New & Used Toyota Venza: In Depth
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The Toyota Venza is a combination of crossover, hatchback, and wagon design. The mid-size, five-door hatchback Venza is roomy and functional, while providing a car-like ride and decent fuel efficiency. It is available with all-wheel drive and is most similar to the Honda Crosstour, while Venza rivals also include vehicles like the Audi Allroad, Ford Edge, Subaru Outback, and Jeep Cherokee.
After seven years on the market, the 2015 model year will be the Venza's last. The slack likely will be picked up by the similarly sized and more modern Highlander crossover as well as the slightly smaller RAV4.
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.
The Venza is definitely a practical package, especially compared to the Camry sedan it's based on. It's just not a car to get excited about, much like the Camry sedan again. It handles well enough, but it doesn't ask you to push it either. The main advantages of the Venza over a Camry are its available all-wheel drive and the additional space afforded by the shape. Other than that, the two are pretty similar.
The five-seat Venza prioritizes passenger comfort, with a high H-point that makes it easier for older folks to get in and out. The roofline is also raised up for increased headroom and cargo-hauling abilities, and the rear seats fold to expand the cargo bay. But the details are somewhat disappointing; there is hard plastic in many places, and the shape of the hatch cuts into what could be a larger cargo stow. The Venza can also let in more road noise than most of its competition.
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.
Toyota gave the Venza a mid-cycle refresh for 2013. Changes were essentially limited to some reshuffled features and options, the addition of a few new colors, and some slight changes to the front-end appearance. A much-improved set of connectivity and infotainment features was really the big news, with upgraded Display Audio sound systems for base LE models, an upgraded navigation system, and Toyota's Entune interface offering access to mobile apps through a tethered smartphone connection.
Toyota made further enhancements to the Venza's standard equipment for 2015. All models now include a rearview camera, and the Entune multimedia systems have been upgraded; three levels are available, with all now including features like HD Radio and pause and replay of AM and FM radio. The V-6 Venza now comes standard with the towing package. (When equipped, the Venza can pull as much as 3,500 pounds.) This will be the Venza's last year on sale.