-black background, the touch-sensitive controls are difficult to identify without nighttime backlighting. Absence of haptic feedback furthers potential driver distraction.

Compromises continue with brake-assist and drive-mode controls positioned in front of the console gearshift, an awkward reach for the driver. Behind the gear lever are cupholders. Using them for anything taller than a soda can interferes with the driver’s access to the shifter.  

Venza brake-assist and drive-mode controls

Despite strategically arrayed padded surfaces, few interior panels feel completely solid to the touch. And doors that close with a hollow ring don’t reinforce a sense of build quality. Neither do intrusive levels of wind and road noise at highways speeds.

But in its quest to qualify the Venza as an upscale compact crossover, Toyota will again supply a nice array of amenities as standard on every model. These include dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, wireless phone charging, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, and a hands-free power liftgate.

Expect the ’22 Venza LE to return with fabric upholstery. The XLE will reprise fabric complimented by bolsters covered in Toyota’s imitation leather SofTex. The Limited will again get full perforated SofTex, plus enhanced seat bolsters. Heat front seats should return as standard on the XLE with heated and ventilated front seats, plus a power front passenger seat, standard on the Limited.

An SE or XSE would likely get some form of SofTex upholstery, perhaps with a unique pattern, along with red stitching and other specific accents. Look for an SE to otherwise mirror LE equipment, with the XSE borrowing features from the Limited.

2021 Venza rear seat

Oddly, the 2021 Venza didn’t offer a traditional tilt/slide moonroof. The ’22 probably won’t, either. Expect instead return of the Star Gaze fixed panoramic glass roof. A single panel over both rows of seats, it a button switches it between transparent and frosted. The transformation takes just a second and frosted mode bathes the cabin in a pleasing indirect light. A sliding sunshade is provided.    

Front and rear, room and comfort are fine on seats not too firm but quite supportive. The seating position is higher than that of a car but lower than most compact crossovers. The relatively squat roofline and tall windowsills can make rear passengers feel a bit enclosed, especially without the Star Gaze roof.

Interior storage space is stingy, with door pockets too narrow for beverages among the irritations. With 28.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 55.1 with the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded, cargo volume is stingiest in the segment. Although the hybrid system’s lithium-ion battery pack is beneath the rear seat, the electric motor supplying drive to the rear wheels may contribute to the unusually high cargo floor, another nuisance.

Any 2022 Venza mechanical changes?

All Venzas are gas-electric hybrids with standard all-wheel drive

As with Toyota’s other SE and XSE models, any 2022 Venza version would prioritize sporty looks over high performance. Specific suspension tuning, steering calibration, even available summer-tread tires, would provide a modest but tangible upgrade to handling. But there would be no adjustments to the powertrain.

So an SE or XSE Venza would almost certainly share with the rest of the ’22 Venza lineup Toyota’s proven – and arguably, class-leading – gas-electric hybrid powertrain. It would again combine a gasoline 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with electric-motor assist for a net 219 horsepower (Toyota doesn’t specific a torque rating). And it will again use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the role of a conventional automatic transmission but without stepped gear ratios.

As with any conventional hybrid, sensors determine the optimal combination of gas and electric power to balancing acceleration and fuel economy. The battery recharges solely by recapturing energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting.

Venza combines a gas four-cylinder engine with electric-motor power for 219 hp

With the electric motor providing an instant injection of torque, count on the ’22 Venza to again be lively away from a stop and respond alertly for passing and merging at higher speeds. Don’t hold out hope Toyota will address one the powertrain’s few demerits: an engine intrusively gruff during rapid acceleration and raspy even in light-throttle cruising.

Given Venza’s premium-crossover posturing, we’d support the option of a plug-in Prime model. At about 5.7 seconds 0-60 mph, the RAV4 Prime is nearly two seconds quicker than the RAV4 Hybrid that shares Venza’s powertrain. And, of course, it can travel a useful 40 miles or so before automatically reverting to conventional-hybrid operation.

On the downside, a Prime powertrain would likely add about 15 percent to Venza’s base price, pushing, say, the Limited trim to more than $47,000, including destination fee but before options.

All ’22 Venzas will again furnish a driver-selectable EV mode to lock in electric-only propulsion at low speeds. But there’s seldom enough battery reserve for even a mile of driving. Normal, Eco, and Sport modes tailor powertrain behavior. Sport delivers noticeably sharper throttle response, as does slotting the shifter into its adjacent gate and toggling to “downshift.” This also increases regenerative braking, although absence of steering-wheel paddle shifters to more readily accomplish this is a curious omission.

Along with the Subaru Forester, Ford Bronco Sport – and the RAV4 Hybrid and Prime — the 2022 Venza will again be among the few in its competitive set to come standard with AWD. It’s primary electric motor assists with acceleration and, battery-charge permitting, enables electric-only driving. Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive provides a second motor to automatically power the rear wheels if the front tires slip.

2021 Venza Limited

The system normally runs in front-wheel drive but can distribute up to 80 percent of driving force to the rear wheels. You can follow torque distribution on the dashboard screen and the instrument binnacle’s Multi-information Display. AWD benefits include sure-footed traction accelerating on slippery pavement and enhanced balance accelerating through corners. With no terrain-management selector and ground clearance a modest 7.8 inches (the RAV4 Hybrid has 8.1 inches), off-road prowess won’t be a ’22 Venza forte.

On its 18-inch wheels and tires, expect the 2022 Venza LE to again handle bumps and ruts with slightly more absorbency than the XLE and Limited, whose 19s contribute to a taut ride that isn’t punishing but never matches the compliance of a premium-grade crossover.

If there’s an SE or XSE model in Venza’s future, they’d be expected to ride more firmly than the other models while building on handling that’s already quite good. Look for returning ’22 Venza models to again steer with pleasing accuracy and corner with fine control and grip. Indeed, rewarding road manners should remain a dynamic highlight, along with the hybrid powertrain’s overall performance.

Will 2022 Venza fuel economy improve?

An SE or XSE might sacrifice a mile or two per gallon to Toyota’s choice of tire size and type. But expect returning versions of the 2022 Venza to repeat their 2021 EPA ratings of 40/37/39 mpg city/highway/combined. That would again place them among the more fuel-efficient crossovers in the segment.

By comparison, the ’21 RAV4 Hybrid, which weighs some 157 pounds less than the Venza, rated 41/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined.

Toyota says Venza’s Predictive Efficient Drive uses the navigation system to learn repeating routes and predict when and where the crossover is apt to slow or stop. When approaching a downhill section, for example, the system is designed to apply additional engine braking force to more efficiently charge the hybrid battery after the accelerator pedal is released.

Should Venza eventually gain a plug-in Prime edition, expect it to approach the RAV4 Prime’s EPA rating of 94 mpg-e on electricity alone. Mpg-e is the EPA’s calculation of an electric vehicle’s miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline equivalent. Running as a conventional hybrid, the RAV4 Prime rates 40/36/38 mpg city/highway/combined. Total range is about 600 miles.

A Venza Prime should also match RAV4 Prime charging times: about 12 hours on a 120-volt household outlet and 4.5 hours with a 240-volt charger. RAV4 XSE Prime models with the Premium Package get enhanced charging capability that cuts 240-volt charging time to 2.5 hours. As with the RAV4 Prime, Venza Prime buyers could well qualify for electric-vehicle tax credits. And in some states, Toyota’s plug-in crossovers qualify for the high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane, even with just the driver aboard.

Toyota will continue to tune all 2022 Venzas to run on regular-grade 87 octane gas.

Will there be new 2022 Venza features?

2021 Venza Limited with optional tinting Star Gaze panoramic roof

Any new model or trim package could bundle existing features and add touches unique to its mission. But the core of the 2022 Venza’s equipment set is apt to carry over for model-year 2022. 

Laudably, every ’22 Venza will again come with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0). This is comprised of autonomous emergency braking designed to stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, pedestrian, or bicyclist. Also included is adaptive radar cruise control that can maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead.

Lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction is part of TSS 2.0. So is Lane Tracing Assist, designed to automatically keep the Venza centered in its lane. Blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection is standard, too, with all but the LE model likely to enhance it with very helpful autonomous front and rear braking.

Rounding out driver assists that should be standard across the board are automatic highbeam headlights and brake hold, a convenience that keeps the Venza stationary at stop lights without requiring the driver to maintain brake-pedal pressure.

Among assists likely to return as standard features exclusive to the Limited – and probably on any XSE model – are a 360-degree Bird’s Eye display and a digital rearview mirror that uses a rear-facing video camera to “see through” rear passengers or cargo. The Advanced Technology Package that was an exclusive Limited option for ’21 should again add a useful head-up instrument display and rain-sensing variable windshield wipers.

In addition to features already covered, all 2022 Venzas should return with satellite radio, keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, and two front and two rear USB charging ports. Expect the XLE and Limited to again come with illuminated front footwells and an automatic dimming rearview mirror with Homelink transceiver.

Will 2022 Venza prices be different?

2021 Venza LE

Odds are strong they’ll increase slightly for returning models. Even if they don’t, the ’22 Venza will remain among the pricier compact crossovers, reflecting not only the relative extra cost of the hybrid system and the comparatively generous list of standard features, but Toyota’s upscale positioning of this fashion-conscious five-seater.

For reference, here are 2021 Venza prices, including the $1,175 manufacturer’s destination fee.

Base prices were $33,645 for the ’21 Venza LE, $37,175 for the XLE, and $40,975 for the Limited. Expect any 2022 Venza SE to split the difference between the LE and XLE, with an XSE priced closer to the Limited. Both would also reflect the options available on LE and Limited, respectively. 

The Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation package ($2,050 for model-year 2021) should again add to the XLE several Limited standard features, including the 12.3-inch touchscreen with imbedded navigation, and three additional USB charge points, and a 1,200-watt JBL-branded audio upgrade with nine speakers instead of the standard six. Also drawing from Limited standard features would be the XLE SofTex Package (a $510 value for ’21) with full perforated SofTex upholstery, the heated and ventilated front seats, and power passenger seat.

Venza offers heated and ventilated front seats

Among options again exclusive to the Limited (and possibly any XSE) would be the Star Gaze roof ($1,400 for ’21) and the Advanced Technology Package ($725) with its head-up display.

It’s worth noting a 2022 Venza Limited with the Star Gaze roof, Advanced Tech Package, and a $425 premium-paint color such as Ruby Flare Pearl or Celestial Black, would be expected to sticker for almost $44,000. That’s within a few hundred dollars of Toyota’s far roomier and more refined, seven-passenger Highlander Hybrid XLE AWD model, which has 245 horsepower and an EPA rating of 35/34/35 mpg city/highway/combined. 

Note that Toyota warranties Venza’s hybrid-related components for defects in materials or workmanship at 8 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first. The battery packs get 10/150,000 coverage that’s transferrable across ownership.

When does the 2022 Venza come out?

2021 Venza Limited

Expect a 2022 Toyota Venza release date in the third quarter of 2021.

Best 2022 Venza competitors

Buick Envision, Chevrolet Equinox and Trailblazer, Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Volkswagen Tiguan and ID.4

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]