The Toyota Venza isn’t a new option, but is it still deserving of your attention in a market with refreshed Ford Edge and Nissan Murano recently arriving on the scene?
If you go by simple MSRP, it’s not a good start for the Venza. As equipped, our Venza AWD tester we had tallied up to $40K with the $1,690 Freight & PDI included due to the $6,895 Limited Package with all the amenities available with the Venza. Power tailgate, leather seats, navigation, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof are all part of the XLE package and Limited adds 13-speaker JBL audio, back-up sensors, power adjustable passenger seat, proximity entry and push-button start, leather steering wheel and shift knob, HID headlights, and eight way power-adjustable two-position memory driver’s seat. It’s a case of a lot of stuff for a lot of money.
Toyotas may get panned for driving experience in many places, but not here.
The only thing you can add to the Limited is the 268-hp V6 for another $1,755.
While this is the base four-cylinder powertrain making a fairly ordinary 182 hp and 182 lb-ft or torque, it’s not a winner in the fuel efficiency department compared to the newer V6 from the Murano or the base V6 in the Edge. The Venza is rated at 11.6 L/100 km in the city, 9.2 on the highway and 10.5 combined. I managed a fairly respectable 10.9 L/100 km over the course of 700+ km, so the estimates are at least achievable. The Murano V6 AWD rates 11.2/8.3/9.9 and the Edge V6 AWD 11.8/8.4/10.3. The Venza V6 AWD is 12.8/9.3/11.3. A comparable mid-size crossover that offers four-cylinder AWD is the Subaru Outback, down a few horsepower and lb-ft, but managing 9.3/7.1/8.3.
Incidentally, the Subaru Outback can tow a bit more (1,224 kg to the Venza’s 1,134), can carry marginally more stuff (1,005/2,075 L to 870/1,990) and has significantly greater ground clearance for those occasional cottage trails and winter snow-berms.
The Venza offers about the same combined front and rear legroom as the Murano, but Edge and Outback are ahead in this department, and it’s all fairly moot as each of these are reasonable for a couple of adults in the rear seat or even a rear-facing child seat behind an adult passenger.
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Toyotas may get panned for driving experience in many places, but not here. The Venza drives mostly like a crossover should. Light, easy steering and comfortable ride make getting around town easy and effortless, and though the 19-inch wheels sound large, they are wrapped in impact absorbing 245/55R19 rubber. However, the Venza’s turning diameter is 11.9 m compared to the Outback’s 11.0 – that means you’d need an extra metre of space to make a U-turn, and makes tight parking lots that much more difficult to manage.
While it takes a good bit of throttle to get the Venza’s 1,790 kg up to highway speeds, I was pleased with the power levels – this segment of mall crawlers and highway cruisers really don’t need more power for the average driver’s habits. The six-speed automatic stayed largely unnoticed and did its duty without any gear hunting or roughness.
Seating position is a nice compromise between ease of access – not too high and not too low – while offering good forward visibility, but rear visibility compromised by thick rear pillar and diminishing windows.
The seats themselves were similarly innocuous. Adjustable in a variety of ways with a touch of white piping on the dark leather to add some panache to the dark interior, but I never could get entirely comfortable in this wide, somewhat flat seat. While the leather is a good quality, the remainder of the cabin is a victim of dated and sub-par materials, with tacky, patterned plastics on the centre console the worst offender.
Despite the materials, cabin storage is quite good and highly functional, with a pair of large cupholders, a large storage bin under the well-padded centre armrest and a couple of trays for electronic devices within easy reach the USB port (in the console under the armrest). The segment of the console with the cupholders cleverly slides back and connects with the space under the armrest for some serious storage.
However, despite the Venza nearing the end of its product cycle, Toyota has kept it fresh with their simple, straightforward 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system across the board, not to mention standard back-up camera, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls and satellite radio. While some of the touchscreen’s ‘buttons’ are a bit on the small side, the fixed buttons and dials and homescreen favourites make it an easy system to access the most common day-to-day functions, though the heating and ventilation controls are a bit awkward, wrapped around the shifter as they are. The upgraded JBL sound was as impressive as we expect from 13 speakers.
While the ease of use in driving and technology don’t necessarily help the Venza’s case against high-trim competitors with adaptive cruise and self-parking skills, there is a case to be made for the Venza in a value-conscious base trim, where Toyota has included the tech listed above, plus heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folder rear seats, high-visibility “Optitron” gauges, power locks and windows with auto up/down for all windows, integrated garage door opener and fog lamps. At around $32K (or perhaps less money or more features with the right incentives), it makes for compelling alternative to many compact SUVs if you are attracted to the Venza’s particular style and Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability.
Otherwise, it’s a pricey proposition for a product that has been eclipsed by many newer competitors, with little more functionality than a trusty wagon.
Pricing: 2015 Toyota Venza AWD
Base Price (FWD): $29,930
Base Price (AWD): $31,730
Options: $6,985 (Limited Package: power tailgate, leather seats, navigation, heated front seats, panoramic , 13-speaker JBL audio, back-up sensors, power adjustable passenger seat, proximity entry and push-button start, leather steering wheel and shift knob, HID headlights, and eight way power-adjustable two-position memory driver’s seat)
Freight & PDI: $1,690
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $40,505
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km roadside assistance