Part wagon, part utility vehicle, the Toyota Venza embodies what a major part of the SUV market has evolved into--and it wears this transformation on its sleeve.
The Venza picks up just a bit, from the outside, on the butch stance of a few select older models like the AMC Eagle, but for the most part it's something completely modern and handsome, splitting the difference between tall wagons and hatchbacks.
Toyota gives the Venza a mid-cycle refresh of sorts for 2013, but it's mainly one of reshuffled features and options. You'd be challenged to pick up on the design differences between the 2012 and 2013 Venza models—perhaps even at the dealership. Styling changes of the 2013 Venza are limited to some detail changes in front—new grille, new taillight design—and a new 19-inch wheel design. There are also three new colors for the Venza on the outside—Attitude Black, Cypress Pearl, and Cosmic Gray Mica—as well as one new interior shade.
That's fine, as we've warmed up to the Venza's design and styling since its 2009 introduction. 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 sitting lower to the eye than some taller utes. The least desirable angle of the Venza is from the front, where the somewhat gawky grille flashes a toothy look and hasn't grown any more comely. From the outside, in fact, the Subaru Outback might be its closest rival--that is, if you don't plan to go off the pavement.There's a different, soft and carlike look inside; it's curvy but not over the top, with an unusual center stack dividing driver and front passenger, paired with big, clear gauges. Woodgrain trim and just the right amount of brightwork make the Venza undeniably well-dressed--conservative, but not boring, and a better-dressed version, from the front seats of what you get in minivans. From a design standpoint, the only complaint we've had after letting the design sink in is that the wide center stack takes up a lot of space in front.