More Lexus than Toyota. As Toyota’s premium arm, Lexus models have always been a cut above their mainstream cousins. The Venza SUV is blurring those boundaries to an unprecedented extent – if you couldn’t see its badges, you’d swear this was a new Lexus. Just look at the rounded styling, compared to the blockier Toyota RAV4. Feel the quality of the synthetic leather-clad console and dash panels, and note the intricacy of the cross stitching and seat piping.

Inside and out, this is more RX than RAV, which is all the more impressive considering prices start at just $35,000. We would note that flagship Limited models are only $2,000 cheaper than the base RX, though they do come fully loaded with features like a surround-view camera system and ventilated synthetic leather seating.

A well-mannered companion. The Lexus-lite ambiance is maintained on the move. A 2.5-liter gas engine and three electric motors provide rapid propulsion, hitting 60 from a standstill in around seven seconds without any real drama. Standard AWD helps, as does a gearless transmission that works hard to optimize efficiency, although it does deliver rather inconsistent performance at times. It takes time to adjust to this, as it does with the regenerative braking setup and economy-focused navigation system.

The Venza’s ride quality is excellent – reminiscent of, well, you know by now. Even cratered urban roads are dismissed with ease, albeit at the cost of driver-pleasing handling. Still, the absence of wind, road, and engine noise is genuinely impressive. This is a car you could travel hundreds of miles in and still feel fresh, especially in those comfortable front seats. The powered driver’s seat literally helps you out by sliding backward on entry and exit, before resetting to a saved position.

2022 Toyota Venza Interior

Mid-range trim is the sweet spot. As well as feeling robustly assembled from fine materials, Venza’s interior is well-appointed. You don’t have to stray beyond base trim to receive a decent infotainment system with wireless smartphone compatibility, though we’d splash out an extra $3,000 on a mid-range XLE. This brings a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless device charging, and keyless entry. You’ll need to move up to Limited for nav, which as mentioned earlier, brings the Venza into competition with its more prestigious RX cousin.

Whichever model you choose, safety is a given. An automatic emergency braking system can detect everything from pedestrians to cyclists at intersections, while blind-spot monitoring and active lane control complement adaptive cruise and automatic high beams. We’d recommend adding the surround-view camera system, since rear-vision is non-existent through the side rear windows and not great through the rear window.

It won’t cost the earth. The environmental arguments in favor of hybrids are well-documented, and the Venza returns thoroughly decent fuel economy figures of 39 mpg combined. That’s only one down on the sector-leading RAV4 Hybrid and Ford’s hybrid Escape. You’d expect a Toyota to last forever, and it’s notable (and laudable) that every Venza comes with two years of free servicing and maintenance. It’s just a shame that the eight-year hybrid component warranty contrasts against a rather underwhelming three-year or 36,000-mile warranty.

Final thoughts. If you’re looking for a high-quality hybrid crossover, the Venza is a compelling option. More softly-sprung and refined than its RAV4 stablemate, it’s also considerably cheaper than its Lexus cousins. Consider it a halfway house between Toyota value and Lexus quality. That will be enough to persuade many people to sign on the dotted line, quite apart from its attractive styling and business-class cabin. The RAV4 Hybrid may be marginally more fuel-efficient, with a bigger cargo area, it’s a less appealing ownership proposition.

The Venza certainly isn’t perfect. Cargo space is affected by that curvaceous rear end, base models lack desirable specifications, and the lack of FWD or gas-only models might deter some buyers. It’s more of a four-seater than a full five-seater, but you won’t hear many complaints from rear passengers, especially with almost 38 inches of rear legroom to play with. For our money, crossovers don’t come much better.

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