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Toyota Venza is a family-friendly vehicle

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Four years after its debut, the Toyota Venza is still suffering from an identity crisis. Is it a hatchback, wagon, minivan or crossover sport utility vehicle?

Toyota says the attractive-looking Venza is a crossover SUV. Yet the low roofline is what creates the identity problem, varying from the typical crossover styling theme and looking somewhat like a wagon.

Regardless of its classification, the Venza is a pretty solid vehicle that is very family-friendly, even though it doesn't come with three rows of seating. Its unusual makeup is not surprising considering that Toyota has a large and diverse selection of SUVs, trucks, and crossovers.

The Venza debuted in 2009 when Toyota engineers combined the design elements of the Camry sedan and the Highlander, its versatile SUV. The idea was to create a vehicle that possesses comfort, utility and is easy to drive.

2013 Toyota Venza

  • Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 182 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 268 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 19-26 mpg
  • Price: $27, 700 to $37,420
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 2 years/25,000 miles; maintenance 2 years/25,000
    http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/venza/2013/?sub=wagon

Not much has changed in the 2013 version of the Venza, which still has the aforementioned qualities. Adding a few more standard features and some minor styling changes is the only difference from last year's model.

The Venza is certainly friendly from a utility standpoint, offering numerous storage areas, cubicles and bins to place an iPod or other small devices. All five people have roomy and comfortable seats, making the Venza accommodating for short trips or more sizable journeys.

The cockpit design is also smart, featuring practical locations of cupholders, a streamlined center console, and audio and climate control functions that don't require flipping through the car manual for immediate research.

Cargo space is solid in the normal configuration and when the second row goes down, the hauling area is a spacious 70 cubic feet. Note that the second row doesn't lay completely flat.

Offered in three trims - LE, XLE and Limited - only the upgraded Limited comes with the larger engine, a fairly powerful 3.5-liter, V6 with 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque that can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

Many car shoppers might be better off with the 2.7-liter, four-cylinder that produces 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. If an around town, kid-transporter is the Venza's main function, the lesser engine should work just fine. Note that the Venza is front-wheel drive, but has an all-wheel drive option.

The downside of going with the Limited model is price. The basic LE model runs $27,770, while the Limited has as sticker price that is nearly $9,000 more at $36,420 when all-wheel drive is added.

The Venza is pleasant to drive, yet doesn't quite reach the coveted "fun" category. It's easy to maneuver in small areas and provides the driver a good road feel in tight turns and is enhanced by a solid braking capacity. What's not cool about the Venza is the low roofline that limits visibility

The Venza isn't exciting to drive, especially the four-cylinder version. The vehicle's true value is its family-friendly nature. Although pricing is on the high side, this is a Toyota product that has many enviable qualities.

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Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.



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