Sharing its platform with the Toyota Camry, the 2014 Toyota Venza might easily be considered little more than a Camry wagon. But, unlike the Camry, the Venza employs the tall seating position and outward visibility of an SUV coupled with a wide stance, available all-wheel drive (AWD) and expressive styling. Bigger than the less expensive Subaru Outback but not quite as large as the 7-passenger Highlander, the Venza appeals to people who need the power and room of an SUV, but don't really care to own an SUV. Granted, the Venza's car-like chassis limits its ability to go off-road or to tow heavy loads above 3,500 pounds, but if interior room and styling matter most, the Venza is a tough act to beat.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a roomy and versatile 5-door, but you don't care for the bulky or brutish look of some SUVs, the 2014 Toyota Venza may be the car for you.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If cost factors heavily into your buying decision, you can get into a Subaru Outback for a lot less money. The Venza's fuel economy is also just middle of the road and its AWD is limited to slippery pavement conditions or very light off-roading.
For 2014, the Toyota Venza has power folding mirrors added to the XLE and Limited trims, while the Limited gains front and rear parking sensors.
Driving the Venza
While the most cost-effective way to get into a 2014 Venza is to purchase the entry-level model with the 4-cylinder engine, we don't think most people will be happy with...
... the results. The Venza is not a lightweight machine and the tepid 181-horsepower engine just isn't up to the task of merging or accelerating with any great urgency. If you're going to get a Venza wagon, get it with the V6. Regardless of which engine you choose, both are teamed to a 6-speed automatic and both can run on regular unleaded gasoline. On the road, the Venza's steering feels reasonably well connected but the wheel can feel a bit heavy at slower speeds. The Venza rides on big 19- and 20-inch wheels and tires that create a rather harsh ride over rough pavement and more road noise inside the cabin.
AVAILABLE ALL-WHEEL DRIVE It's rare that a manufacturer will offer all-wheel drive (AWD) across the board, often reserving the option – if it is an option – for only the high-horsepower, top-of-the-line trim levels. Toyota provides it throughout the 2014 Venza range, from the base LE, which can be purchased for around $30,000, to the top-of-the-line V6 Limited.
1-TOUCH FOLD-FLAT SEATS If you use a sport-oriented utility for its utility, there are few things more frustrating than loading gear at the rear hatch only to discover that you can't fold the rear seats from that position. Toyota's 2014 Venza supplies an all-too-logical cure with 1-touch fold-flat levers located in the cargo area. It ain't rocket science, but given the feature's relative scarcity (on competitive vehicles) you'd think it was.
2014 Toyota Venza Details
The 2014 Toyota Venza's interior is big in all directions. With no 3rd-row seat to take up space, the Toyota Venza for 2014 offers an impressive 70.1 cubic feet of cargo space, while figures for head, leg and hip room are all near the top of the segment. We especially like the 1-touch fold-flat feature for the rear seats. Optional features to make the interior more luxurious include a huge panoramic glass moonroof and a premium HDD navigation system with Entune and JBL audio. Pet-friendly accessories include a liftgate pet ramp, booster seat with harness, pet buckles and rear-seat zipline-style harnesses.
On the street the Toyota Venza is immediately recognizable as something different. In point of fact, it's sufficiently different to be virtually unrecognizable as a Toyota. Standard rubber – all 19 inches of it – provides the Venza with an athletic footprint. And while its profile allows for a high seating position to better see what's around you, the step-in height remains low, making it far more convenient for smallish adults and the elderly. We like its wide, athletic stance, and applaud the U.S.-based design team for its effort, providing – as it does – the Venza with visual differentiation from both the Camry and Highlander.
The Venza LE includes 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, an AM/FM/CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and a 3.5-inch LCD multi-information display. Seats are fabric in the LE, while leather covers the seating surfaces in the mid-level XLE and up-market Limited. And all 2014 Toyota Venzas enjoy Toyota's comprehensive Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology, plus seven airbags.
For those residing in the Snowbelt, or those in the Sunbelt wanting the assurance of all-wheel drive, Toyota provides all-season traction as an available option on all trim levels and powertrains. In short, if you want to spend under $30K for a base Venza LE, but wish to enjoy the security that comes only with AWD, you can do it. And while the standard 2.7-liter inline-4, available in both LE and XLE trims, is a well-respected powerplant, Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 is (again) available across the board.
Under the Hood
Propelling the 2014 Toyota Venza wagon is either a 181-horsepower 2.7-liter inline 4-cylinder or 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Both engines come with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission that offers uphill/downhill shift logic to minimize gear hunting. Those who do more highway driving should opt for the inline-4 – rated at 26 mpg in front-wheel-drive (FWD) guise, this engine is the more financially sensible choice. However, if having AWD or the need to tow 3,500 pounds is a priority, you'll be happy to know that choosing the V6 will result in only a small fuel-economy penalty.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the entry-level Toyota Venza is just under $29,000. Add V6 power and AWD and that LE price rises to just under $32,000. The mid-level XLE Venza begins at just over $32,000, while a fully equipped AWD Limited could easily exceed $40,000. These price points put Toyota's 2014 Venza in the MSRP range of the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge, while being significantly higher than Subaru's Outback 2.5i. However, prices will vary due to market conditions and location, so be sure and reference the Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com to see what other consumers are paying for the 2014 Venza in your area. And given Toyota's better-than-average resale values, we expect the Venza to perform credibly as a used vehicle, outpacing the Edge and Murano while coming close to matching the resale performance of the Subaru Outback.
"I bought this car for driving through Amish country back roads in OH. It's great for dealing with the snow, and braking is terrific. Comfort level is +++, and minimal road noises compared to other makes I tried. I love the backup camera, and would probably not buy another car without it.
Cons: Gas mileage is not that great, compared to other makes in it's class; Turning radius is AWFUL. Does not come standard with remote-start, so I paid dealer over $1000 to install. This is standard in other brands. Also, personal preference, but I would never buy another car with Keyless Entry. I understand the security features by not allowing you to lock the car and leave it running; but preference is sometimes to leave Air Conditioning running while you go into a convenience store with door locked."
Cons: "Gas mileage less than I expected in city driving"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Good midsized vehicle with great versatility. Has good (but not excellent) back seat leg room, is easy to get in an d out, can be converted to a cargo carrier in seconds by folding down the back seats. Tolerates slippery surfaces and tire chains. Only gets fair gas mileage (20c, 28h)."