Our test drive in the 2021 Toyota Venza shows the wide-band flexibility of the brand’s new TNGA platform architecture. The same vehicle under the skin as the butch outdoor hiking boot of the RAV4 SUV, the Venza strikes a more upscale silk purse fashion statement every bit as convincingly.

Replacing the last generation Venza significantly larger, the new 2021 model shares its wheelbase and footprint with the current RAV4, now 3-inches shorter than the old Venza. Now a Hybrid only model, the Venza also shares the RAV4 drivetrain and AWD system.

This means 219 horsepower of combined system output from its 2.5-liter gasoline engine and two electric traction motors – one at each axle for a shaft-less AWD system entirely orchestrated by the computer system.

It works well. With an EPA estimated 40 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined we were able to easily achieve these benchmarks in our week and then some. Handling is just as sharp and enjoyable as other Toyota models built on this chassis.

This means communicative steering, an athletic personality on back roads and a comfortable existence on city streets with a nice balance of refinement for every day driving.

The biggest news of the new 2021 Toyota Venza is the blend of style, features and refinement it offers up as a contrast to its like-sized showroom star of the RAV4. With artistic flair inside and out, the Venza feels a lot more like a Lexus than the camping gear RAV.

Its cabin has rich soft stitched trims, in our Limited trim grade some very comfortable Softex upholstered chairs. The ceiling was lit by a full length panoramic roof called Star Gaze, offering an electro-chromatic opaque feature that creates a soft white frost at the flick of a switch.

JBL sound from 9 speakers and a sub-woofer was phenomenal and using its optioned 12.3-inch infotainment screen an act of high visibility and intuitiveness. We could have used a real volume and tuning knob though.

As tested, our 2021 Toyota Venza Limited rang in at $43,100, making it a few thousand dollars up from a comparably equipped RAV4 Hybrid. It is indeed a more premium choice in the showroom and feels it. The Venza offers a near Lexus-like experience in terms of style, luxury and features for a value price.