2022 Toyota Venza XLE AWD

The Venza does get a lot of things right, most notably its hybrid system.
The Venza does get a lot of things right, most notably its hybrid system.

by Nathan Leipsig | June 28, 2022


It’s been said many times over many years by many people that trying to please everyone is a fool’s errand – you risk falling into the trap of being likable, but not lovable. In the development of the 2022 Toyota Venza XLE AWD, Toyota ignored this old adage, and produced a compact crossover SUV that tries to be everything to everyone, and the result has left us asking: Who is this for?

In trying to do it all, Toyota has employed almost every gimmick in the book, and is seemingly at odds with itself. Toyota advertises the Venza as “the sporty hybrid SUV,” and it slots into Toyota’s product range above the RAV4 upon which it’s based, and below the larger Highlander. All Venzas come standard with a hybrid powertrain and all wheel drive, and perhaps more importantly, come draped in sleek sheet metal to differentiate them from their more utilitarian stablemates. 

That curvaceous styling impedes cargo space over other crossovers, and that arching coupe profile they’ve baked in greatly reduces rear visibility. In the pursuit of making it feel “sporty,” the suspension ends up being surprisingly firm, but it doesn’t hide the fact that it’s still a fuel-sipping safety-first family crossover. It comes with a manual “shift” mode for its CVT for when you are feeling playful, but then you get to watch your “Eco Score” drop like a stone on the multi-function display in the gauge cluster, defeating the entire purpose of Toyota’s brilliant hybrid technology.

The Venza does get a lot of things right, most notably that aforementioned hybrid system. The 2.5-liter DOHC Inline-four engine is paired with three electric motors and a lithium ion battery pack, tempered with decades of experience in software calibration making it all feel natural. It is fantastically efficient, with our rigorous testing returning a combined fuel economy of 6.0L/100km, beating even Toyota’s own estimate of 6.1. 

In real world terms, that means our 295-kilometer test with lots of “idling” (the gas engine almost never idles, it will only fire up briefly to recharge the battery if its run low by the accessories, like air conditioning) used just 16 litres of 87 octane fuel – a massive bonus with the price of gas these days.

Power delivery is impressive, as the electric motors provide instantaneous grunt from a stop, with the gas engine smoothly coming to life once underway, combining to produce 219hp. Our only complaint is the noise from the engine when you really start asking for power, as it’s not particularly subtle and not exactly nice. Most of the time, when running around with the radio on, you’ll hardly ever notice it, and Toyota’s done an incredible job of making the engine, electric motors, and regenerative braking integrate seamlessly under most conditions.

On the road, the Venza is fairly quiet and generally comfortable, with that sport-tuned suspension only rearing its ugly head over the most broken pavement. All the driver controls feel natural: the brakes are excellent, throttle response is very good, and the steering is on the relaxed side for sure, but well judged and predictable, with a very tight turning circle. 

Toyota’s attempt to make the Venza sporty haven’t gone entirely in vain, as the Venza does exhibit good body control, and its ability to actively route the powertrain’s electric grunt through all four wheels to optimize grip means it handles itself decently when driven with some enthusiasm.

Our $45,505 Venza XLE came finished in gorgeous Ruby Flare Pearl paint, and when combined with its striking body design, looks terrific and stands out amongst the crossover crowd; you’ll have no trouble finding this in the parking lot. Our test vehicle’s cabin came wrapped in Toyota’s SofTex synthetic leather in black, matched with a black headliner, with only a few metallic accents to brighten things up. 

While certainly slick, we felt our Venza’s cabin felt rather dark, especially when combined with the slim windows from the coupe styling. Unfortunately, black is the only interior color available, and there’s no sunroof to let in more light, either. You could step up to the Limited model, which introduces optional grey and java upholstery colors, and a standard electrochromic glass roof that can dim or brighten at the touch of a button, which would neatly solve the problem of our dim interior, and the included Birds Eye camera would greatly aid in parking visibility. For $3400 more, it seems like a no-brainer.

In the pursuit of slick modernity, our Venza XLE features a wide 12.3” touch display, mounted high atop a center stack comprised entirely of piano black capacitive touch controls, with no physical buttons, knobs or dials to be found. We had mixed feelings about this, as some of our testers had difficulty getting the touch “buttons” to respond consistently, and the infotainment system on the touchpad isn’t the most intuitive, either. Most Toyotas and indeed even the base Venza LE have a smaller eight-inch display, but it’s augmented with real buttons for menus and dial controls for climate, and we have a hard time seeing how this trendy touch system is an improvement.

It features an abundance of options and functions, with its default home position showing no less than four readouts at the same time: map, audio, favorite contacts, and a quick access menu which itself features trip info, seat heating and ventilation, temperature controls, power usage, audio, and phone. There’s a lot to take in here, and while we’re sure an owner could get used to it, we never quite got the hang of it. 

I personally was stumped by trying to change radio stations, and annoyed by the navigation taking me off a fast moving highway into a fifteen minute traffic snarl, only to put me back onto the same highway at the next ramp. Why? Speaking of, one morning the bluetooth connection to my phone decided to start playing the audio track to an episode of King of the Hill that I had watched on my phone a month ago. This software quirk was hilarious in the moment, but again begs the question: Why? 

Mercifully, all Venzas come standard Android Auto and Apple Carplay, which sidesteps a lot of these hiccups. The steering wheel controls are fairly intuitive and the menus in the center display between the gauges are easy to use and offer control over most functions. The JBL audio system is excellent, and the heated and cooled seats are wonderful. While Toyota leaned pretty hard into modern trends for the interior, they’ve thankfully ignored the gimmick of unconventional gear selectors, opting instead for a traditional PRND stick that functions exactly as you’d expect. 

So, back around to where we started: Who is the Venza for? This is likely for someone who’s decided a RAV4 suits their needs but really wants something that looks a little more upscale, and is willing to trade some practicality for that. This is for someone who wants a little more space and capability than a Prius, but doesn’t want to sacrifice all that efficiency. This is for someone who loves tech and touch controls – no curmudgeons need apply. 

Of course, the 2022 Toyota Venza XLE AWD is for someone who wants the Toyota dealer and service experience, fantastic warranty coverage, and residual value. If you tick all those boxes, you’ll find the Venza plenty likable, even if we’re not quite sure it’s lovable.

See Also:

2021 Honda CR-V Touring AWD

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum

2022 Mazda CX-5 Signature


Vehicle Specs
Compact Hybrid Crossover
Engine Size
2.5L inline-four hybrid
Horsepower (at RPM)
219 combined
Torque (lb-ft.)
401 combined
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Nathan Leipsig

Deputy Editor Nathan is a passionate enthusiast with a penchant for finding 80s and 90s European vehicles. He can typically be found messing about on his E28 5-series or on Kijiji looking for the next project. Current Toys: '23 Miata Club 6MT, '86 535i, '99 Beetle TDI 5MT