Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Venza toyota car test drives reviews
2013 Toyota Venza. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2011 Toyota Venza AWD

Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2013 Toyota Venza

Say you’re looking for a mid-sized five-passenger family vehicle—not an SUV—with the utility and spaciousness of a mid-sized wagon, the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine, the all-weather capability of all-wheel drive and a decent ground clearance—all for a starting price of around $30,000. What would your options be?

Sadly, not as many as you might expect: affordable, mid-sized wagons are almost an extinct species these days, and many mid-sized crossovers don’t offer a four-cylinder engine in combination with all-wheel-drive. Your choices are basically the Subaru Outback 2.5i ($28,495), Kia Sorento LX 2.4 4X4 ($28,795), Toyota Venza AWD 2.7 ($30,490), or the new Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4L Premium AWD ($32,184). Other mid-sized AWD crossovers come with a standard V6, including the Honda CrossTour ($36,990) (the new-for-2013 four-cylinder CrossTour is not available with AWD), Ford Edge SEL AWD ($36,499) (2.0-litre Ecoboost not available with AWD), Nissan Murano ($34,498), and Dodge Journey R/T AWD ($29,295).

Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Venza toyota car test drives reviews
2013 Toyota Venza. Click image to enlarge

Of all these, the Toyota Venza is probably the most “crossover-ish” of the crossovers. Looking like an oversized hatchback, the Venza is taller than a Camry sedan but lower than a Highlander SUV or Sienna minivan. Its tall wagon styling doesn’t have the rugged appeal of an SUV, but its hefty proportions, big 19-inch tires (optional 20-inch) and 205-mm (8.1-inch) ground clearance certainly look imposing next to a mid-size sedan like the Camry upon which it is based.

First introduced in 2009, the 2013 Venza hasn’t changed much over the years, but it has undergone some minor exterior styling updates and interior refinements for the 2013 model year. Exterior styling changes include a new, simpler upper and lower grille design, new taillights, and new heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, “puddle” lamps, and convex blind-spot mirrors. Inside, there’s a larger 6.1-inch touch-screen in the centre of the instrument panel, a redesigned three-spoke steering wheel with Bluetooth telephone and audio controls, cruise control, upgraded six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, and new interior trim including simulated burl walnut dash trim.

As well, there’s a welcome price drop for 2013: the base front-wheel-drive Venza four-cylinder model now starts at $28,690, down from $29,425 in 2012. The Venza four-cylinder with all-wheel drive is now $30,490, a decrease from $30,874 last year.

Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Venza toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Venza toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Venza toyota car test drives reviews
2013 Toyota Venza. Click image to enlarge

As before, engine choices are a 182-hp 2.7L four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, or a 268-hp 3.5L V6 also with the same transmission. “On demand” all-wheel drive is optional with either engine. Today’s tester is the four-cylinder model with all-wheel drive, equipped with the optional Touring and JBL Package that combines all available options into one package for a rather pricey $7,305: leather seating, power heated front seats with a driver’s memory function, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 13-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system, voice-activated navigation system, back-up camera, trip computer, twin sunroofs, keyless door unlocking and push-button start, power hatch with jam protection, automatic leveling HID headlights, and automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, and an anti-theft system. Including a Freight and PDI charge of $1,635 and A/C tax of $100, the as-tested price came to $39,530.

Still, none of those options are real “must-haves” and even the base Venza AWD comes with most popular features: six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, cloth seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, dual zone automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 6.1-inch colour screen and six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary inputs, a trip computer and information display in the gauge cluster, large centre storage bin, seven airbags, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Our tester came in a bright “Barcelona Red Metallic” with an “Ivory” leather upholstered cabin. If you have kids under 35, I would not recommend the ivory interior colour, particularly the ivory carpet in the trunk (unless you’re planning on putting in a black rubber trunk liner). The light-coloured trunk carpet and plastic sides will scuff in no time. Fortunately, the standard carpets in the passenger compartment are black.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).