Full 2014 Toyota Venza Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Toyota Venza receives minor equipment changes. The XLE trim gets power-folding mirrors, while the Limited gets front and rear parking sensors.
Not everyone needs three rows of seating in a family crossover, or the big and SUV-like styling that comes along with it. Enter the 2014 Toyota Venza, a tall, midsize wagon aimed at consumers seeking a generous helping of space and amenities in a five-passenger vehicle. Thanks to its lower stance, it drives far more like a car than similarly priced midsize SUVs you might consider -- and that, along with its reliable Toyota genes, is what makes it most appealing.
From the driver seat, the Venza feels like a wagon. Though it has a taller ride height than the similarly sized Camry sedan, you don't sit as high as you would in a traditional SUV. Instead, it's akin to sitting in a 2014 Subaru Outback, a perennial SUV alternative and a key rival for the Venza. As you'd expect in a wagon of this size, the rear seats offer plenty of room for a couple of adults or three kids, and when they're folded down, you'll have an impressive 70 cubic feet of cargo space at your disposal.
On the road, a composed ride and quiet cabin give the Toyota Venza a decidedly grown-up feel. There's nothing sporty about Toyota's wagon, but it's an easy vehicle to drive in the everyday grind. Toyota offers both a four-cylinder and V6 engine. Your practical side might be inclined to go for the four-cylinder, but in this case, the V6 is the smarter choice as it offers better performance and nearly identical fuel economy.
Because of its wide-ranging appeal, the 2014 Toyota Venza can be cross-shopped against quite a few different vehicles. The Outback is an obvious choice, of course, especially since it tends to be less expensive while offering a little more off-road capability for camping trips. Other possibilities include crossover SUVs like the Ford Edge, Kia Sorento and Nissan Murano, which have similar space and amenities, but sit a little higher off the ground. Although the Venza doesn't have any significant advantages over these rivals, it's a solid option for consumers who want more utility than a traditional midsize sedan offers but aren't quite sold on the SUV lifestyle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 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, foglights, 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, a navigation system and Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-based app services.
The XLE trim includes the Convenience package items plus keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, Entune, satellite radio and HD radio with iTunes tagging. The XLE Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, a larger (6.1-inch) touchscreen interface, a navigation system, traffic updates (plus other services) and a 13-speaker JBL sound system.
The Limited trim level includes the Premium package items plus bi-xenon headlights, automatic high beams, LED running lights, front and rear parking sensors, and an upgraded navigation system with a higher-resolution 7-inch touchscreen display. There is a tow package available on all V6-powered Venzas.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota Venza has a choice of two available engines: a four-cylinder or a V6. Both engines come with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. The LE and XLE trims have the four-cylinder engine as standard with the six-cylinder as an option, while the Limited trim is exclusively equipped with the V6.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine 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 -- a typical time for a midsize crossover with a four-cylinder engine, but about 2 seconds slower than a V6 Venza. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city/26 mpg highway). The all-wheel-drive version gets 22 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway). These numbers are on the low side when compared with the Subaru Outback or any number of smaller crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota's own RAV4.
A better choice for most buyers is the 3.5-liter V6 engine, which is rated at 268 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive, V6-equipped Venza V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while an AWD Venza V6 did it in 6.9 seconds -- in both cases, quick times for a six-cylinder midsize crossover. Fuel economy is almost identical to that of the four-cylinder Venza, with an EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/26 mpg highway) on front-drive versions and 21 combined (18 city/25 highway) with AWD.
With the optional towing package, the Venza V6 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Every 2014 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 on the LE and standard on the XLE and Limited. Front and rear parking sensors are standard on the Limited only.
In Edmunds brake testing, the 2014 Venza XLE came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet: shorter than the average distance for a midsize crossover with all-season tires.
In government crash testing, the Venza received five out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Venza the best possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side and roof-strength crash tests. The Venza also earned a "Good" Rating for its head restraints/seatbelt performance regarding whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior design of the Toyota Venza is attractive and practical, with a sleek center console that features a high-mounted shift lever for the transmission that frees up space between the seats. This allows for a large console bin, generously sized cupholders and smaller bins that are perfect for smartphones and other personal effects.
The Venza's standard touchscreen audio interface is easy to use. We appreciate its ability to mix and match FM/AM/XM radio presets, and the accompanying steering-wheel-mounted controls are well designed. For those with more high-tech tastes, the Venza also can be equipped with Toyota's Entune system. By connecting the car to a smartphone via Bluetooth, it allows you to control Pandora Internet radio, buy movie tickets or reserve a restaurant table through the car's touchscreen. Getting started with Entune can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your smartphone and register for an account, plus you always need an active data connection through your cell phone to use it.
Tall doors and a low step-in height make the Venza one of the easiest cars to get in and out of, even in tight spaces. For the mobility-challenged, it is one of the better vehicles to consider. And like the Outback and similarly sized midsize crossover SUVs, the Venza's backseat offers plenty of legroom, and reclining seatback cushions increase comfort on long trips. And there's enough shoulder- and hiproom to seat three children across back here. The driver seat is less comfortable, however, and it could use more padding, greater lateral support and a greater range of adjustability. The cargo area can swallow 70 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats folded and a healthy 36.2 cubes with the seats up.
Like most other midsize crossovers, the 2014 Toyota Venza is designed for comfort, utility and ease of driving. The base four-cylinder engine delivers adequate power for most driving situations, but you'll notice it when pushed to the limit, so we'd still recommend paying extra for the smoother V6 engine. Not only does it provide quick acceleration, its fuel economy pretty much equals the four-cylinder's mpg ratings.
If you're used to driving smaller, sportier cars, you might find the Venza's steering short on feedback, but in general, this tall wagon grips and handles exceptionally well considering its utilitarian purpose. More relevant to most consumers is ride comfort, and the Venza has it in spades. Even with the 20-inch wheels, its suspension does a fine job of smoothing out pockmarked pavement.