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2012 Toyota Venza Styling

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Some crossovers want to recreate the heyday of the SUV market--Explorer and Pilot, we're looking at you. The Toyota Venza either has its sights set on something even more in the distant past (AMC Eagle?) or on something completely modern and handsome, something that splits the difference between tall wagons and hatchbacks.

We've even grown more fond of the Venza's styling since we first saw it back in 2009, and that's a rare feat for Toyota. It's essentially a parts-bin creation, with body sections from the Camry and Highlander, but the Venza's knitted together particularly well, and its roofline and profile sit lower to the eye than some taller utes. The least appealing aspect is the Venza from head-on, where the gawky grille flashes lots of toothy bars and veers a little too close to the latest Ford front ends. Otherwise, especially from the back, its roofline gives it just enough shapeliness.

The handsome Venza doesn't break strongly from Toyota's past, but we find ourselves liking its styling more and more.

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 interior design isn't daring, but with its swoopy center stack, it's certainly not boring—consider is a curvier, more luxurious, and slightly laid-back version of the interface you get in minivans. The only thing we don't like about the design is that the center stack takes up a lot of space in front, and the driver's knee has to rest along hard plastic. Take a look up close and some of the materials carry interesting textures; but most of these are pleasing in appearance only.

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