Susan Frissell, Editor, Womenwithwheels.com
We enjoyed our first drive/ride in the new version of the Toyota Venza. Yet were not overwhelmed. First appearing in 2008 as a new crossover, the Venza was introduced at the North American International Show in Detroit. Based on the Toyota FT-SX concept shown back in 2005. With use of the Camry chassis originally, there were few improvements since its introduction. In 2013 there was a small facelift to freshen it up and a few new features added. Was it ahead of its time?
This writer can remember driving the original Venza and liking it; it felt something akin to a small minivan (yes, I am a fan). I don’t recall the stats or how many were sold, but I can remember seeing several on the streets.
In its original iteration, the Venza won a few awards, including Top Safety Pick from the insurance (IIHS) Highway Safety folks, a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Admin., a Best Bet by Cars.com in 2013, an 8.7 overall consumer rating on KBB.com, and among the Best List for 2010 nominations by Car and Driver, among other awards.
But those were then. Not sure what ratings have been for the revised version. Just know one can’t go wrong with a Toyota product. Popularity appeared to wane as I don’t recall seeing many on the road after a few years.
Since its introduction in 2008, the Toyota Venza has seen a few improvements but no major design overhauls. In 2013, Toyota gave the Venza a facelift to freshen it up, but the base remained the same. New features on the 2013 model included restyled 19-inch alloy wheels,
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, and a variety of new exterior and interior color choices. Safety features include seven standard airbags, vehicle stability control, Smart Stop Technology, and Hill-start Assist Control.
Our Venza for 2022 was the limited edition with several extra features. A hybrid version, it offered a decent ride, comfort and easy to handle SUV. Inspiring? Hardly. But then, with all the choices today, it’s near impossible to offer any vehicle that stands out.
For those wanting to go Hybrid, the Venza version is a good bet, though. It offers plenty of get up and go and is thrifty when approaching fill-up time. This may be a big plus in today’s world, what with gas prices hovering around $5.00 a gallon.
Some may see a resemblance between the Venza and its cousin, the Lexus. We’re not so sure. Perhaps the lower end SUV’s, but not near as classy. As with all vehicles today, the Venza offers plenty of standard active safety features, room for 5 and standard all-wheel-drive.
If we had to point out the dislikes in our Venza test vehicle they might include a smaller inside than the Toyota RAV4, hovers very close to the $40,000 mark, and the acceleration is a tad slushy.
The Venza is advertised as a compact SUV with “upscale flair,” to match its ‘efficient and reasonably powerful hybrid powertrain.’ While this may be the case, the Venza is clearly not as large a vehicle as the 3-row Highlander SUV. As sometimes happens in the car world, manufacturers decide to revive old nameplates. This sometimes works, but not always. Think the 2002 Ford Thunderbird. A close resemblance to its forebearer, for sure, but you couldn’t convince old T-Bird fans.
Rivals for the Toyota Venza include the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Honda Passport. All dated.
What may be the best thing going for the Venza is that it is a Toyota product. More and more buyers, it seems, are opting for AWD. For many, the base version will be enough, but you forego navigation and a big touchscreen.
Perhaps the new Venza isn’t first in its class, but it has a sporty appearance, and if you don’t need the top-of-the-line version, it can be had for a competitive price. The coupe-like roofline of the Venza gives it its own style. The sculpted lines and chrome trim make it resemble a Lexus. The fancy interior certainly feels Lexus-like with either real leather (steering wheel, shift knob), or synthetic leather (door panels, dash, center console, seats on base model).
A hybrid powertrain borrowed from the RAV4 teams with a 2.5-liter inline-4 with three motors and a lithium-ion hybrid battery pack (the RAV4 Hybrid has a nickel-metal hydride pack) to generate 219 net horsepower and return 39 mpg combined, according to Toyota. The hybrid system provides plenty of power for everyday driving.
The rear motor gives all Venzas all-wheel drive that can send up to 80 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels. A two-row crossover, the Venza is geared toward small families or shoppers looking for extra space. If you don’t need that three-row seat, the Venza seats up to five just like the RAV4, but its sleeker top means it has less cargo space at 28.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up.
The Venza comes equipped with Toyota’s latest suite of active safety features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic high beams.
The base $33,590 Venza is well-equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 4.2-inch digital information center, a six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a hands-free power liftgate, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, automatic climate control, and 18-inch wheels. Other notable features include a 12.3-inch touchscreen, 7.0-inch digital information center, 10.0-inch head-up display, navigation, nine-speaker JBL audio, a digital rearview mirror, and an electrochromatic sunroof that can switch between transparent and frosted. Leather upholstery and lots of seat adjustments aren’t available.
If you’re in the market, give the Venza a test drive. It may just be the right-size SUV for you.
MSRP: $40,380; total: $44,817, delivery: $1,215
Engine: 2.5L 4-cylinder, Hybrid system w/EV, ECO normal & sport drive modes, 219 hp.
Transmission: Electronic Continuous Variable, Electronic On-Demand AWD
Height: 65.9 in.
Length: 186.6 in.
Width: 73.0 in.
Tires: 245/55 R19
Weight: 3,847 lbs.
Trim levels: LE ($32,890), XLE: ($36,425); Ltd.($40,380)
Warranty: Basic: 3 yrs./unlimited mileage; Corrosion: 5 yrs/unlimited miles; Drivetrain: 5 yrs./60,000 miles; Hybrid/Electric Components: 8 yrs./100,000 miles; Maintenance: 2 yrs./25,000 miles; Roadside Assistance: 2 yrs/unlimited mils
Made; Takaoka, Japan