2014 Toyota Venza XLE Wagon (2.7L 4-cyl. 6-speed Automatic)
Driven On 4/4/2014
Five years after the Toyota Venza debuted, this 2014 XLE model comes up short compared to newer SUVs that shoppers may be considering. Its strengths lie in its easy access, space and overall utility, but its lack of refinement should give potential owners some pause. A full redesign is rumored to be in the works.
PerformanceThe Venza's 2.7-liter four-cylinder base engine produces 181 horsepower, which should be acceptable for most drivers. A more powerful V6 option is available and returns similar fuel economy estimates. In terms of handling, it is surprisingly capable.
The 4-cylinder Venza reaches 60 mph in 9.3 seconds, which is typical for cars in this class. Initial power is plentiful, allowing for decisive launches from a stop, and shifts from the 6-speed automatic are smooth.
In panic brake tests from 60 mph the Venza stopped in a shorter-than-average 120 feet. The soft pedal doesn't instill confidence, but nosedive is kept in check, and the vehicle remains straight and controllable.
Steering effort is light and precise, though there's little feedback. This will suit most drivers fine, however, as there are few demands placed on the driver.
The Venza is surprisingly capable on twisting mountain passes as well as in emergency avoidance maneuvers. Its respectably high cornering limits should prove more than adequate for most owners.
From a stop, the overly sensitive throttle has a tendency to launch more aggressively than desired, often spinning or chirping the front tires. Other than that, the Venza is easy to drive and park in tighter spaces.
ComfortThe Venza provides an acceptable amount of seat comfort for four adults, though perhaps not for long-haul road trips. In terms of ride quality and noise, it doesn't stand out as exceptional from the competition.
Front seats provide just enough padding for adults to remain comfortable for a few hours at a time, but not much more. Lateral support is lacking, however, and the leather upholstery can be a little stifling.
Despite the Venza's capable handling, it never quite feels confident. Smaller road imperfections are well absorbed, but moderate undulations can cause some uneasy jostling inside the cabin.
Under acceleration, engine noise is noticeably unrefined, but otherwise the cabin remains pleasantly quiet. Road and wind noise are detectable but not intrusive. Numerous interior creaks are a source of annoyance, though.
InteriorWith an abundance of oddly textured hard plastics, unconvincing wood trim and small displays, the Venza's interior is showing its age compared to newer rivals. On the plus side, there's plenty of interior storage, though even that has some drawbacks.
The small displays are prone to glare and the little touchscreen buttons complicate operation. Actual physical buttons are large and well labeled. The Entune system offers some contemporary features, but its smartphone connection is unreliable.
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.
There's an abundance of head- and legroom in all seats, even for taller occupants. The rear seats will also comfortably accommodate two adults and one smaller center passenger.
Outward visibility is commendable, giving a good indication of the car's corner boundaries. A rearview camera is standard on the XLE trim and comes in handy when backing into tighter spots.
The 36.2 cu-ft trunk expands to 70.2 cu-ft with the rear seats folded. This is typical for the class, but the hard plastic floor allows objects to slide around unchecked. Interior storage is generous, but access to the large center bins is awkward.
ValueThe base Venza in LE trim with the 4-cylinder engine starts at $28,710, with top-of-the-line V6 Limited trim with AWD topping out at $41,045. The competing Ford Edge is similarly priced while the Subaru Outback undercuts both by about $4,000.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The Venza's interior will likely leave some buyers disappointed. The level of the materials lags behind newer rivals and misaligned panels further detract from the overall impression. Numerous interior creaks are also evident.
Standard and optional Venza feature content is similar to some rivals, but the execution is outdated. The Subaru Outback costs less and comes standard with all-wheel drive.
With the $1,850 XLE Premium package, this 4-cylinder front-drive Venza's as-tested price climbs to $34,520. The Subaru is less expensive while the Ford Edge remains comparable.
EPA estimates of 23 mpg Combined (20 City/26 Highway) are typical for this class and were confirmed by our 22.9 mpg overall average. On our highway-heavy evaluation loop, the Venza turned in an impressive 33.6 mpg.
The Venza's 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties are typical for the class, although the Kia Sorento beats them all with its 5-year/60,000-mile basic and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage.
Scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance are included for 2 years/25,000 miles. Most competitors don't offer free maintenance but do offer longer roadside assitance durations.
Fun To DriveEven though the Venza will probably meet or exceed most of your performance expectations, it's not the kind of vehicle that we'd consider fun. The soft suspension, tall ride height and large dimensions make it a good people hauler, but not much else.
Except for the jumpy throttle, the Venza is well behaved in tight urban spaces as well as out on the highway. Despite being classified as a wagon, it feels to us more like a small minivan.
The Venza looks like a cross between an SUV and a minivan. Inside, the interior looks and feels outdated and lacks refinement. Although it's far from a bad vehicle, there's no question it's time for a major makeover.
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