May 24, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 07 October 2010 11:08
Crossovers, those hard-to-pigeonhole cars that seek to meld the best features of economical passenger sedans with rugged sport-utility vehicles, tend to be functional with dull styling, or inconvenient with loads of style. Toyota’s Venza is an exception: pleasant to look at and surprisingly accommodating to a wide range of uses.The Venza debuted in the 2009 model year as the long-awaited replacement for the once-popular Camry station wagon, which was discontinued in the late 1990s. It’s based on the modern Camry sedan, which has acquired an unfortunate (and somewhat unfair) reputation for dullness. As often happens, that’s the price of success for Toyota and the Camry, which has dominated the U.S. midsize market since the early 1980s.
By contrast, the Venza benefits from sharp, appealing and distinctive styling. Seen for the first time, it has the same impact as the Nissan Murano did several years ago, without actually imitating the curves and planes of the highly regarded Nissan crossover.
Our 2010 Venza, rendered in attractive Golden Umber Mica with a lighter (and, alas, stain-prone) cloth interior, was an all-wheel-drive model with the 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine. This is not a small car, yet the 2.7-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission spirit it around briskly, while delivering between 26 and 27 mpg on regular gasoline. Also available is a 268-horsepower V-6, which exacts a small fuel-economy penalty; front-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions are offered with either engine choice.
The four Venza models are priced within a tight range of $26,275 to $29,550. With only two low-cost options, floor and cargo mats and a cargo net, plus delivery fee, our Venza had a sticker price of $28,795.
The Venza rides as smoothly and quietly as the Camry, and handling is comparable. With ample leg room and head room in front, simple controls and easy-to-read gauges, its cabin is a pleasant and comfortable place to be.
What is perhaps most surprising about the Venza is the back seat. Even with the driver’s seat all the way back on its track, knee room is ample for tall passengers, and so is head room. We’ve driven a number of crossovers that don’t look this good but imposed serious discomfort on people consigned to the back seat. So people who expect to transport more than one adult passenger, yet don’t want an SUV or minivan, will be well served by the Venza.
Another Venza highlight is the cargo compartment. Its 30.7-cubic-foot capacity swells to 70 cubic feet with a simple lift of a lever on each side of the split rear seat, leaving a flat, seamless surface. There is space around the spare tire as well as trays under the rear deck to conceal small, valuable items.
The Venza aced its crash tests, earning five-star ratings across the board, as well as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick designation. Consumer Reports magazine recommends the Venza, based on the car’s road-test performance and average to above-average reliability.
Engine: 2.7-liter inline Four, 182 horsepower, 182 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,945 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 8.1 inches
Wheels: 19x7.5 inch alloy
Tires: P245/55R19 104S all season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 30.7 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 70 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 2,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 17.7 gallons
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
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