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The 2023 Toyota Venza is the brand’s hybrid SUV that slots between the RAV4 and the smaller Corolla Cross. The Venza provides a unique take on the traditional crossover with its sharp look and interesting features. I’ve been driving the Venza for the past week and found that the best part about it is its fuel efficiency. However, the driving experience does come with a couple of drawbacks.

A front view of the 2023 Toyota Venza parked with a view
2023 Toyota Venza | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The 2023 Toyota Venza exceeds its fuel efficiency estimates

Aside from the 2023 Toyota Venza’s usable ride height and comfortable interior, I would argue that its best feature lies under the hood. Every Venza trim level is powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a duo of electric motors to make an AWD setup. A motor up front puts out 118 hp, and the one situated between the rear axles puts out 54 hp. Altogether, the combination is good for 219 hp.

This power rating motivates the car along nicely, but we’ll talk more about that later. First, let’s talk about the Venza’s stellar fuel efficiency ratings. According to the EPA, this little two-row crossover can achieve up to 40 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, which best rivals like the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and even the RAV4 Hybrid. Additionally, its combined fuel efficiency rating is 39 mpg, which I found was easy to beat in the real world.

During my time with the Venza Nightshade Edition this week, I have averaged a whopping 45 mpg. My driving is done at a mile-high elevation, and I was not using the car’s “eco” mode to squeeze every drop of gas out of it.

Instead, I have switched between the normal and “sport” modes depending on my mood. The sport mode makes the throttle feel more responsive and keeps the engine at a higher rpm to make it feel “sporty.” The normal mode makes the car feel… well, normal.

The Venza’s transmission hinders its drivability

A view of the 2023 Toyota Venza's shifter
2023 Toyota Venza | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Did I mention that the Toyota Venza uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT)? If you’re unfamiliar with that, it’s an automatic transmission that uses “infinite” gear ratios driven by a steel belt instead of actual gears in order to get the most efficiency and power in every driving situation. That sounds awesome in theory, but in real life, it feels like the transmission only has one gear, which leads to a lot of bussing at the redline when you have to floor the gas pedal.

This gets annoying when you have to get onto the highway quickly or pass slower cars next to you. Don’t get me wrong, the car’s 219 hp is enough to get the car moving well at any speed, but the CVT bogs it down a little when stabbing the throttle. The good news is that 99% of drivers won’t notice or care about this, but it’s worth noting since the powertrain can get a little loud at the higher rpm range.

The Venza has a quiet ride, but it gets a little loud on the freeway

A rear view of the 2023 Toyota Venza
2023 Toyota Venza | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The loudness from the engine and the CVT’s operation doesn’t translate to a quiet ride on the freeway. At higher speeds, the Venza’s cabin gets a little noisy from the powertrain and from the road noise. It’s overbearing, and you can still hold a conversation with rear-seat passengers, but a Lexus it is not.

Regardless, the 2023 Toyota Venza is a comfortable and smooth car to drive around town. Its unique look and features make it a worthwhile entry on anyone’s shopping shortlist, especially if superb gas mileage is of the utmost importance.