2013 Toyota Venza Review

Consumer Reviews
2 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 29, 2013

The Toyota Venza gets substantial improvements in entertainment and connectivity for 2013; otherwise it remains a comfortable, practical, and somewhat stylish pick for those who don't need a rugged SUV.

The 2013 Toyota Venza is one of those category-defying vehicles that suits more drivers than might be aware of it. Technically it's a wagon; it looks sort of like a crossover vehicle, and shares running gear with some of Toyota's family utes. At its core, the Venza's really a grown-up, grown-out hatchback with some extra ride height, and without the faux-rugged looks that turn us off so many SUV wannabees.

Unlike Toyota's three-row 4Runner, or even the big Highlander, the Venza makes absolutely no claim to the off-road trail. And while you can get third-row seating in both of those, the Venza only has two rows of (albeit very comfortable seating). It's more a Camry wagon, at a functional level. What that means is impressive space for five adults and a good amount of cargo space—as well as a near-ideal seating height that makes getting in and out especially easy. The down side, as we've noted in past model years, is that there's a bit too much hard plastic in contact with driver and passenger knees than you might expect in a vehicle that can cost well over $30,000.

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.

What's under the hood is essentially unchanged. There are four-cylinder and V-6 models, and both are offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base engine makes 182 horsepower from 2.4 liters, while the V-6 makes 268 hp. The mileage difference isn't all that great between the two, with four-cylinder Venzas rating up to an EPA 21 mpg city, 27 highway (or as low as 18/25 for the V-6 AWD). Both engines get the same available all-wheel drive system, configured for on-road tractability, and on V-6 models there's an available Towing Prep Package (to tow up to 3,500 pounds).

Review continues below

In drives of Venza models from previous model years, we've found these wagons to drive a bit more like a minivan than a sportier wagon or an SUV. You sit higher up, but in terms of ride and handling, the Venza is more carlike than most other alternatives. With soft suspension tuning and rather numb steering, it's by no means exciting to drive—and the huge 20-inch wheels add ride harshness with no handling benefit. Four-cylinder models are perfectly adequate but uninspiring, while V-6 models have a stronger, smoother character that makes it feel more like the Lexus RX 350. Road noise is an issue on coarser surfaces, with the four-cylinder more than the six.

A much-improved set of connectivity and infotainment features is really the big news for 2013. The Venza is offered in four-cylinder or V-6 form, in base LE, mid-range XLE, and top-lux Limited trims—again with the Limited model V-6-only. But each level adds some other new features for 2013. LE models get new Display Audio systems (comparable to those that made their debut in the 2013 Camry), plus a blind-spot side mirrors, puddle lamps, and outer turn signals. Venza XLE models get a memory power driver's seat, reverse-tilt outside mirrors, and navigation—in addition to Entune multi-media features. And at the top of the line, all Limited models now get LED daytime running lights plus premium 13-speaker JBL sound and an upgraded navigation system.

7

2013 Toyota Venza

Styling

The 2013 Toyota Venza is smooth and sleek, but there's nothing daring, brash, or rugged about it.

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.

Review continues below
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.
7

2013 Toyota Venza

Performance

The Venza drives like a somewhat taller Camry; it's a very competent performer, but the driving experience is seldom exciting

The 2013 Toyota Venza is by no means a performance vehicle, so if that's what you're seeking, you should probably stop reading here and move on to something more exciting.

But for everyone else--especially empty -nesters looking for comfort and competent performance, or smaller families--the Venza is a competent performer in nearly every way. In fact, compared to some crossover utility vehicles, it's a step up in this area. And perhaps the best way to describe the way in which the Venza accelerates and handles is that it feels much like a somewhat taller, heavier Camry wagon.

What's under the hood is essentially unchanged, despite the slight refresh that the Venza gets for 2013. There are four-cylinder and V-6 models, and both are offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base engine makes 182 horsepower from 2.4 liters, while the V-6 makes 268 hp. The mileage difference isn't all that great between the two, with four-cylinder Venzas rating up to an EPA 21 mpg city, 27 highway (or as low as 18/25 for the V-6 AWD). Both engines get the same available all-wheel drive system, configured for on-road tractability, and on V-6 models there's an available Towing Prep Package (to tow up to 3,500 pounds).

In drives of Venza models from previous model years, we've found these wagons to drive a bit more like a minivan than a sportier wagon or an SUV. You sit higher up, but in terms of ride and handling, the Venza is more carlike than most other alternatives. With soft suspension tuning and rather numb steering, it's by no means exciting to drive—and the huge 20-inch wheels add ride harshness with no handling benefit. Four-cylinder models are perfectly adequate but uninspiring, while V-6 models have a stronger, smoother character that makes it feel more like the Lexus RX 350.

And for those wondering about off-roading performance, you're also looking in the wrong place. While some measure of rugged trail ability might be a part of other crossovers with a similar profile, it's not here. And as for all-wheel drive, we'd recommend it in the Venza for those who need winter traction, but it's configured for on-the-road performance only.

Review continues below
8

2013 Toyota Venza

Comfort & Quality

There's impressive passenger and cargo space in the 2013 Venza, although it's not quite luxury-car refined.

Shaped like the related Lexus RX 350, the Toyota Venza has what seems to be a lower roofline and a shorter overall length than some crossovers, but it's very roomy inside, with tremendous space for five adults and a good amount of cargo.

The 2013 Toyota Venza has impressive space for five adults plus a good amount of cargo space--as well as a near-ideal seating height that makes getting in and out especially easy. Its seating is also comfortable for adults in front and in back--although we don't think the Venza is as versatile for cargo..

In front as well as in back, there's plenty of head and leg room, and the low step in height as well as the somewhat low cargo floor all make access to infants or groceries quite easy. The back bench also reclines for good long-distance comfort. There's no third-row seat offered with the Venza--that's the Highlander's job--but the second-row seats can truly accommodate three adults.

The back seat also folds down to improve cargo space, which doesn't usually need the help, frankly. The Venza also has some well-conceived storage bins and cubbies for smaller items, and its cup holders are deep and useful. However, the cargo area doesn't come with any organizers, so carving up the space will be up to you.

The down side, as we've noted in past model years--and we don't see that this changes for 2013--is that there's a bit too much hard plastic in contact with driver and passenger knees than you might expect in a vehicle that can cost well over $30,000; we're not yet certain how much those have changed in the 2013. Road noise is also an issue on coarser surfaces.

 

Review continues below
Its seating is also comfortable for adults in front and in back--although we don't think the Venza is as versatile for cargo.
7

2013 Toyota Venza

Safety

The Venza has earned a mix of good and bad crash-test ratings, and rearward visibility can be an Achilles' heel.

While the Venza has been refreshed somewhat for 2013, it appears that the vehicle is largely carried over structurally, so it's no surprise that this model will achieve ratings comparable to those of the 2012 model.

There's a good and a bad in that. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given this crossover 'good' ratings for all its tests, including a roof-strength test, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. And after the 2013 model was retested it's earned an excellent five-star overall score.

Review continues below
Compared to rival crossovers, the 2013 Toyota Venza maintains a strong list of safety features, though. Seven standard airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes are all standard. But one thing you might want to get in the Venza is the backup camera; thick roof pillars make visibility a bit worse than in sedans and boxier SUVs.
8

2013 Toyota Venza

Features

Toyota has packed more connectivity and infotainment value into the Venza for 2013.

The 2013 Toyota Venza comes very well equipped in its more affordable trims, with the lower-priced versions offering the strongest value compared to other crossovers. On the other hand, while upper Limited trims add high-end audio, navigation, leather seats, and back-seat video entertainment, the loaded versions of the Venza can inch close to Lexus RX 350 territory.

The Venza remains offered in three distinct trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. And a much-improved set of standard features at each level--plus new connectivity and infotainment features--is really the big news for 2013, and it sweetens the Venza's value. LE models now get new Display Audio systems (comparable to those that made their debut in the 2013 Camry), plus a blind-spot side mirrors, puddle lamps, and outer turn signals. Venza XLE models get a memory power driver's seat, reverse-tilt outside mirrors, and navigation—in addition to Entune multi-media features. And at the top of the line, all Limited models now have LED daytime running lights plus premium 13-speaker JBL sound and an upgraded navigation system.

A Premium Package is available for the XLE, adding (for those who want the four-cylinder engine) many of the upgrades offered in the V-6-only Limited model.

The Entune system that's offered in most of the lineup allows smartphone connectivity for infotainment as well as calling features--with mobile apps for Bing, OpenTable, and movietickets.com among those on offer, along with Pandora music streaming.

Review continues below
6

2013 Toyota Venza

Fuel Economy

Especially with the four-cylinder engine, the 2013 Toyota Venza is a somewhat greener alternative to bigger, taller crossovers.

The 2013 Toyota Venza certainly isn't one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles if you're comparing it to passenger cars; but If you're shopping crossover vehicles and want to minimize the hit of $4 (or maybe $5) gasoline, then the Venza is one of the better picks.

While some models this size still come only with a V-6, the Venza offers a choice of a four-cylinder engine or a V-6, and indeed the four does get somewhat better mileage. It's rated at 21/27 mpg in front-drive versions, 20/25 mpg in models with all-wheel drive.

Of course you get faster acceleration with the V-6; it's smoother, too. But the numbers fall accordingly. Front-drive, six-cylinder Venzas earn a 19/26-mpg rating, which drops to 18/25 mpg with all-wheel drive--the added traction adds weight you'll be lugging around all the time, and a premium you'll pay as long as you have the Venza.

As we've noticed in real-world driving, the difference between the two engines does almost vanish if you live in hilly terrain; on mostly level ground or with mostly lighter loads, the four is definitely the green pick. 

Review continues below
Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

2 Reviews
5 star
4 star
100%
3 star
2 star
1 star
Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
April 27, 2015
For 2013 Toyota Venza

Great car for a road trip

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
My wife and I, who live an hour north of Toronto, Ontario took our 2013 Canadian "Touring" Venza with the V6 engine and AWD on a road trip to Naples, Florida in March 2014, and then to California in August of... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
April 14, 2015
For 2013 Toyota Venza

Great 2-Row Concept, Execution Just a Little Off

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
We very much enjoy our 2013 Venza XLE AWD. It has the 2.7L 4-cylinder, which provides perfectly acceptable around town performance and is adequate on the highway. Since purchasing the car (has 23+K miles... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
USED PRICE RANGE
$10,593 - $23,681
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 7
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
Compare the 2013 Toyota Venza against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Toyota Venza?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used