The Car Connection Toyota Venza Overview
The Toyota Venza is a hybrid compact crossover utility vehicle that's based on the RAV4 but with a smoother, softer approach than its boxier counterpart.
With the Venza, Toyota revived an older name that once applied to a station wagon. The new Venza is less car-like and more upright, although its mission is virtually identical: a softer, fuel-efficient family vehicle compared to tall riding crossovers. It earns a TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
MORE: Read our 2021 Toyota Venza review
The new Toyota Venza
Unveiled as a hybrid-only, all-wheel drive crossover that's a little larger and a little more elegant than the RAV4, the Toyota Venza revived an old name for the automaker.
The softer lines of the Venza begin with a blanked grille that follows the lead of Toyota's other hybrids. The hood pinches in toward the badge where LED headlights flank a narrow opening above wide strakes near the wheels. The lower front bumper opens up toward the corners and toward the wheels, giving the Venza a wider stance.
The body sides are softer than the RAV4, with a small nod toward the larger Highlander and even perhaps the Mirai sedan.
Inside, the Venza's elegant and calmer interior compared to the RAV4 steers it toward shoppers looking for a compact size, but without the macho SUV looks of the RAV4. The soft-touch materials impart a luxury-car feel similar to the Toyota Avalon.
The softer look is matched by softer suspension tuning. The Venza offers a smooth ride and doesn't place a premium on handling.
For propulsion, the Venza relies exclusively on a 2.5-liter inline-4 paired to electric motors and a hybrid battery that make 219 horsepower combined. All-wheel drive is standard on all models, and the Venza returns 39 mpg combined according to the EPA.
The Venza is offered in LE, XLE, and Limited trims, and the base model is well equipped with such features as an 8.0-inch center touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wireless phone charging, satellite radio, four USB ports, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, a hands-free liftgate, LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED taillights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. At the top of the lineup, the Limited gets memory for the driver’s seat, heated front seats, a digital rearview mirror, a surround-view camera system, synthetic leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a nine-speaker JBL audio system.
Safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control are standard. Most Venzas will get an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, although a 12.3-inch version is available on top trims.
Toyota Venza history
The Venza was new for the 2009 model year, a combination of hardware gleaned from the Toyota Camry sedan and Highlander crossover. The Venza has offered either a 182-hp, 2.7-liter inline-4 or a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, both with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive and hooked up to a 6-speed automatic. Overall, the base four feels just fine, except under the steepest grades or hauling a full load. The V-6 is stronger and smoother but isn't as miserly at the pump. Four-cylinder Venzas were rated as high as 25 mpg combined by the EPA.
The Venza was practical, especially compared to the Camry sedan it's based on. The Venza handles well enough, but it doesn't ask you to push it either. The main advantages of the Venza over a Camry are its available all-wheel drive and the additional space afforded by the shape. Other than that, the two are pretty similar.
The five-seat Venza prioritized passenger comfort, with a high entry and exit that made it easier for older folks. The roofline is also raised for increased head room and cargo hauling, and the rear seats folded to expand the cargo bay.
Toyota refreshed the Venza for 2013. Changes were limited to some reshuffled features and options, the addition of a few new colors, and some slight changes to the front-end appearance. A much-improved set of connectivity and infotainment features was the big news, with upgraded Display Audio sound systems for base LE models, an upgraded navigation system, and Toyota's Entune interface offering access to mobile apps through a tethered smartphone connection.
Toyota made further enhancements to the Venza's standard equipment for 2015. All models now include a rearview camera, and the Entune multimedia systems have been upgraded; three levels are available, with all now including features like HD Radio and pause and replay of AM and FM radio. The V-6 Venza now comes standard with the towing package. (This equipment allows the Venza to pull as much as 3,500 pounds.)