The Toyota Venza is one of those cars that was just too clever for its own good. The idea was to create a sort of luxury lifestyle vehicle for people with grandkids, or 1.2 teenagers. It offered the functionality of a station wagon, the stance of a CUV, and a luxury Toyota Prius interior. Truth be told, the Venza is more confused than Bruce Jenner. But, at the same time, it’s as smart as Bruce/Caitlyn’s publicist. So let’s wade through the contradictions and see what it’s all about…

In this crossover-obsessed world, the Toyota Venza is hard to explain, but easy to love. The outside drips with so much style that you forget it’s neither a crossover, or a station wagon. The coupe-like roofline and big wheels give the Venza serious presence. It looks upscale, and its tasteful chrome accents and LED lighting reinforce that belief. Then you walk up to it and realize that it’s not as ‘high-up’ as an SUV. This allows for easy ingress/egress, and it makes loading cargo a lot easier on your back. But, make no mistake, the seats are higher than in a typical sedan (the Venza is sort of like a station wagon sitting on a phone book). And there’s 8.1 inches of ground clearance, for clearing snow drifts and tall curbs.

On the inside, the Toyota Venza gets a luxury-trimmed version of the sweeping dash and console found in the Toyota Prius. This ergonomic marvel puts the shifter, touchscreen, and climate controls within easy reach. There’s also a dedicated smartphone cubbie, with a bottom cutout to thread the charger lead down into the console, where a plethora of plugs await your device(s). That console also has a sliding top and armrest, which allows you to loose many things inside the deep storage locker.

As you would expect from a high-end conveyance, the Venza’s seats are plush, and perfectly suited for long trips. The rear bench is wide enough to accomodate three adults, with plenty of legroom, and backrest reclining adjustments. Those backseats can also be folded flat with trunk-mounted handles, revealing a very CUV-like 70 cu-ft of cargo space (there’s 36 cu-ft behind the seats). But the sloping roofline will limit rear visibility, and the size of items that you can carry with the seats in place. And, yes, you can find all manner of luxury items, like a glass roof, navigation, Toyota Entune, and heated memory seats with contrast-stitched leather upholstery.

Under the hood, the Toyota Venza gets either a 181hp 2.7L 4-cyl (yawn), or a gutsy 268hp 3.5L V6. Power is fed to either the front wheels, or all-four. Handling sits somewhere between car-like and SUV-ish, although the optional 20-inch wheels do impede the ride quality, without providing any discernible benefit to the handling.

The Toyota Venza was introduced in 2009, and was discontinued after the 2015 model year. Toyota has been without a mid-size, two-row crossover offering since.  But now the Venza nameplate is came back for 2021 for a new model that will once again slot between the RAV4 and Highlander. It is a good looking roomy, fuel and family friendly people mover. With a base MSRP of $32,470 and climbing from there, If you are looking for a more affordable option perhaps you should take a look at the first generation Venza. Prices for a used 2015 Venza range from around $10,000 for a base LE model to about $18,000 for the range-topping Limited trim. Prices vary depending on the vehicle’s condition and mileage.

Although it’s tough to quantify exactly what the Venza is, it does make a really nice daily driver. And it does look a heck of a lot better than an SUV… or station wagon.

The Toyota Venza