- Back seat space
- Fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine
- Smooth, inoffensive styling
- Vague, disconnected steering feel
- Road noise
- Uninspired materials and trims
You won’t find much excitement or flair in the 2011 Toyota Venza, but it makes a lot of sense as an alternative to either a large sedan or a mid-size SUV.
In Toyota's well-stocked lineup, the 2011 Toyota Venza slots in between the base five-seat RAV4 and the more bloated Highlander seven-seater; while the RAV4 and Venza have three rows of seating, the Venza has two rows and seats five.
With a smooth, hatchback-style silhouette that's softer and lower than most crossovers, and subtle, conservative detailing, the 2011 Toyota Venza is neither rugged nor racy looking—a bit at odds with its "venture" and "Monza" naming roots. While it isn't that, it's a perfectly competent family vehicle that combines most of the utility offered by a crossover SUV with a lower fastback roofline.
Performance really isn't the Venza's reason for being, though it performs well enough for most family needs in either of its forms. With powertrain components that are strictly from the Toyota parts bin, shoppers have a choice between a four-cylinder or V-6 engine. The base 182-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, teamed to a six-speed automatic, with either front- or all-wheel drive, 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. In repeat drives, editors have found the Venza's driving experience to be adequate but numb and uninspiring. It drives much more like a minivan than a sport sedan; though you can hustle the Venza along, you won't feel inspired to as the steering feel is quite vague and there's a lot of body roll.
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. Roomy five-passenger seating and an emphasis on comfort and versatility cast it as a direct rival to the most carlike crossover vehicles. The tall roofline allows a rather high, upright driving position and plenty of headroom. And it allows the other major advantage of the Venza's design: those high, but not too-high, seats are superbly easy to slide in and out of—perfect for the elderly, in fact. In back, a reclining seatback and very roomy back seat is fit for adults, while the seats fold nearly flat to provide enough space for smaller pieces of furniture, for instance.
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. Editors have noticed that four-cylinder models ride a bit better without handling any worse, although in either model wind and road noise aren't up to a luxury-car level either.
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. Connectivity was improved last year with the introduction of standard iPod connectivity across the model line, along with Bluetooth hands-free functions. The available, top-of-the-line JBL premium audio system is impressive sounding, and also earns Bluetooth audio streaming.