2013 Toyota Venza Wagon - FROM $27,700
The 2013 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 2013
The Toyota Venza gets the slightest of styling tweaks for 2013. More importantly, it gets additional standard features such as blind spot mirrors for the base LE, driver memory functions for the XLE and LED running lights for the Limited. A touchscreen interface is now standard on all Venzas, while Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-based services has been added to the list of available features.
If Toyota doesn't have the largest and most diverse selection of trucks, SUVs and crossovers, we're not sure who does. There are utilitarian mommy-mobiles, rugged and retro off-roaders and enormous cross-country haulers. Then there's the 2013 Toyota Venza, which seems to exist for people who can't make up their minds. Part wagon and part crossover SUV, this five-passenger family car can be considered alongside any number of different vehicles.
Once you're perched in its driver seat, the Venza feels a little wagon-esque. Though it has a raised ride height, you don't get quite a commanding view of the road. It's more like the 2013 Subaru Outback in this way. However, it does feel more carlike, both in terms of visual perception and driving experience.
A pair of growing teens in the reclining rear seat will find plenty of sprawl space, while once joined by a friend, the three of them will discover the rear seat is just wide enough for their shoulders as well. Plus, a composed ride and quiet cabin give the Venza a grown-up feel that compact crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Equinox do not offer. In terms of space and cabin ambience, the Venza is more like a 2013 Ford Edge or Nissan Murano. Similar cargo capacities further the comparison.
Of course, being "like" those aforementioned vehicles doesn't make the 2013 Toyota Venza equal to them in every way. The Outback is more rugged, the Edge gives you a more commanding view of the road and the Equinox is cheaper and better for hauling stuff. Is the Venza an intriguing alternative, however? Absolutely.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Toyota Venza seats five people and is available in LE, XLE and Limited trim levels.
The LE comes standard with 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, privacy glass, a blind-spot mirror, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, reclining rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The V6-powered Venza gets 20-inch wheels.
The LE Convenience package adds a power liftgate and a rearview camera. The LE Preferred package adds these items plus a panoramic sunroof and Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-based app services.
The XLE trim includes the Convenience package items, plus keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, driver seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, Entune, satellite radio and HD radio with iTunes tagging. The XLE Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, a larger touchscreen interface, a navigation system, real-time traffic (plus other services) and a 13-speaker JBL sound system.
The Limited includes the Premium package items plus bi-xenon headlights, automatic high beams and LED running lights. There is a tow package available on all V6-powered Venzas.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2013 Toyota Venza trim 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 inline-4 produces 181 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 -- this is an average time for four-cylinder compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive version gets 22 mpg combined. These estimates are not all that great compared to those same compact crossovers, but the Venza does at least offer the option of four-cylinder power.
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 6.9 seconds. This is considerably quicker than both compact and midsize SUVs. At the same time, fuel economy is almost identical to that of the four-cylinder, at an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 18/25/21 with all-wheel drive.
With the optional towing package, the Venza V6 can tow 3,500 pounds.
Every 2013 Toyota Venza comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. A rearview camera is optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Venza came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is an average distance.
In government crash testing, the Venza received four out of five stars for overall protection, with three stars for overall frontal-impact protection (four stars for the driver but just two stars for the front passenger) and five stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Venza the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Venza doesn't quite exhibit the top-notch interior quality of past Toyota models or its midsize SUV competitors, but the overall design is rather fetching and practical, with a sleek center console that features a high-mounted shift lever for the transmission which frees up space between the seats. This allows for a large console bin, generously sized cupholders and smaller bins perfect for smartphones and other personal effects.
While the Venza's audio controls are more complicated than those found in past Toyotas, the new-for-2013 touchscreen interface is one of the best available. We appreciate its ability to mix and match FM/AM/XM radio presets, and the accompanying steering-wheel-mounted controls are well conceived. For those with more high-tech tastes, the Venza also can be equipped with Toyota's new Entune system. By connecting the car to a smartphone via Bluetooth, it allows you to control Pandora radio, buy movie tickets or reserve a restaurant table through the car's touchscreen.
From a practical standpoint, the volume of the Venza's passenger and cargo room is consistent with the Subaru Outback, as well as midsize crossovers like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. There is plenty of legroom in the reclining backseat, and there is a decent amount of space for three abreast. The driver seat is a little less comfortable, however, and it could use a greater range of adjustability. 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.
It shouldn't come as a shock that the 2013 Toyota Venza is hardly a wagon in the style of sporty European models. Instead, the Venza is very American -- 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. While the base four-cylinder engine delivers adequate power, we'd recommend paying extra for the V6. Not only does it provide quicker acceleration than its myriad competitors, but also its fuel economy is almost equal to that of the four-cylinder.