2014 Toyota Venza: wagon? SUV? All good

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The 2014 Toyota Venza, like its older siblings, is positioned uniquely. It’s neither a wagon nor a true sport utility vehicle. Rather it’s a crossover with the all-wheel drive functionality like a wagon, cargo room like an SUV and the characteristics of a near luxury sedan.

The result is a combo-car with a combo name. Plenty of theories abound what Venza means, including the Spanish translation, Conquer. Toyota says the vehicle’s name is a compilation of the words Venture and Monza, the Italian racetrack.

The 2014 Toyota Venza is versatile.
The 2014 Toyota Venza is versatile. Images © James Raia/2014

It all makes sense, since the Venza is a compilation of car styles and sizes.

Refreshed last year, the Venza has only a few minor changes for 2014. There are fewer available color combinations and slight equipment upgrades in some trims.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The 2014 Toyota Venza is offered in base LE, mid-range XLE, and top-line Limited with V6-only transmissions. I had the top-line trim with all-wheel drive.

(Click on thumbnails below for larger images.)

I initially thought the Venza was a small SUV, but Toyota already has its share of large and small utility vehicles. But nor is the Venza a true wagon. Like the Subaru Outback, the Venza drives likes a car, but it’s more versatile without the bulky and sometimes cumbersome feel of an SUV.

The base and increasingly detail trims have a long list of standard features. The Limited trim level adds: 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.

Like the larger Hyundai Santa Fe, the 2014 Toyota Venza has an immediately feeling of comfort and driving ease. Its steering has been characterized as soft. But I liked the responsiveness and simplicity of the wheel play.

The suspension is tight, with undulations and sudden poor pavement handled with care. The Limited trim also has 20-inch wheels and while that could prompt comfort issues, it doesn’t.

Likes:

Lots of room.

Interior storage compartments spacious and plentiful, especially the cleverly designed console.

Automatic shifter perfectly situated.

Well-equipped.

Smooth, car-like ride for a SUV/wagon.

Automatic tailgate opener.

Dislikes:

Not great gas mileage.

The $40,000 top-line price point could be a stumbling block.

Facts & Figures: 2014 Toyota Venza

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.1 seconds.
Airbags: (6).
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (highway), 21 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 268.
Transmission, 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $39,570.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.toyota.com.
Price As Tested: $40,940.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage

What Others Say:

“If you’re in the market for a 2-row family vehicle with a little extra pizzazz, consider giving this underappreciated Toyota some love.” — AutoTrader.

“Bigger than the less expensive Subaru Outback but not quite as large as the 7-passenger Highlander, the Venza appeals to people who need the power and room of an SUV, but don’t really care to own an SUV. — Kelley Blue Book.

“Comfortable, competent, and confidence inspiring, the Venza offers more stable-seeming and car-like ride and handling than most crossovers. In many respects, it feels like a heavier, taller Camry wagon behind the wheel.” — CarConnection.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Is it a wagon, an SUV or the definitive crossover? A name is just a name, like Venza. Whatever. Toyota’s “tweener” just has a lot going for it . . . comfort, style, utility and it drives like a car, not a bulky SUV.”

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