2012 Toyota Venza Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

The Venza is a real style leader in the midsize crossover segment. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

With a wide stance the Venza handles corners well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Upscale interior will wow you! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Fully loaded Venza delivers premium-like features. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Smart spot for stowing a phone. The sliding bin lid connects through to various plugs below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Roomy interior is very plush, and the chocolate brown leather piping looks fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

Published on July 12, 2012

I've gushed on about the Venza in previous reviews, so I'll try to keep my adoration to respectable levels this time around. There are simply some cars that I really like, and while my personal opinions about styling and the way I use a car may have little to do with what you like and your lifestyle, it's hard not to let a bit of my enthusiasm seep through now and then, especially when Toyota makes it even better for 2012.

Let's face it. With fuel prices likely never to return to sub-$1-per-litre levels, smaller more fuel-efficient engines are becoming more popular. Toyota's offered a four-cylinder Venza variant since day one, but until now we couldn't order it along with all of the top-gear goodies that make living with a car special even after the honeymoon is over. For 2012, even the front-wheel drive four-cylinder Venza can be had with the Premium Package, while all-wheel drive models can add the Navigation & JBL Package along with the Touring package for a really spiffed up wagon.

The Premium Package adds two-way heated leather seats with Bentley-like contrasting piping, a handy powered liftgate, a rearview camera, a nice panoramic glass sunroof, and an anti-theft system, while the Navigation & JBL Package adds a fabulous sounding 13-speaker JBL Synthesis audio upgrade with a 6-CD changer, DVD-based navigation system, a larger rearview camera integrated into the infotainment screen, and ultra-useful XM Real-Time Traffic information. Ante up to the Touring package and you'll get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-clad shift knob, satin mahogany woodgrain-style trim, a four-way powered passenger seat, proximity sensing remote and push-button ignition, chrome door handles, and auto-leveling xenon headlamps with automatic high-beam. That's how Toyota outfitted my classy Sunset Bronze Mica painted tester, the Ivory leather seats benefiting from dark chocolate highlights that complemented soft-touch door uppers in the same rich colour.

It's a pretty upscale cabin to while away the hours, something I did as often as time permitted the week this particular Venza was in my possession. There was a time I would have scoffed at faux woodgrain accents, but the Venza's are nicely done in the aforementioned satin-finish mahogany, so it's not like they look fake, and there's a limited amount of real mahogany left in the world which I'd rather leave standing, alive and breathing in some hopefully forgotten rainforest. I'd love it if Toyota appeased my mad tapping dysfunction and made its "wood" feel more like the real thing too, with slightly denser plastic. The leather is nice and supple though, two-way seat heaters good but could use a hotter setting, leather-wrapped steering wheel thick and substantive, and panoramic glass roof enlightening. The Bluetooth hooks up easily too, JBL audio system clear and powerful, nav system easy to use and rearview camera truly helpful. Overall there's nothing about the Venza that turns me off, which is saying something.

Out on the road the four-cylinder delivers up all the power that I needed and pretty well as much as I could want. After all, while I love the Venza it's not because of any particular sporting pretense. It's a nimble handler for sure, allowing for a decent amount of fun behind the wheel, but the Venza is more about comfort and convenience, with that ideal mix of style and substance. The 2.7-litre four serves up an even 182 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque, good enough for spirited sprints from the stoplight and energetic highway merging. More importantly, the base engine delivers dreamy fuel economy numbers at an estimated 10.0 L/100km city and 6.8 highway in front-drive trim or 10.2 and when mated to all-wheel drive. My real-world results ran about 10.5 L/100km combined city/highway, which is great for a vehicle of its size.

Mass in mind, you're not going to replace your Sienna minivan with a Venza and feel you've got room to spare, but if you're downsizing it might be a good option with a maximum of 1,985 litres (70.1 cu ft) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are tumbled forward. There's 869 litres (30.7 cubic feet) when all seats are in use, which is almost double the size of the average midsize sedan's trunk. If you need more cargo hauling ability you can tow up to 1,134 kilograms (2,500 lbs) with the four-cylinder, and with 205 mm (8.1 inches) of ground clearance only the largest potholes will hang you up on your way to the cottage.

No matter which Venza you choose to take on that road trip, I'm pretty certain you'll be comfortable unless your backside doesn't conform to ergonomically shaped seats. Everything's where it should be for easy reach, and even in base trim a lot of features are included. Premium touches include powered windows with automatic down/up all-round, an 8-way powered driver's seat, a power-assisted trunk closer, plus all the usual powered items found in luxury models, as well as bright and beautiful Optitron gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls. An auxiliary port and USB slot are standard too, as is XM satellite radio and the aforementioned Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. Toyota makes sure all Venzas are dressed their best too, with standard fog lamps, a rear spoiler, and nice big 19-inch alloy rims on P245/55R19 all-season tires. This and a lot more for under $30,000, at least until you tack on the requisite destination fee of $1,560. The all-wheel drive model starts at $30,875 plus destination.

Of course, Toyota hasn't forgotten safety, with ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, and a brake override system. Traction and stability control are standard too, as is a tire pressure monitoring system and a full load of airbags, including a driver's knee airbag.

Am I gushing too much? Sorry. It's just such a pleasure to review a car that meets its mark as well as the Venza does.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Wagon, Toyota, 2012, Venza, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

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