Here is the odd thing -- I've never had a Toyota Venza for a week-long test drive. But now that the Venza is going to be killed off after the 2016 model year run, I get one. So here is probably one of the last new car reviews you will ever read about the Toyota Venza, so you should be hanging on my every word, day in and day out for this could be a historic review.
I have driven the Venza before, back when it was first launched I attended AJAC's testfest and drove the Venza on a short 15-minute loop. To be honest there is so much going on at TestFest and there are so many cars I couldn't tell you much after that, heck I barely remember getting in the thing.
The first thing I noticed about my tester was the number of cubby spaces, cup-holders, change holders and storage bins inside the armrest -- it's pretty epic if you carry a lot of items you need or are a pack rat or a messy car person. The amount of storage locations exceeds even that of some minivans, of which the Venza reminds me so much -- despite being only a five-seater -- so yes I'm throwing minivans down as competitors.
My tester is a middle of the road XLE variant with "standard" and "limited" trims available above and below that of the XLE trim. The Venza is available in front wheel drive or all-wheel drive and is available with a 2.7L four or a 3.5L V6. Surprisingly Toyota offers the four-cylinder with the all-wheel drive as well, a combination typically omitted.
Although my tester is equipped with a dark brown leather and is an XLE trim, V6 AWD model I cannot seem to build such a vehicle on Toyota's website, so your mileage may vary.
Pricing: 2016 Toyota Venza V6 AWD XLE
Base Price: $38,305
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $40,145
Wow the cubby holes! There are so many, but that makes this vehicle a great family vehicle. The more I drive it the more it feels like a minivan to me rather than a crossover, despite it kind of straddling the line between the two. It of course is smaller than a minivan with only five seats but it feels larger when you are driving it, which to some could be a bad thing as many like driving vehicles that feel smaller than they are, not larger.
The Venza is roomy and feels airy inside, the backseat has plenty of space for three people and the cargo space is not in any way compromised by the large seating area. There is a very badly designed and difficult to use tonneau cover for the rear cargo area, but it does cover your valuables from peering eyes.
Up front besides the multiple cubby bins is a sommewhat haphazard centre console and dash area -- at least that is how I see it. The shifter is up on the dash which moves everything over further away from the driver. The heated seat controls are to the right of that, a little difficult to reach. Below that is a change holder -- with another change older to the left of the steering wheel, do people really keep change in their car?
The HVAC control area is kind of squished into a box, I keep reaching at the temperature knob when I want to change the volume on the radio, because the radio volume knob is way up at the top of the dash, too far to reach for me. After first reaching for the wrong knob I decide to use the steering wheel volume control instead, I suppose I would get used to this after awhile, but the interior seems to be non-intuitive or ergonomic.
Pairing my Bluetooth phone was a breeze though, just hit the APPS icon, then Phone then add and look for Toyota Venza on your cellphone bluetooh screen -- took me all of 30 seconds to pair.
Despite the Venza driving large it drives well for the most part. The 3.5L engine is powerful, it pulls hard when you put your foot in it. But if you drive it with a "normal" or light throttle application it is unassuming and tame.
What I don't like are the brakes. They are very soft, I believe the technical description is "squishy". The pedal is very long, leaving you underwhelmed by the brakes and under-confident as well.
The six-speed automatic transmission is tried and true so there is no surprise there, it does its job well.
As mentioned the Venza feels like a minivan in some ways, especially the brakes, but it handles well and is comfortable to drive and ride in. The turning radius is pretty abysmal as I can barely exit my parking space at work without hitting the curb, a problem I haven't had in any other recent vehicle.
Out on the highway the wind noise is a little intrusive, I could hear it over the radio which surprised me. The road noise volume is on par with the class of vehicle, certainly not stellar as the newer generation of crossovers are nearly dead silent.
Visibility is good, but only because of the back-up camera and the convex mirrors on the side mirrors. No overly complicated blind spot detection systems needed if you are able to turn your head. You do have to trust the mirrors however, as shoulder checking doesn't yield a ton of visibility because of the sloping roofline.
The Venza is an interesting vehicle and I can certainly see why a lot of families would buy it. Not as large as a minivan or most crossovers (at the time it was launched) but still offers a good amount of cargo capacity and passenger space.
But the interior design is all over the place, you get use to it like anything else, but it is odd and not very pleasing to look at.
Fuel economy was okay for a V6 powered AWD vehicle, I averaged 11.0 L/100km over the week, but that was mostly highway so it seems a little on the high side. Had the weather been colder I would have blamed it on that colder temperatures, but on the highway I was kind of expecting more along the lines of 9.5L/100km not 11.
With so many choices in this price range and in the crossover segment it may be a hard sell to those looking for doo-dads and features. But if you like the Venza you better scoop one up soon as 2016 is currently the last planned model year before the vehicle goes the way of the dodo bird.