Midsize SUVs continue to grow in popularity.
Offerings in the segment will need to evolve and Toyota may have a solution.
These two SUVs are aimed at the same buyer but are opposites.
In the last four years, the midsize two-row SUV segment has quite nearly doubled in its number of members. SUVs like the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Honda Passport, and Chevrolet Blazer have joined the ranks of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Murano, Ford Edge, and others. It’s the latest addition to this club that has us very intrigued as it represents a very different approach to the segment: the 2021 Toyota Venza.
Interestingly, it was four years ago that the original Venza left the stage after an uneventful and disappointing seven-year career. The previous Venza was, in no uncertain terms, a raised wagon version of the Toyota Camry which endowed it with numerous attributes however most SUV buyers wanted little to do with its overall timid and possibly awkward styling. The Venza is back for round two but this time, instead of adhering to a more conventional midsize SUV recipe, Toyota’s pushed it even further away from the mold. And we think the timing is right this time.
As for the Chevrolet Blazer, revealed just over a year ago, it began life as a true midsize SUV into which was injected a dose of Camaro DNA, albeit a small one. The Blazer blends capability and utility in a shell that screams dynamism, that is if it sports the RS trim. And this is one of its main weaknesses as only the latter version makes good use of the designer’s efforts – the other versions are far more “regular.” Although it might seem like a Sport utility vehicle, it’s actually a far more refined vehicle than expected.
As we await the opportunity to drive the new 2021 Toyota Venza, let’s compare known specifications with the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer and see how they stack up.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
The 2021 Toyota Venza is slated to arrive in August. At the moment, pricing has not yet been announced however we expect that the price for the base LE trim will hover around the low $40,000 mark. The mid-range XLE will likely be priced in the mid and upper $40,000s while the top-line Limited may reach near $55,000.
The 2020 Chevrolet Blazer is available now and starts at $35,198 for the FWD LS model. The popular FWD LT and True North are respectively $36,798 ($39,198 with AWD) and $42,198. The poster-boy RS goes for $46,298 and the range-topper, the Premier, is priced from $48,798.
Which Has The More efficient Powertrain?
The principal difference between these two in this portion of the head-to-head is that the Chevy Blazer is offered with a choice of three petrol-powered engines whereas the Venza has but one.
The 2021 Toyota Venza is offered solely with a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder paired with three electric motors for a system total of 219-horsepower. That’s right, the Venza is only available as a hybrid and comes standard with Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. The latter features a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when required. The real kicker is that the average fuel economy rating should be of 5.9L/100km, or roughly 40 mpg, for the LE trim.
In the Blazer’s corner, the base FWD LS is powered by a 193-horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder to start. According to GM reps, this combination will account for far less than 5% of Blazer sales. Shortly after the Blazer’s launch, Chevrolet introduced a turbocharged 230-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder to shore up the SUV’s appeal. Both 4-cylinder mills can be ordered as a FWD vehicle, AWD being an option with the 2.0T. The 3.6-litre 305-horsepower V6 is now only offered with AWD. No matter the selected powertrain combination, the best combined average fuel economy attainable is 10L/100km.
Many of you use your SUVs for towing. The 2.5-litre Blazer manages 680 kg or 1,500 lbs, the 2.0T AWD and V6 AWD will tow up to 2,041 kg or 4,500 lbs. As for the Venza, it can tow up to 1,750 lbs as it shares the RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain and TNGA platform.
A word about the AWD systems. The Venza’s works seamlessly and without driver input, preemptively distributing up to 80 percent of the driving force to the rear wheels to reduce understeer and excessive front-wheel spin. Torque distribution will vary depending on conditions, from 100:0 (FR: RR) in constant-speed driving to 20:80 on slippery surfaces.
By contrast, the Blazer’s AWD system must be manually activated otherwise the rear axle is locked out. In situations where traction is limited, once activated, the AWD system can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to either front wheel and up to 85% to either rear wheel.
What About Style And Space?
There’s little doubt that the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer RS is quite the looker. The wheels, extra body cladding, hyper-aggressive grille and blacked-out styling elements give the SUV a sinister and sporty road presence. Beyond the RS, the Premier stands out somewhat thanks to some chrome and different wheels however, unless you are willing to spend nearly $50,000, all other versions are quite bland.
The Chevrolet Blazer does, however, look like a typical SUV. The new 2021 Toyota Venza is once more closer to a tall wagon, or a crossover, than a conventional SUV. It certainly trumps boldness for more elegant, very Lexus-like lines. We’re leagues away from saying it’s handsome but we’re certain it’ll grow on us.
As for interior space and volume, data for the Venza is limited. The boot will hold up to 1.027 litres of gear compared to the Blazer’s 864 litres behind the second row. About the rear bench, legroom for adults is snug in the Toyota whereas it’s fairly decent in the Chevrolet.
Which is better equipped?
A base 2021 Toyota Venza will feature the vast majority of the necessary basics required in 2020 – this was not always the case with Toyota. It will include an 8-inch touchscreen, a 4.2-inch colour instrument display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, an 8-way power driver seat, Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) which hosts technologies such as Pre-Collision System Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and more. Details here remain limited for the time being.
Closer in comparison to the Venza’s expected base price will be the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer LT AWD. It includes an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, a 4.2-inch colour instrument display, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, an 8-way power driver seat, front heated seats, remote start and more. On the safety front, the Blazer lags behind even when equipped with an option package, it does without many active elements.
Both can be equipped with larger screens, cooled seats, navigation, and many other features in higher trim models.
How important are these vehicles for their respective brands?
Both of the midsize SUVs land in the middle on their respective brand packs. While the Blazer once could have expected to generate high volume, it hasn’t delivered. In the Venza’s case, it’s quite nearly a niche 2-row SUV given its powertrain, styling, and expected $40k+ starting price.
In Canada, at the very least, both play second fiddle to their compact showroom colleagues. One thing is certain, the Blazer RS’ poster-boy status is meant to draw consumers into the brand in the hopes that they’ll leave with an Equinox or the new Trailblazer. The Venza is more of a novelty, for now.
Our Thoughts On The 2021 Toyota Venza and 2020 Chevrolet Blazer
If we had to select between the two, we’d lean towards the 2021 Toyota Venza if mostly for its projected fuel economy. Understanding that we will never tow more than once a year and if so, the load would fall under 2,000 lbs with certainty. The other 350 trips/year in the Venza would serve only to haul humans and random stuff – it is here that the Toyota’s 5.9L/100km would shine, as well as its larger trunk.
The Chevrolet Blazer has a superior AWD system, better setup for semi-severe off-roading, and its styling, as discussed, can be a source of pride in the right trim. We have driven the Blazer a few times and very much enjoy its on-road behaviour. We suspect that the Venza won’t be as satisfying from the driver’s seat and that could be an important consideration for you.