New & Used Toyota Venza: In Depth
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The Toyota Venza is an unusual piece--it's part crossover, part hatchback, part wagon. The mid-size, five-door hatchback Venza is roomy and functional, while providing a car-like ride and fuel efficiency.
The Venza's rivals include vehicles like the Audi Allroad and Ford Edge, as well as the Subaru Outback and Jeep Cherokee.
The Venza was new for the 2009 model year, a combination of hardware gleaned from the Toyota Camry sedan and Highlander crossover, with its own rear end design. Then and now, the Venza has offered either a 182-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, both with a choice of front or all-wheel drive, either engine hooked up to a six-speed automatic. Overall, the base four feels just fine, except under the steepest grades or hauling a full load. The V-6 is stronger and smoother but isn't as miserly at the pump. Four-cylinder Venzas get as high as an EPA 21 mpg city, 29 highway.
We've driven Venza in several variants and, although it's a practical package in many respects, it's hard to get excited about this vehicle—mainly because the driving experience is as bland, if not more so, than the bread-and-butter Camry sedan on which it's based. The Venza can corner quite well but doesn't inspire you to drive it quickly. Passenger comfort is clearly the priority, and the five-seat Venza delivers this. With a tall roofline, there's plenty of space to sprawl out in front or in back, and seats fold forward to expand cargo space. But there are a few disappointments; the interior is loaded with hard-plastic trim and the sloped back window cuts into cargo space; there's also more road noise in the Venza than most other vehicles with which you'd compare it.
Safety has been a strong point for the Venza; it's earned top five-star and good ratings, comes with all the safety features afforded by other vehicles in its class, and doesn't make the sacrifices in outward visibility that so many other curvaceous crossover vehicles do. Feature content is also quite impressive, with only a single trim offered, getting standard dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, and a tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls. More desirable options include a JBL sound system, backseat DVD entertainment, power liftgate, and Smart Key system. The Venza hasn't had any significant changes since launch, though a USB port with iPod connectivity has been made standard, along with hands-free Bluetooth connectivity.
For 2013, Toyota has given the Venza a mid-cycle refresh, although changes were essentially limited to some reshuffled features and options, and a few new colors, as well as some slight changes to the front-end appearance. A much-improved set of connectivity and infotainment features is really the big news, with upgraded Display Audio sound systems for base LE models, an upgraded nav system, and Toyota's Entune interface offering access to mobile apps.