2010 Toyota Venza Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 14, 2009

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.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the Toyota Venza and reports here on the behind-the-wheel experience along with an up-close look at this vehicle's spacious interior. TheCarConnection.com has also researched a wide range of Web reviews pertaining to the 2010 Toyota Venza to compile a full review and help you make the best possible purchase decision.

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.

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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.

7

2010 Toyota Venza

Styling

The 2010 Toyota Venza is no breakthrough, but it's a good-looking crossover wagon inside and out.

According to Toyota, the Venza is a design breakthrough and something completely new, but the reality is that the Venza is just another entry in the crowded crossover field. This one happens to be a little lower and more carlike than the rest.

That said, reviewers tend to emphasize that Toyota has created something that's a little different, design-wise. Cars.com reports that "the Toyota folks aren't calling the Venza a crossover, but they aren't sure it's a car, either," and "they're not even dubbing it a wagon or a hatchback—all they want to make clear is that the Venza is not an SUV." Most reviewers appreciate the new exterior styling of the Venza overall, with Car and Driver deciding that "whatever it is, it looks good in the metal." The Detroit News loves the "clean and unassuming looks," while MyRide.com praises the "attractive styling."

With even base four-cylinder models getting large 19-inch wheels, there's not a lot of variance in appearance through the lineup and just a couple of models. Cars.com explains, "Toyota went simple with the Venza in terms of trim levels. There are only four," which consist of the various combinations of the two available engines and two- or four-wheel-drive options.

The interior design of the 2010 Toyota Venza isn't daring, but with its swoopy center stack, it's certainly not boring. Most reviewers stick to practical observations here. ConsumerGuide points out that the "large gauges are easy to read," and "with or without navigation, Venza has a simple, handy, and logical control system." Car and Driver also notes that "aesthetically, the Venza interior features many nice touches," but at the same time they find that "the dual-zone HVAC controls seem as if they were crammed into the design at the last minute." Back on the positive side, Cars.com observes that the trip computer, which contains a variety of data and controls, "sits squarely atop the dash," which is "the perfect place for such a screen in terms of keeping the driver's eyes trained on the road, and it's unbelievably crisp and clear."

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7

2010 Toyota Venza

Performance

Don’t expect excitement in the Venza driving experience; the four-cylinder engine is the choice for frugal drivers, but those who drive with a full load might want the V-6.

Off-roading isn't part of the 2010 Toyota Venza vocabulary. Simply put, the Venza is configured for a smooth ride and reasonably responsive performance on the road, with four-cylinder and V-6 engines. But sprightly it is not.

Motor Trend clarifies that the Venza is offered with "a choice of two engines: a new 2.7-liter, 182-horse inline-four and a 3.5-liter, 268-horse V-6, seen in the Camry, Highlander, and RAV4." Both engines score respectably well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but the V-6 is, unsurprisingly, the clear favorite. MyRide.com says that, "with the four-cylinder, power is adequate," though "the engine was less refined than we would have liked, and at times annoyingly buzzy."

ConsumerGuide says that "with front-wheel drive, the four-cylinder has just adequate power," and the 2010 Toyota Venza "strains going up hills, and highway passing and merging require lots of room." In the V-6 version, ConsumerGuide reports "plenty of power for most any need." Cars.com agrees, noting that "the V-6 [Venza Toyota] was obviously much more enjoyable and fun to drive," and "it had plenty of power in most situations." Automobile Magazine states that the Venza's "maximum towing capacity is 3500 pounds, which is strong for such a vehicle."

Both engines in the 2010 Venza, whether with front- or all-wheel drive, team with a six-speed automatic transmission that fares well with reviewers. Cars.com notes that "the same six-speed automatic is much smoother" with the V-6, while ConsumerGuide clarifies that, "though smooth with both engines, the transmission is far busier with the four-cylinder than the V-6." The Detroit News, however, is impressed even with the four-cylinder/six-speed combination, asserting that the transmission was "never searching through the gears as it adjusted to the changing terrain."

Crossover vehicles typically offer fuel economy that's better than traditional SUVs but not as good as sedans, and the Venza is no exception. The V-6 doesn't lag far behind the four-cylinder, but the 2010 Toyota Venza four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model is tops at 21 mpg city, 29 highway. For the Venza Toyota V-6 AWD, drivers can expect 18 mpg city, 25 highway.

Most reviewers report that the Toyota Venza handles safely but without much excitement. The Detroit News finds that the steering feels "slightly disconnected to the road" and likens it to "steering an arcade game," a sentiment shared by many reviewers. The ride itself is pleasant enough, though, and MyRide.com says that the 2010 Toyota Venza "does a nice job minimizing body roll," and "while larger wheels often make for a harsher ride, we weren't particularly bothered and thought Toyota did a nice job damping defects in the road." ConsumerGuide is one of few sources to report on braking; they note that "the brakes have excellent pedal feel."

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7

2010 Toyota Venza

Comfort & Quality

A comfortable configuration for passengers and surprisingly ample cargo space in the 2010 Toyota Venza make it very useful, but the cabin is lacking in refinement.  

The 2010 Toyota Venza has a spacious, comfortable interior, along with a reasonably comfortable ride, though its slightly disappointing materials and trims don't keep with the upscale, luxury-oriented design statement.

While many crossover vehicles come with a small third-row seat to expand capacity to seven passengers, Automobile Magazine notes that the Venza "has seating for only five passengers," though those passengers will be comfortable. Up front, ConsumerGuide gauges "ample headroom and legroom," although "slightly longer seat bottoms would improve long-distance comfort, but the seats are supportive overall." The Toyota Venza's "sit-in height is exactly the same as that of the Camry...and after slipping into and out of the Venza several times, we surmise that grandparents and grandchildren alike should find ingress and egress pretty easy," reports Car and Driver. For those in the backseats, Cars.com remarks that "there's also an extreme amount of legroom in the second row," and they add that second row seems "roomier than even the specs suggest when compared to both two-row crossovers...and three-row crossovers."

The 2010 Venza can fit five adults comfortably while still having plenty of cargo space for its class. Cars.com is pleased to find that the Venza Toyota "has more cargo room behind the second row than both the Murano and Ford Edge SUV," while also claiming that "Toyota's 34.4-cubic-foot rating is conservative." The Detroit News reports that "the optional powerlift gate is a must have item," but up front "the center console is massive and provides lots of storage." ConsumerGuide offers perhaps the most telling review, rating the Venza Toyota a 9 out of 10 for cargo room and remarking that, "on paper, Venza has slightly less total cargo volume than many wagons and SUVs," but "in practice, however, it holds a good amount of gear."

Despite its obvious virtues in terms of comfort and cargo space, the 2009 Toyota Venza loses points with some reviewers for its perceived lack of quality. Cars.com is disappointed to find that "the bulky dashboard plastic stretches far forward and responds with a hollow sound when knocked upon," and furthermore, "the panels on the doors do the same." ConsumerGuide notes that "cabin materials...are pleasant, though nothing special," while also observing that "the carbon fiber [interior trim] had tacky brown hue" on their four-cylinder tester. The interior of the V-6 Venza Toyota is an improvement, though. Motor Trend points out such upgrades as "leather-covered seats, semi-gloss wood on the center stack and transmission shifter, plus brushed-metal-like accents along the dash."

Noise insulation is also an apparent downside to the 2010 Venza. Cars.com claims that "wind noise overall was surprisingly loud" during their tests, and "the huge side mirrors didn't help in this department." ConsumerGuide confirms that noise levels are "somewhat disappointing overall" inside the Venza Toyota, and "both models suffer excess wind noise from around the windshield and exterior mirrors."

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9

2010 Toyota Venza

Safety

The 2010 Toyota Venza is a very safe vehicle with a roster of protective features, and the crash-test results prove it.

The Toyota Venza garners only the best ratings in both sets of U.S. crash tests, and the IIHS even rates it a 2009 Top Safety Pick. With regard to safety features, it covers all the bases there, too. The Detroit News is confident enough to give the 2009 Toyota Venza an "excellent" rating in the safety category, citing the Venza Toyota's "electronic stability control, full complement of air bags and other safety features." Cars.com reviewers report that the standard safety features on the Venza Toyota include "stability control, active front head restraints, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front passengers, [and] side curtain airbags for both rows of seats."

Cars.com adds that a "backup camera" is available "as part of a $570 security package," which further enhances safety by improving driver visibility. But visibility on the Venza Toyota doesn't need a whole lot of improving, at least according to most reviewers. ConsumerGuide contends that "fore and aft visibility are good, though the view to the rear corners is tricky because of very thick roof pillars."

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9

2010 Toyota Venza

Features

With the addition of a USB input on all models for 2010, the Toyota Versa is packed with desirable features.

The 2010 Toyota Venza doesn't come in a wide range of trims, unlike Toyota's other vehicles, but the base Venza is loaded with features.

Cars.com reviewers note that the 2009 Toyota Venza offers "cruise control, a six-CD changer, 19- or 20-inch wheels, power windows...fog lamps, dual-zone climate control," and "a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with stereo controls."

In addition to its long list of standard features, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Venza Toyota offers some appealing options. Car and Driver reports that "of the two optional 13-speaker JBL sound systems, the top-shelf version (bundled with the navigation package) is Bluetooth-equipped, allowing for music streaming from compatible devices." For 2010, all Venza models get a USB interface good for interfacing with an iPod or other MP3 player, plus Bluetooth hands-free calling functions.

According to the Detroit News, "all of the options are served up on an a la carte menu of smart choices and well-bundled features," which "lets you buy the back-up camera without soaking you for the navigation system" or "get the panoramic sunroof and nothing else if that's the way you roll." Cars.com adds that "heated seats and mirrors" and "a power liftgate" are both available as part of options packages, as is "the $1,050 panoramic sunroof," though that feature "can't be combined with a rear DVD entertainment system, which goes for $1,680." The Detroit News also loves that the new Toyota Venza offers "lots of appealing features," most notably "Bluetooth connections for stereo and phone."

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April 13, 2015
For 2010 Toyota Venza

This can't be a Toyota.

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It's a great all-around, dependable vehicle, but the interior fit-and-finish is HORRIBLE! There are no two pieces that fit together evenly and/or consistently. I can put quarters in many of the gaps that the... + More »
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