In some ways it can be said that self-awareness is the greatest sense of all. Much like eyesight or hearing, some of us have it in spades, and some of us need some artificial assistance to bring that deficiency up to a respectable level. But knowing what you are, and more importantly, what you are not, is a gift that will keep on giving throughout your life.

Toyota knows that the person shopping for a new Cayenne Turbo or Shelby GT350 is not the same one that will be interested in the new 2021 Venza. The Venza is targeted for budding or expanding families that cares more about hauling groceries than hauling butt. It isn’t blazingly fast, or incredibly nimble around the twisties, but it will beat a new Challenger Hellcat … in fuel economy. And Toyota is just fine with that.

In its debut some years ago, we couldn’t decide if the Venza was trying to be a minivan, an SUV, or a fat car. Toyota must’ve had the same difficulty because they cut the Venza and hadn’t offered it since. But the redesign for 2021 still makes it a bit hard to categorize, but it looks more in line with the Mazda CX-9 or Infiniti QX50 — a sporty and versatile car-based SUV.

Going with the notion that most parents (or parent) with kids is probably going to be strapped for cash more often than not, Toyota opted to make the Venza as fuel efficient as possible, only offering it with a hybrid powertrain set up. The 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-4 cylinder engine is complemented by three electric motors — two up front and one more out back. Total power comes in at 219-horsepower at 5,700 RPM and 163 lb-ft of torque, which is sufficient at best. That power is funneled through a relatively lackluster ECT-i Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission that does have a manual mode, but we doubt it will ever be used until those kids are old enough to borrow mom’s car. Power is then sent to all four corners thanks to Toyota’s all-wheel drive system.
Weighing in at a relatively trim 3,847 pounds, the Venza can only manage to hustle from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds at 87.8 mph. Braking from 60 back down to 0 mph takes a respectable 121 feet, while lateral acceleration chimes in at 0.80 g around the skidpad, which again, is what you should expect from a family-sized SUV, or whatever this is. But the Venza gets to flex a bit when it comes to fuel mileage, posting a 40/37/39 city/highway/combined MPG that will allow you to take all your kids to school ,practice, and back home all week without even thinking about the gas station. The 55 cubic feet of cargo space will also allow you to pack up all their gear without needing to make extra trips.

As expected, the family-first Venza comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which is an umbrella name to incorporate all the company’s safety features like emergency braking with pedestrian detection, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane centering, road sign assist, and automatic high-beams. And though it hasn’t been officially crash-tested, being built on the same TNGA-K platform that both the Highlander and RAV4 ride on, there is no reason to doubt the Venza will score any lower than the excellent ratings those two have garnered.

Toyota finally knows what the Venza is, and finally what is isn’t. This car/truck will never be a hot rod or drag racing monster, nor should it be. It is a good looking roomy, fuel and family friendly people mover. With a base MSRP of $32,470, it can fit nicely into most family budgets, even those expecting expansion. The Venza is a great example of how a little self-awareness can go a very long way — especially when that awareness includes a hybrid motor.