- Attractive, inoffensive styling
- Versatile tall-wagon body style
- Fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine
- Available all-wheel drive
- Vague, disconnected steering feel
- Road noise
- Uninspired materials and trims
Either as an alternative to a mid-size sedan or a taller crossover SUV, the 2010 Toyota Venza makes a lot of sense; it's just hard to muster much excitement.
The 2010 Toyota Venza doesn't necessary live up to its name—created by merging "venture" and "Monza" (a racetrack)—but it's a perfectly competent family vehicle that combines most of the utility offered by a crossover SUV with a lower fastback roofline. Roomy five-passenger seating and an emphasis on comfort and versatility cast it as a direct rival to the most carlike crossover vehicles while offering a package that's discernibly different at first glance.
Despite the Venza's humble and wide-ranging origins—it's part Camry, part Highlander, and partly original underneath—this fastback ute is a pretty good-looking vehicle overall, particularly from the side view. In Toyota's well-stocked lineup, the 2010 Toyota Venza slots in between the base five-seat RAV4 and the more bloated Highlander seven-seater. The multibar grille is full of chrome, and the snout is probably the least attractive aspect of the Venza, but otherwise, especially from the back, its roofline gives it just enough shapeliness. Inside, the Venza is also a bit curvy but not over the top, with big, clear gauges and an unusual center stack dividing driver and front passenger. With the mahogany-grain trim, the Venza is arguably quite well dressed.
The 2010 Toyota Venza uses powertrain components that are strictly from the Toyota parts bin. The base engine is a 182-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, teamed to a six-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. With the four, the Venza putters anonymously in most situations but feels a bit strained with a full load or on steep grades; it can sound a little coarse, too. The 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 gives the Venza a smoother, stronger character, but fuel economy is the penalty. Four-cylinder Venzas get up to 21 mpg city, 29 highway, but the V-6 with front-wheel drive gets 19/26 mpg.
Overall, the Venza goes down the road with a certain isolation that pleases riders, not drivers. The suspension is quite soft, and the Venza steers and brakes safely, though the electric power steering comes across as artificial and lifeless, with no feel of the road.
Passenger space and versatility are the strongest selling points for the Venza. The tall roofline grants even big drivers easy access to all four outboard sets. When tall drivers are situated up front, there's still plenty of space in back for adults, and the seat further reclines 14 degrees. Of course, it's split and folds (almost flat) easily. Up front there are plenty of cubbies for smaller items, along with robust cup holders and a deep well in the console, but the cargo area in back doesn't come with any standard organizers or flexible packaging other than a tonneau cover. The bigger disappointment is in the Venza's interior trim—it's oddly textured with lines that highlight its vast pieces of plastic, instead of diminishing them. Taller drivers need to rest their knees against the hard-plastic ridge on the side of the center stack—an irritating detail. The Venza's tall doors also feel thin and insubstantial—more like those on a Prius—and resonate with cabin noise. Furthermore, TheCarConnection.com has noticed that four-cylinder models ride a bit better without handling any worse.
With five-star ratings in frontal and side impact tests from the federal government and "good" ratings in all major tests from the IIHS (along with their Top Safety Pick designation for 2009), the Venza's safety package is complete. Seven standard airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes are all on the standard-features list, and visibility isn't the issue that it is in some other crossover vehicles, thanks to the rather high driving position.
Even base versions of the 2010 Toyota Venza 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. Audiophiles will want to upgrade to the JBL system with Bluetooth and 13 speakers, coupled to a touchscreen navigation system and XM with NavTraffic. For 2010, a USB port for iPod connectivity is also standard across the line, along with Bluetooth hands-free functions. Other highlights from the options list include leather upholstery, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power liftgate, a Smart Key system with push-button start, leather trim, a cargo mat, and all sorts of pet-friendly accessories.