I have just finished with a $50,000 Toyota Venza. It’s quite an upscale 2021 hybrid wagon with a surprisingly modest three year/60,000 km warranty (a similar Kia Sorento hybrid comes with five years/100,000 km); projector LED headlamps and a full-width LED light bar at the rear; a temporary spare tire; safety gear from here to there; and a particularly appealing touch of “cool”: puddle lamps that light up the ground with the “Venza” logo.

This is where the Venza is most at home: suburbia.

The latter is the sort of thing you see with Jaguars, not every day Toyota wagons. Small things like this get noticed, and I certainly did at night, when I approached and unlocked this Venza.

As fate would have it, when I was testing the 2021 Venza, Toyota Canada announced the arrival of the 2022 version. Out with the old, in with the new. There doesn’t appear to be difference, year-to-year, other than a modest price increase – my Limited jumping to $48,290 for 2022, from $47,690 for 2021.

Toyota has two other 2022 versions for sale, too: base Venza LE ($38,890) and XLR ($44,890). All throw off any SUV pretense, instead embracing reality, which is still a tad unusual in the car game. The Venza is a Camry station wagon with a tall stance and electronic all-wheel drive enabled by the hybrid drive system with three electric motors paired with a 219-horsepower 2.5-litre gas engine which combined get you 6.1 litres/100 km (city/highway).

In the everyday, you won’t ever know where the power is coming from or going. All of it to the front wheels, or up to 80 per cent the rears. This is what refined hybrid technology feels like. Unintrusive.

Toyota does not get enough credit for the thought behind its screens and infotainment software.

There is also a Drive Mode selector which allows you to dial up Sport or Eco, or even pure EV for very short hops. Hint: Toyota suggests EV mode for “parking in the garage late at night without generating noise or emissions.” EV mode will take you a little further than that, but not much.

I like pure EVs and have long believed that Toyota’s made a big mistake by stalling for years on producing a range of them. Stubborn foot-dragging has undermined the “green” image Toyota carefully cultivated after the launch of the first Prius.

Toyota isn’t the “green” car company now, though its array of hybrids is impressive and delivers quite affordable, safe and reliable fuel economy/lowered emissions in the real world, in big sales numbers.

In any case, the Venza would be a good choice for someone who wants a snazzy looking, dependable Toyota wagon that puts a smaller footprint on the planet than a gasoline-only wagon. The exterior, marked by a tapered roofline and tame sheetmetal flourishes stands as one of the very best Toyota designs for sale today. Rather than an origami project, the Venza is quite a tidy look.

The tapered roofline crimps cargo space and headroom, every so much.

Alas, function always follows form, which means the cargo area is slightly truncated by the shape of the roof. Similarly, climbing into the back seat is an exercise in watching out for your head.

My goodness, though, the view from the driver’s seat is rewarding. Build quality is best-in-class and the materials look expensive. The touchscreen display is clear and the software quickly responds. Of course, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are enabled, and the connected services are extensive – Remote Connect, Safety Connect, Service Connect…

The Premium audio pushed out clear, sharp sounds and the multi-information display lets you see what’s happening with the hybrid/EV drive in real time, graphically. The infotainment responses, by the way, are quick and the interface is very easy to learn.

Excellent build quality.

With the vast range of SUVs Toyota sells – Highlander, 4Runner et al – it could be quite easy to overlook the Venza. If you’re shopping for a useful, well-appointed wagon, you shouldn’t.

Wireless charging and lots of plugs.

What is it? A midsize wagon with premium pretensions and powertrain efficiency.

How much? $38,890 to start for 2022. My 2021 Limited tester came in at $49,690, plus fees and taxes.

What’s good? Build quality, superb. The hybrid powertrain is efficient and responsive. A tidy exterior design stands out, too.

What’s not so good? The tapered roofline hurts headroom. The warranty comes in two years short of competitive.



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