2012 Toyota Venza Wagon - FROM $27,425
The 2012 Toyota Venza is hard to define, but whether you call it a wagon or a crossover, it's a competitive and comfortable family vehicle.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Venza now assumes traditional Toyota hierarchy with LE, XLE and Limited trim levels. Visually and mechanically, however, it is a carryover from last year.
Whether people are willing to admit it or not, wagons are often more practical, space-efficient, and easier to drive than SUVs or even some crossovers. In fact, because most crossovers are trying to disguise themselves as light-duty SUVs, they often feature high step-in and seat heights that are not necessarily family-friendly. The hard-to-classify 2012 Toyota Venza has everything you like about the space in an SUV, only in a package as easy to live with as a wagon. But forget trying to define the Venza. It avoids the apparent arrogance of an SUV, the stigma of a minivan and the ambivalence of a crossover; it simply works.
And if there's one thing the 2012 Toyota Venza is, it's family-friendly. The driving experience is completely non-taxing, since the Venza is not trying to out-sport European sport wagons. While most folks will be completely happy with the standard four-cylinder engine (unless the future holds fully loaded trips to the mountains or towing), the V6 offers nearly the same fuel economy and is probably the better choice for all-purpose drivability. All-wheel drive is offered with either engine.
The Venza's generously proportioned interior abounds with clever design that's meant to be useful rather than trendy. There are numerous bins, cubbies and storage options. The 60/40 rear seats easily accommodate rear-facing child seats and fold conveniently with the pull of a lever to expand cargo capacity to SUV scale. In addition, a full complement of features and conveniences are offered for modern families, either as standard or optional equipment. Even the base model Venza comes very well equipped, and the various option packages mostly upgrade rather than augment existing equipment levels. Standout options include a panoramic moonroof and a voice-activated navigation system (with traffic and an integrated reverse camera).
It's difficult to select a direct competitor for the 2012 Toyota Venza, but those who have considered the Honda Crosstour and its unique attributes (and shortcomings) or the Nissan Murano because of its eye-catching style would do well to check out the Venza. The Subaru Outback is another vehicle to consider if you want something a bit more rugged-looking. Overall, we think very highly of the 2012 Toyota Venza, because it offers just about everything you'll find in a typical crossover, only with fewer drawbacks when it comes to everyday usability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Toyota Venza is a five-passenger wagon available in three grades: LE, XLE and Limited. The LE and XLE are available with all powertrain combinations: four-cylinder or V6 engine, either of which may be paired with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Limited is powered by a V6 only, in either FWD or AWD.
The 2012 Toyota Venza LE comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels (20 inches on V6), automatic headlamps, foglamps, privacy glass, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (includes power lumbar), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer display, and Bluetooth with audio streaming. The LE's sound system includes six speakers, a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
Along with its bigger engine, the 2012 Toyota Venza LE V6 adds 20-inch wheels. To this, the XLE grade adds an anti-theft system with engine immobilizer, keyless ignition/entry, a power liftgate, an upgraded trip computer display, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a four-way power passenger seat.
The top-of-the-line Limited augments the XLE's standard equipment with xenon headlamps (with automatic high beams), a panoramic sunroof, a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system and a JBL 13-speaker sound system with a CD changer.
The availability of Toyota options and packages often depends on the region, so check with your local dealer. In general, there are four major packages that mimic equipment found in higher grades, and a V6 tow-prep package that includes an oil cooler, larger radiator fan and heavy-duty alternator.
The LE Convenience package includes a power liftgate and a back-up camera. To that, the LE Preferred package further adds the panoramic roof. The XLE Premium package includes the above, plus the JBL audio system. The XLE Navigation package includes the navigation system as well as the JBL audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Toyota Venza is available with a four- or six-cylinder engine mated to either front- or all-wheel drive. All versions feature a six-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder produces 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a four-cylinder, front-drive Venza went from a standstill to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds -- an average time compared to similarly powered crossovers. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/25/22 with all-wheel drive.
The 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Venza V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/26/22 with front drive and 18/25/21 with AWD. Those are impressive mileage numbers for a vehicle of this size and power. Properly equipped, a V6 Venza can tow 3,500 pounds.
Every 2012 Toyota Venza comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and front-seat active head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, the Venza came to a stop from 60 mph in a respectable 122 feet.
The Toyota Venza has received an overall four-star rating (out of a possible five) in government crash testing, which is comprised of three stars for front crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Venza earned the highest rating of "Good" performance in its frontal-offset, side and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Venza doesn't quite exhibit the top-notch interior quality of past Toyota models, but the overall design is rather fetching and practical, with a sleek center console that features a high-mounted shifter that frees up space between the seats. This allows for a large console bin, generously sized cupholders and smaller bins perfect for iPods and other small devices. The audio and climate controls are a design departure for Toyota, but they remain user-friendly.
Although it lacks a third-row seat, the Venza provides loads of passenger space, particularly in the rear, which features reclining seatbacks. A bit more driver seat adjustment would be nice, though. The cargo area can swallow 70 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats folded and a healthy 34.4 cubes with the seats up. These numbers put the Venza a smidgen ahead of the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano.
It shouldn't come as a shock that the 2012 Toyota Venza is hardly a wagon in the ilk of sporty European models. Instead, the Venza is designed for comfort, utility and ease of driving. If it weren't for the vague feel of its electric-assist steering, the Venza might actually be interesting to drive instead of merely pleasant. Parking lot maneuvers couldn't be easier, however. Both engines provide ample power to move this sizable vehicle, although the V6 is obviously the way to go if passing folks on the highway takes precedence over achieving the best fuel economy.