By KBB.com Editors
Call it a crossover or even a Camry wagon, but just don't call it nothing new. The 2009 Toyota Venza sits squarely in-between the automaker's best-selling Camry Sedan and Highlander SUV, borrowing elements from both. The result is a vehicle that has plenty of room for five, is easy to get in and out of, has respectable fuel economy and possesses the ground clearance of a much taller vehicle. While the Venza isn't the first – nor will it be the last – car to blur the lines between segments, it certainly offers a well-rounded package at a great price that would suit most people's needs. In a growing and increasingly popular vehicle landscape that includes the Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7, the Venza shines with a healthy roster of standard equipment, a competitive price, and Toyota's reputation for quality and stellar resale value.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're a fan of the Camry but want a more commanding view of the road, the Venza deserves your attention. Perhaps even more importantly, the low step- and load-in heights help to make getting people and stuff in and out of the car a more pleasant – and back-friendly – experience.You May Not Like This Car If...
Although the Toyota Venza is quite spacious, it only offers two rows of seats. Those needing the added versatility of a three-row vehicle might be more interested in the Chevy Traverse, Hyundai Veracruz, Honda Pilot or Mazda CX-9.What's Significant About This Car?
The 2009 Toyota Venza is a vehicle for those who want a little more utility than a sedan can offer, but don't need the abilities of a full-blown SUV. Throw in a great resale value and competitive pricing, and the Venza is all the more enticing.Driving It Driving Impressions
On city and highway roads, the Venza performed much as we expected it to: not quite sedan soft, but not quite SUV harsh, either. The attention-getting 19- and 20-inch wheels, as expected, add some noticeable road feel and road noise, but overall the vehicle is a smooth operator, and the new in-line 4 traversed some rather steep hills without too much gear searching or audible strain. Although some sportier driving made it apparent that the Venza is not meant to be thrown around curves, we think that most buyers will be perfectly pleased with the way theirs handles around-town jaunts. Driving dynamics aside, we spent some time in both rows of seats and found them all to be comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate a vehicle full of adults or older children, so much so that we'd never object to spending a long road trip in the second row.
Integrated Sliding Center Console
This unit is comprised of a set of cupholders and a padded arm rest that slide independent of each other, opening up 14.7 liters worth of storage space. This space also hides the auxiliary input jack cable, which can be left in the console or fed into an mp3/phone holder situated in the center stack.
Low Step-in Height
For those who have more difficulty than most getting in and out of a vehicle, having a low step-in height certainly makes things look a little more gracious.
Spacious is certainly the word that comes to mind when thinking about the Venza's interior. With only two rows of seating, Toyota was able to offer an impressive 70.1 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear. Up front, a sliding center console makes storing things a breeze; simply move the sliding cupholders back, and access to a large storage space that can accommodate a purse or several portable electronics opens up. An auxiliary input jack also lives in this space, and the cord for it can be snaked up to feed into an mp3/phone holder right on the center stack for easy access.Exterior
While there are glimpses here and there of the Camry-esque styling that so many Americans love, the 2009 Toyota Venza is definitely more dramatic in its styling. The large, wraparound grille and standard 19- or 20-inch wheels give the vehicle a solid, bold look, while the 8.1-inch ground clearance (the same as on the Highlander) gives drivers a little more confidence on the occasional unkempt road. Despite the Venza's high seating position, it has a low step-in height, making it easier to maneuver people and stuff in and out of the vehicle, a plus for those who often take more than themselves for a trip around town.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 Toyota Venza is offered in one well-equipped trim. Inside, standard equipment worth mentioning includes audio, climate and cruise controls on the steering wheel, a 3.5-inch multi-function display, dual zone automatic climate control, a sliding center console with mp3 holder, tonneau cover, auxiliary input jack, and six-disc in-dash CD changer with integrated satellite radio and six speakers. Outside, integrated fog lights, a chrome exhaust, color-keyed spoiler and 19-inch (20-inch on the V6) wheels can be seen. To keep all occupants safe and sound, seven airbags, stability/traction control and anti-lock brakes are standard fare.
The Venza's numerous options are available regardless of engine choice or drive configuration. While most are packaged together, the most noteworthy include leather seating surfaces, push button start, backup camera, HID headlamps with Automatic High Beams and a power hatch. Those who like to feel the sun on their shoulders can opt for the panoramic moonroof, while those who enjoy listening to music may enjoy the JBL Synthesis surround sound system with six-disc in-dash CD changer, Bluetooth streaming audio capability, satellite radio and 13 speakers. This system is also available with a voice-activated touch-screen DVD nav system, although only with a four-disc CD changer.
Powering the Venza is either an all-new 182-hp 2.7-liter in-line four cylinder or a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6, also used in the Camry and Highlander. Both engines come with standard six-speed automatic transmissions that offer uphill/downhill shift logic to minimize gear hunting. Those who do more highway driving should opt for the in-line 4; rated at 29 mpg in FWD guise, this engine is the more financially sensible choice. However, if having AWD would better suit your commute and weather needs, you'll be happy to know that choosing this system will only penalize you by I mpg with either powertrain choice.
2.7-liter in-line 4
182 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
182 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (FWD), 20/28 (AWD)
268 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
246 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (FWD), 18/25 (AWD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the four-cylinder 2009 Toyota Venza rings in at just under $27,000, while the V6 starts closer to $28,500. Adding all-wheel drive to either powertrain will add about $1,450 to the price. Although the Venza has a very practical entry-level price, piling on the options can make a fully loaded AWD V6 Venza nearly $41,000. These prices put the Venza right in the MSRP range of the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge, and significantly higher than the Mazda CX-7. However, prices can vary due to market conditions and location, so be sure to check out the Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for the Venza in your area. Given Toyota's better-than-average resale values as a whole, we expect the Venza to do quite well over time, outperforming the Murano, Edge and CX-7.