2009 Toyota Venza Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 16, 2008

The 2009 Toyota Venza adds another flavor to the crossover melting pot, but it's a mild one.

TheCarConnection.com's car experts researched Web reviews of the 2009 Toyota Venza to compile this full review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2009 Toyota Venza in order to sort through the opinions they found on the Web, to find a consensus among online car-review Web sites, and to help you get to the truth where reviewers had differing opinions.

According to Toyota, the 2009 Toyota Venza is an exception to the crossover vehicle rules. The automaker says the Venza—a name that combines "venture" and "Monza," an Italian racetrack—has the carlike looks and SUV flexibility to make it a new type of vehicle. In reality, the Venza's a fairly conventional crossover vehicle with five-passenger seating and a direct competitor to the likes of the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano.

In the Toyota crossover lineup, the Venza slots between the big, bloated Highlander seven-seater and the sportier five-seat RAV4. All of them are based on various other Toyotas; the Venza is part Camry, part Highlander, and partly its own creation. Despite its frankenbirth, the Venza looks tightly integrated and pretty interesting from some angles, particularly the side view. It's a boxy crossover, yes—but the multibar grille and fast silhouette make it far more attractive than the plainer Ford Edge and less controversial than the Nissan Murano. The Venza's interior takes a middle path as well, with an unconventionally shaped center stack of controls dividing driver and front passenger. Big, clear gauges and optional mahogany-grained trim dress it up better than its competition.

The Toyota parts bin also donates most of the Venza's running gear. Engines include a 182-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder, teamed to a six-speed automatic and an optional all-wheel-drive system that splits power between front and rear wheels. This base Venza strains a bit to provide uphill and passing performance, but putters anonymously in most other conditions, though with a bit more engine noise than expected. The 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is substantially smoother and more powerful, but comes with its own slight penalty: Fuel economy in front-drive V-6 Venzas is 19/26 mpg, compared to the 21/29 mpg delivered by the four-cylinder version.

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Dynamically, the 2009 Venza is tuned to please riders, not drivers. Its wheelbase and curb weight damp ride motions well, and the Venza has ample braking. The electric power steering feels like something out of the hybrid Prius, though: artificial and lifeless. The bigger disappointment is the Venza's interior trim; it's oddly textured with lines that highlight its vast pieces of plastic, instead of diminishing them. The Venza's tall doors also feel thin and insubstantial—more like those on a Prius—and resonate with cabin noise.

The Venza's reason for being is interior room. The tall roofline even grants big drivers easy access to all four outboard sets. The Venza has plenty of knee room in front, as well as in the second row when adults are seated up front. The rear set also reclines 14 degrees, making a long road trip increasingly accommodating. The cargo area in back doesn't come with any standard organizers or flexible packaging other than a tonneau cover, but the rear seats—which don't fold entirely flat—do have levers that make folding them forward a breeze. Storage for cell phones is built into the center stack and the console, which itself has sliding cup holders and a deep well for all sorts of items.

The Venza's safety package is complete and rated highly, with top 'Good' ratings in all categories from the IIHS and five star ratings from the federal government in frontal and side tests. The Venza has seven standard airbags, traction and stability control, and anti-lock brakes. Visibility ahead isn't an issue, thanks to a tall driving position, but to the rear, the Venza's thick pillars can obstruct the corner views.

The Venza leaves few features on the cutting room floor. Base versions include air conditioning, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, and a CD changer with satellite-radio prewiring and MP3 playback. V-6 Venzas have standard 20-inch wheels, a first among Toyota passenger cars. Options in audio and entertainment systems include a JBL system with Bluetooth and 13 speakers, as well as a JBL system coupled to a touchscreen navigation system and XM with NavTraffic. Other options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and an auxiliary audio jack, a power liftgate, a Smart Key system with push-button start, leather trim, a cargo mat, and all sorts of pet-friendly accessories. Left off the menu: a USB connection for MP3 players like Apple's iPod.

7

2009 Toyota Venza

Styling

Don't let Toyota fool you—the 2009 Toyota Venza is, in fact, a crossover, and not a bad-looking one at that.

To hear Toyota tell it, the 2009 Toyota Venza is the most revolutionary thing to happen to the auto industry since the assembly line. The reality, however, is that the new Venza Toyota is just another in the long list of crossover vehicles to hit the market lately.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that Toyota has gone to great lengths to create a new vehicle class with the 2009 Toyota Venza. Cars.com reports that "the Toyota folks aren't calling the Venza a crossover, but they aren't sure it's a car, either," and "they're not even dubbing it a wagon or a hatchback—all they want to make clear is that the Venza is not an SUV." For those looking for a traditional title for the 2009 Toyota Venza, it is essentially Toyota's latest crossover. There's not much variety in the model lineup either, according to Cars.com, where reviewers explain, "Toyota went simple with the Venza in terms of trim levels. There are only four," which consist simply of the various combinations of the two available engines and two- or four-wheel-drive options. Most reviewers appreciate the new exterior styling of the Venza Toyota, and Car and Driver decides that "whatever it is, it looks good in the metal." The Detroit News loves the "clean and unassuming looks," while MyRide.com praises the "attractive styling."

The interior of the Venza Toyota also wins praise from many reviewers. ConsumerGuide points out the "large gauges are easy to read," and "with or without navigation, Venza has a simple, handy, and logical control system." Car and Driver also notes that "aesthetically, the Venza interior features many nice touches," but at the same time they find that "the dual-zone HVAC controls seem as if they were crammed into the design at the last minute." Back on the positive side of things, Cars.com reports that the trip computer, which contains a variety of data and controls, "sits squarely atop the dash," which is "the perfect place for such a screen in terms of keeping the driver's eyes trained on the road, and it's unbelievably crisp and clear."

7

2009 Toyota Venza

Performance

If you plan to take on hills or frequent full loads, then opt for the V-6 on the 2009 Toyota Venza.

The 2009 Toyota Venza is a capable errand runner, especially with the available V-6 engine, but unlike some crossovers it doesn't make much of an effort in the off-road category.

Motor Trend reviewers state that the Venza Toyota is available with "a choice of two engines: a new 2.7-liter, 182-horse inline-four and a 3.5-liter, 268-horse V-6, seen in the Camry, Highlander, and RAV4." Both engines score respectably well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but the V-6 is, unsurprisingly, the clear favorite. MyRide.com says that, "with the four-cylinder, power is adequate," though "the engine was less refined than we would have liked, and at times annoyingly buzzy." ConsumerGuide adds that "with front-wheel drive, the four-cylinder has just adequate power," and the 2009 Toyota Venza "strains going up hills, and highway passing and merging require lots of room." These problems are easily solved by moving up to the V-6 version of the 2009 Toyota Venza, which ConsumerGuide contends "provides plenty of power for most any need." Cars.com agrees, noting that "the V-6 [Venza Toyota] was obviously much more enjoyable and fun to drive," and "it had plenty of power in most situations." For those wondering about towing their boat with the Venza Toyota, Automobile Magazine remarks that the 2009 Toyota Venza's "maximum towing capacity is 3500 pounds, which is strong for such a vehicle."

Regardless of which engine you select for your Venza Toyota, you will be guaranteed that it "teams with a six-speed automatic transmission," according to ConsumerGuide. The transmission fares well with reviewers; ConsumerGuide claims that, "though smooth with both engines, the transmission is far busier with the four-cylinder than the V-6," and Cars.com also notes that "the same six-speed automatic is much smoother" with the 2009 Toyota Venza's V-6. The Detroit News is impressed even with the four-cylinder/six-speed combination, reporting that the transmission was "never searching through the gears as it adjusted to the changing terrain."

One of the performance downsides of the Venza Toyota is that it doesn't offer phenomenal fuel economy, though the V-6 doesn't lag far behind the four-cylinder. According to the EPA, the 2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model should return 21 mpg city, 29 highway. For the Venza Toyota V-6 AWD, drivers can expect 18 mpg city, 25 highway.

When it comes to ride and handling, the 2009 Toyota Venza earns mixed reviews. The Detroit News finds that the steering feels "slightly disconnected to the road" and likens it to "steering an arcade game," an  opinion many reviewers share. The ride itself is pleasant enough, though, and MyRide.com says the 2009 Toyota Venza "does a nice job minimizing body roll," and "while larger wheels often make for a harsher ride, we weren't particularly bothered and thought Toyota did a nice job damping defects in the road." Stopping is a breeze as well, according to ConsumerGuide, which notes "the brakes have excellent pedal feel."

7

2009 Toyota Venza

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota Venza is comfortable and spacious but doesn’t meet the highest standards inside.

This is usually a standout category for most Toyota products, but the all-new 2009 Toyota Venza has some teething problems that crop up in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

According to Automobile Magazine, the Venza Toyota "has seating for only five passengers," but at least those five passengers will find themselves traveling in comfort. Up front, ConsumerGuide says there is "ample headroom and legroom," although "slightly longer seat bottoms would improve long-distance comfort, but the seats are supportive overall." Car and Driver adds that in the Venza Toyota the "sit-in height is exactly the same as that of the Camry...and after slipping into and out of the Venza several times, we surmise that grandparents and grandchildren alike should find ingress and egress pretty easy." Cars.com has good news for those in the backseats, pointing out "there's also an extreme amount of legroom in the second row," and the second row seems "roomier than even the specs suggest when compared to both two-row crossovers...and three-row crossovers."

The 2009 Toyota Venza also offers cargo room that is near the top of its class. Cars.com is pleased to find that the Venza Toyota "has more cargo room behind the second row than both the Murano and Ford Edge SUV," while also claiming "Toyota's 34.4-cubic-foot rating is conservative." Meanwhile, the Detroit News reports "the center console is massive and provides lots of storage" and adds that "the optional powerlift gate is a must have item." ConsumerGuide issues perhaps the most telling review, rating the Venza Toyota a 9 out of 10 for cargo room and reporting that, "on paper, Venza has slightly less total cargo volume than many wagons and SUVs," but "in practice, however, it holds a good amount of gear."

Despite its obvious virtues in terms of comfort and cargo space, the 2009 Toyota Venza loses points with some reviewers for its perceived lack of quality. ConsumerGuide notes that "cabin materials...are pleasant, though nothing special," while also mentioning that "the carbon fiber [interior trim] had tacky brown hue" on their four-cylinder tester. Cars.com is disappointed to find "the bulky dashboard plastic stretches far forward and responds with a hollow sound when knocked upon," and furthermore, "the panels on the doors do the same." The interior of the V-6 Venza Toyota is an improvement, though, and Motor Trend points out such upgrades as "leather-covered seats, semi-gloss wood on the center stack and transmission shifter, plus brushed-metal-like accents along the dash."

Most Toyota vehicles are remarkably quiet, but several reviewers think the 2009 Toyota Venza isn't nearly so well insulated. ConsumerGuide remarks that noise levels are "somewhat disappointing overall" inside the Venza Toyota, and "both models suffer excess wind noise from around the windshield and exterior mirrors." Cars.com affirms that opinion, claiming "wind noise overall was surprisingly loud" during their tests and adding that "the huge side mirrors didn't help in this department."

9

2009 Toyota Venza

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Venza is a very safe vehicle.

Cars.com reviewers observe that the standard safety features on the Venza Toyota include "stability control, active front head restraints, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front passengers, [and] side curtain airbags for both rows of seats." The Detroit News is confident enough to give the 2009 Toyota Venza an "excellent" rating in the safety category, citing the Venza Toyota's "electronic stability control, full complement of air bags and other safety features." Cars.com adds that a "backup camera" is available "as part of a $570 security package," which further enhances safety by improving driver visibility.

Visibility on the Venza Toyota doesn't need a whole lot of improving, at least not according to most reviewers. ConsumerGuide reveals that "fore and aft visibility are good, though the view to the rear corners is tricky because of very thick roof pillars." Other reviewers are similarly quick to heap praise on the driver visibility from within the 2009 Toyota Venza.

9

2009 Toyota Venza

Features

The 2009 Toyota Venza is suitably high-tech, with the exception of its lack of USB connectivity.

The 2009 Toyota Venza carries a large base price, especially for a four-cylinder crossover, but even the base Venza Toyota comes loaded to the gills with features.

Because the Venza Toyota lineup doesn't offer any trim level variations, all 2009 Toyota Venzas come with the same list of standard features. Cars.com reviewers note that the 2009 Toyota Venza offers "cruise control, a six-CD changer, 19- or 20-inch wheels, power windows...fog lamps, dual-zone climate control," and "a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with stereo controls." One notably absent feature on the Venza Toyota is a USB port; the Detroit News says that "while the optional JBL stereo system allows for a Bluetooth connection for streaming music, the system does not have a USB connection for a musical device, which would have eliminated a need to manage all of those wires." Cars.com adds that "because Toyota's cheapest Scion model comes with a standard USB plug, an all-new car starting at $26,000 should have one."

In addition to its long list of standard features, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Venza Toyota also offers some appealing options. Car and Driver reports that "of the two optional 13-speaker JBL sound systems, the top-shelf version (bundled with the navigation package) is Bluetooth-equipped, allowing for music streaming from compatible devices." Cars.com adds that "heated seats and mirrors" and "a power liftgate" are both available as part of options packages, as is "the $1,050 panoramic sunroof," though that feature "can't be combined with a rear DVD entertainment system, which goes for $1,680." The Detroit News also loves that the new 2009 Toyota Venza offers "lots of appealing features," most notably "Bluetooth connections for stereo and phone" when the proper options box is checked. Perhaps more appealing than the options themselves, though, is how they are offered. According to the Detroit News, "all of the options are served up on an a la carte menu of smart choices and well-bundled features," which "lets you buy the back-up camera without soaking you for the navigation system" or "get the panoramic sunroof and nothing else if that's the way you roll."

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November 26, 2015
2009 Toyota Venza 4-Door Wagon I4 FWD (SE)

More than satisfied with quality and reliability

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Very well built and reliable car. Could be. A little quieter with road noise, old time undercoat would help deaden road noise
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