The all-new Toyota Venza joining the RAV4 and RAV4 Hybrid in the middle of Toyota’s SUV lineup presents buyers with quite the conundrum: Which one should they buy? Both are vaguely the same size, both are crossover SUVs, both offer room for up to five passengers across two rows of seats, and both have or offer hybrid powertrains. Toyota’s chief engineer for the Venza, Yoshikazu Saeki, even held the same title for the RAV4. To help you navigate these two similar ‘Yotas, we’ve run through the key differences between them. Because the Venza is sold only as a hybrid, we’re narrowing our comparison between it and the RAV4 to the RAV4’s hybrid model.
RAV4 Hybrid vs. Venza: Powertrain
Both the RAV4 hybrid and the Venza are powered by Toyota’s Hybrid System 2.0, and they vary by not one pony, both making 219 hp. The hybrid system includes electronic on-demand all-wheel drive, meaning that most of the time, the gas-electric combo under the hood propels the front axle. If slippage is detected at the rear wheels, such as in snow or on a gravel road, an electric motor mounted on the rear axle kicks in and—voilá!—the Toyotas become all-wheel drive.
RAV4 Hybrid vs. Venza: Fuel Economy
While the Venza and RAV4 Hybrid share essentially the same powertrain, each crossover’s fuel economy may differ slightly. The RAV4 Hybrid carries EPA-estimated fuel-economy ratings of 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined. It’s likely that the Venza will achieve very similar figures; Toyota claims the Venza’s base LE trim will get 40 mpg (more luxurious models might be slightly less efficient—as is the case with some other Toyota hybrid models).
The major difference here, again, is that the Venza will only be offered with this hybrid AWD powertrain, whereas the RAV4 can be had with standard gas-burner. Though we prefer the hybrid version of the RAV4, that SUV offers the luxury of choice the Venza lacks—even if that choice is to live with worse fuel economy.
RAV4 Hybrid vs. Venza: Interior Thoughts
Both crossovers sit on the same TNGA platform proliferating throughout Toyota’s lineup and utilize similar suspension set-ups. There are MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setups at the back of both cars. The Venza and RAV4 share an identical 105.9-inch wheelbase dimension, so we suspect legroom for front and rear-seat passengers will be very similar. (We don’t have final interior measurements for the Venza yet.) Expect the Venza to best the RAV4 Hybrid’s 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space (seats up, or 69.8 cubes with the second row folded), thanks to its six-inch-longer body.
The two diverge from there, with the Venza putting forward a more overtly luxurious vibe. Toyota’s engineers went to serious lengths to make the Venza a much more comfortable and cosseting machine than the last Venza, which was a sort of low-slung, cushy sofa on wheels. To that end, Toyota added extra sound deadening material in the wheel arches, engine bay, and headliner. Along with the acoustic glass windshield, this noise suppression should ensure the Venza is as quiet as can be.
In a first for Toyota, the Venza also offers an optional electrochromic glass roof panel, which you won’t find on any RAV4. This sunroof tech has been around for a while, most visibly (pun intended) in Mercedes-Benzes, and can change the glass’s opacity at the touch of a button. In its most opaque setting, the roof panel still allows some sunlight to enter the cabin (even amplifying its brightness, albeit without a direct dose of sunshine beaming down on passengers). Set to its fully transparent mode, the roof offers a full view of the sky. Other niceties include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active-safety features, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even Amazon Alexa personal assistant integration as standard. Both the Venza and RAV4 offer upgrade infotainment systems and available JBL hi-fi audio setups, though the former’s optional touchscreen is larger.
RAV4 Hybrid vs. Venza: Can Either One Go Off-Road?
This probably sounds like a pointless question, given how the Toyotas are clearly soft-road, car-based SUVs and not, well, Jeep Wrangler lookalikes. The RAV4 does offer a TRD (Toyota Racing Development) model that’s more adept off-road than a regular RAV4, but it can’t be paired with the hybrid powertrain.
The Venza, on the other hand, is a crossover through and through. We don’t doubt it could tackle the occasional dirt road, but wandering far off the beaten path is best left to Toyota’s more focused offerings, such as the mighty Land Cruiser 4×4 or the 4Runner TRD Pro. The Venza’s luxury touches, extra sound deadening, and efficiency minded powertrain are clearly designed for on-pavement cruising.
RAV4 Hybrid vs. Venza: Pricing
The RAV4 Hybrid comes in four different trims where the Venza will launch with three, possibly adding a fourth later in its life cycle. Right now, the least expensive RAV4 Hybrid you can buy, the LE trim, costs $29,470. Although Toyota hasn’t said exactly how much the Venza will cost, we expect the base LE to be closer to the $32,000 mark when it launches later this year.
As for the top-of-the-line Limited models, the RAV4 Limited starts at $38,000. Again, we think the Venza will be pricier, but not by much. The Venza will be on sale by the end of 2020, and we’re interested to see how well it fits into Toyota’s ever-expanding SUV lineup, and how customers take to its hybrid-only nature.