Toyota Venza Overview

toyota venza grillLike the platypus, the 2010 Toyota Venza is a bit hard to categorize among its peers. Not quite a wagon yet not quite a crossover SUV, the Venza puts a new twist on the family car. Yet this crossbreed shouldn't come as a surprise, as Toyota has a knack for creating all-new segments or modifying existing ones for more widespread appeal. Before nearly every manufacturer had a compact crossover SUV, there was the RAV4. And Toyota's upscale Lexus division broke similar ground for the midsize luxury crossover segment with the RX 300. Using components from the Camry and the Highlander, the Venza falls between the two in terms of size. Its wheelbase is the same as the Camry's, while its width and ride height are similar to the Highlander's.

The engine choices are the same as the Highlander's, too (a 2.7-liter inline-4 or a 3.5-liter V6), yet the Venza is more maneuverable, with surprisingly decent handling and a comfortable ride quality to boot. Thanks to its wider-than-a-Camry body, the Venza provides plenty of space for passengers to spread out. Larger families will lament the unavailability of a third-row seat (you'll need a RAV4 or a Highlander for that), but the Venza's wagonlike body provides a respectable maximum cargo capacity of 70 cubic feet. Another bonus is interior quality; some current Toyota models (e.g., Camry and Corolla) have gone downhill in this regard, but the Venza's cabin could almost be mistaken for that of a Lexus, as quality materials and tight fit and finish are evident throughout.

toyota venza tail lights Though it may be hard to define, the 2010 Toyota Venza hits an appealing sweet spot between midsize family sedan and crossover SUV. The 2010 Toyota Venza is a five-passenger wagon available in two trim levels that correspond to the two available engines. Standard Toyota Venza Accessories available on the 2.7-liter Venza include 19-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlights, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a power driver seat, a reclining and folding 60/40 rear seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, a USB port, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. The V6-powered Venza adds 20-inch alloy wheels but is otherwise identically equipped.

The availability of Toyota options and packages often depends on region, so check with your local dealer to determine what is offered in your area. Mostly grouped into packages, these options include a power tailgate, a rearview camera, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, xenon headlamps, a power passenger seat, leather upholstery, wood trim, heated front seats, heated mirrors and a windshield-wiper de-icer. A 13-speaker surround-sound audio system is also available. It can be ordered separately or bundled with the optional voice-activated touchscreen navigation system or the rear-seat entertainment system. While other recent Toyota products have disappointed us in their build and materials quality, this is not the case with the Venza.

toyota venza headlightsThe sleek center console is important to note, as its high-mounted shifter frees up space between the seats for a large bin, ample cupholders and a smaller bin designed for iPods and other small devices. There's another compartment designed specifically to hold cell phones. The audio and climate controls are a new design for Toyota, but they remain user-friendly. A high-mounted LCD screen shows trip computer and climate control information along with the optional back-up camera display. Although it lacks a third-row seat, the Venza provides loads of passenger space -- particularly in the rear, which features reclining seatbacks. A bit more driver-seat adjustment would be nice, though. The cargo area can swallow 70 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seat folded and a healthy 34.4 cubes with the seats up.

These numbers put the Venza a smidgen ahead of the Ford Edge and just a bit behind the RAV4. Like the Camry on which it is based, the 2010 Toyota Venza is designed for comfort and ease of driving. Unlike the Camry, however, this crossover wagon has a hefty, robust feeling over bumps. Toyota's typical smooth ride quality has been retained, though, and road noise remains low at highway speeds. While both engines provide ample power, the spirited V6 -- one of the best available -- is obviously the way to go if passing power takes precedence over fuel economy. The electric power steering is surprisingly responsive for this class, as is the handling, but there's not much for driving enthusiasts to get excited about beyond that excellent six-cylinder.

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