It's been decades since midsize wagons were the vehicle of choice for American families. They've long since been replaced by minivans, SUVs and crossovers. Despite the incredible successes of Toyota's own entries in those categories — namely, the Highlander, RAV4 and Sienna — the automaker saw an opportunity in the late 2000s to revive interest in the stagnant station wagon market.
The sleekly styled Toyota Venza was the result. New for the 2009 model year, it boasted carlike handling, good fuel economy and plenty of versatility. Though it lacked the ruggedness inherent in an SUV or the option for a third-row seat, the Venza was an otherwise ideal choice for families. It ultimately failed to reignite the wagon market, but Toyota's storied reliability and attractive secondhand prices make the Venza an ideal used car for families in need of extra cargo room.
Used Toyota Venza Models
The Toyota Venza is related to Toyota's Camry sedan, so in a way you could think of it as a beefed-up Camry wagon. It sits relatively low to the ground, which makes it easier for passengers to get in and out. There's seating for up to five people, as no third-row seat is offered. Toyota built in plenty of storage nooks and crannies to keep things organized, and there are plenty of cupholders, too. Cargo capacity with the rear seats folded down is just north of 70 cubic feet, which should suffice for most families.
Late-model Venzas were offered in LE, XLE and Limited trim levels. Standard feature highlights for the LE included alloy wheels, a rearview camera, a touchscreen infotainment interface, a power driver seat, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port. Stepping up to the XLE added keyless entry and ignition, a power liftgate, Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and an upgraded infotainment system. The Limited tops it off with xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, a navigation system and an upgraded sound system.
Two engines were offered, depending on which trim you ordered. Standard on the LE and XLE was a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that made 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited was a more robust 3.5-liter V6 that cranked out 268 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. Both engines were mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that sent power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive was optional for either engine, but the Limited came only in AWD. Towing capacity when properly equipped was 3,500 pounds.
Driving the Toyota Venza wasn't a sporty experience, but in reviews, we found this tall wagon handled reasonably well on curvy roads given its utilitarian purpose. On the highway, the overall ride was quite comfortable. The base four-cylinder engine provided adequate power to motivate this sizable wagon, although the V6 was obviously the way to go if passing folks on the highway took precedence over achieving the best fuel economy. In terms of everyday usability, the Venza was an excellent, highly refined choice for just about anyone who needed to haul kids, pets, scuba gear, golf clubs and other family recreational cargo.
The Toyota Venza debuted for the 2009 model year and received only minor changes over its production run. From 2009 to 2011 Toyota sold the Venza with just optional packages rather than the more traditional trim level structure implemented for '12. The '13 model gained the Entune smartphone integration system and a slight exterior styling update. For '14, power-folding mirrors and parking sensors were added to the equipment roster, and in '15, the final year for Venza production, the 6.1-inch touchscreen and rearview camera were added to base models.