I know that one day our beloved Volvo XC wagon will need to be replaced by another vehicle and when that day comes, I’ll be armed with all sorts of knowledge about comparable vehicles in order to make the best choice for our family. One strong contender is the Toyota Venza. I first fell in love with the Venza two years ago during a trip around the block at Toyota headquarters in Torrance, California during a #ToyotaWomen TWIN Camp visit. It had me at hello. Style, design, space, and tech that caught my eye two years ago during our round-the-block test drive were some of the same things I loved from my extended time with the car.
What We Liked
Thanks to the sleek design, the Venza is the station wagon that doesn’t look like a station wagon- it’s more like an extended hatchback but with far more room in the interior than any hatchback could provide. Billed as a mid-size crossover SUV, the Venza drives like a car than an SUV and allows driver and passenger to ride in comfort. Everything is at your fingertips although everything has a thoughtful place where it can go in the car, lending the interior to feel organized, even on long car trips.
Beautiful details. Woodgrain and chrome are in just the right places. The touch screen is absolutely brilliant. The cargo spaces for the front and rear passengers are well integrated into the design so they blend right in but provide the storage space you need for a variety of different items. Yet the interior is clean and uncluttered, promoting a sense of zen.
Flexible cargo space and one touch fold-flat seats. We have kids. We have a dog. We have stuff. Sometimes we’re carting around more stuff than other times but nothing is worse than not enough room for epic Costco runs, pool paraphernalia (cooler packed with snacks for the day and dinner along with tons of towels!), and luggage (it is the season of road trips and vacation) along with day to day space for the kids and our dog. I really like how easy it is to make space for whatever we’re hauling thanks to the one touch fold-flat seats. I can press a button to put down one or both parts of the rear seats for more room.
Sumptuous leather and contrasting trim on the front and back seats. The XLE and Limited models of the Toyota Venza feature contrasting leather trim. Black is trimmed with light gray, light gray is trimmed with an ever lighter gray, and the ivory interior has a lighter, almost bone color of trim making the car interior very pleasing to the eye. Fabric options of the LE model have the same colors and contrasting trims.
Full time AWD. Being subjected to snow and ice in the winter and summer thunderstorms, I appreciate full time AWD but know that the V6 engine and full time AWD features impact fuel economy. The Venza gets a combined city/highway of 21 miles per gallon (18 MPG city, 25 MPG highway) though this is a bit better than our current Volvo XC that also features full time AWD.
Navigation. Having the luxury of testing many cars and their navigation systems, I have to say that Toyota’s is one of the best. Clear directions, warnings, and a really accurate determination of your arrival time that takes into account speed of travel, traffic, etc. is most helpful when relying on your car to get you where you need to go. Plus the display is large and the screen is brilliant, making it easy to see during the day and also at night.
Multiple compartments in the center console. For once, a center console that isn’t just one big hole! Lift up the arm rest between the driver and passenger seats and you’ll find a tray to hold smaller items so they don’t get lost in the main compartment. Slide the armrest forward to reveal a second compartment. Easily accessible from the back seat, this is a perfect place for the kids to stash stuff that won’t fit in the seat back pockets.
Thoughtful placement of USB ports. One thing that I always look for in a car are USB ports. While many cars have them, this doesn’t mean they’ve been thoughtfully integrated into the design like they have in the Venza. The Toyota Venza features two USB ports in the front of the car- one in the center console and another to the left of the passenger seat, best described as near their left knee. The USB in the center console allows the charging cable to be fed up to the dock in the center console that holds your phone upright or to the long skinny center console compartment if you want your phone to charge and rest. Dual USBs in different places means that devices charge for passenger and driver within arms reach but in separate spaces to not be in each other’s way or worrying about tangled cables while driving. Thoughtful and convenient!
Connecting to favorite apps via Entune. Like the other Toyota vehicles I’ve tested (Camry and Sienna), the Venza comes with the Entune App Suite that connects me to apps like Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora. The same information I’m used to getting on my phone can be seen on the Venza’s large touch screen and operated with vehicle controls or voice recognition. While you may wonder why you need to access apps via your in-car Entune system, I think it’s helpful from a safety perspective. Instead of fiddling with their phone, your passenger can bring up favorite apps to access information through the touch screen on the dashboard. But if you’re driving solo and are tempted to use Entune, please pull over first to keep yourself and others safe.
Premium speakers. Since life is too short for bad speakers in your car, I always look for premium sound systems in cars. Even though this may make me a speaker snob, I spend far too much time in my car listening to music to be subjected to tinny sounds emanating from sub-par speakers. The Venza features incredible sound thanks to JBL Synthesis Surround Sound. With 13 speakers, a subwoofer, and an amplifer optimized for the interior of the Venza, music sounds as it should- brilliant and clear and perhaps better than your home stereo system. (If that’s the case, upgrade your home stereo too!)
Spaciousness. The rear seats have plenty of rear legroom for long and short legs alike. They didn’t feel squished during regular rides or car trips thanks to ample room. The week we used the car, we carpooled to camp and then went to the amusement park with some friends. The kids reported that they weren’t squished sitting 3 across even with 1 in a booster seat. There was also ample room for them to put their backpacks on the floor in front of them without feeling too crowded.
Panoramic roof. Gone are the days of a single moon roof being the gold standard in cars. I’m seeing more car manufacturers create open space in the front and rear of the car thanks to two glass roofs. The Venza has a power tilt/slide moonroof above the front seats and a glass roof above the rear seats, allowing the kids to see a bit more from their vantage point in the back.
Dual climate system. While passengers in the front have always gotten control over the temperature, the Venza allows those in the back to set the temperature to their liking. Even though I recognize that this can a potential source of in-car sibling squabbles because of individual temperature preferences, I do like that when the kids are overheated after a day of camp, I can crank up their air without having to do so up front.
Oliver was enjoying a vacation at my in-laws house during the bulk of the time we had the Venza for testing but he would have found the cargo area to be just the right height
I tested a 2014 Limited V6 AWD Toyota Venza in Attitude Black Metal with an MSRP of $40,720. Prices start at $27,950.
I received a week with the Toyota Venza and a full tank of gas. No compensation was received for this review. All images taken with the Samsung #NX30 (Amazon affiliate link).