Home » The Stylish, Ahead Of Its Time, Original Toyota Venza Now Offers Near-Lexus Refinement For Used Honda CR-V Money

The Stylish, Ahead Of Its Time, Original Toyota Venza Now Offers Near-Lexus Refinement For Used Honda CR-V Money

Toyota Venza Beige Ts2
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The hardest car to shop for right now is a family crossover for $15,000 or less. After all, everyone wants a crossover, most people don’t have a ton of money to blow, and several years of new car shortages has resulted in a serious used car bottleneck. However, what if I told you there was a cheat code out there that combined interesting styling, loads of features, potent available V6 power, and legendary reliability while still fitting in that price bracket? It’s the original Toyota Venza, and this frequently forgotten crossover is way better than you remember.

The Venza offers near-Lexus refinement, unexpected luxuries, and the sheer confidence of a Toyota badge, so why isn’t anyone talking about it? Well, it wasn’t a huge seller, and when it came out, not everyone understood it. Oh, how the car landscape can change in 15 years.

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Welcome back to Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, a weekly series in which we raise the profile of some quiet greats. We’re talking vehicles that are secretly awesome, but go unsung because of either a boring image or the lack of an image altogether.

If you cast your mind back to 2009, Toyota showrooms were looking a bit grim. The new Corolla didn’t make a huge effort to compete with the Honda Civic’s dramatic styling, the Avalon was rather plain, the Highlander was generic three-row crossover number five, and much of the lineup didn’t have the same showroom appeal as offerings from Mitsubishi. However, from the depths of Toyota’s beige era came signs of life, and the Venza had styling that’s aged remarkably well.

Toyota Venza 2

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There are zero off-road pretenses to the Venza’s appearance. No cladding, no faux skid plates, no roof rails, no plastic flares. It’s a conscious decision that works, because nobody takes two-row crossovers off-roading. Instead, you get a flashy grille, massive wheels, sculpted flanks, and thin headlights. These days, it’s not the most striking crossover on the road, but it doesn’t look like a 15-year-old vehicle. Toyota put thought into the Venza and it shows.

Toyota Venza Panoramic Moonroof

In aiming the Venza at both empty nesters with some money to blow and savvy upper-middle-class young families, Toyota dropped banger after banger after certified banger on the options list. We’re talking 20-inch wheels, HID headlights, a power liftgate, a panoramic moonroof, JBL surround sound, push-to-start, touch-screen navigation … everything that felt like the future in 2009. A loaded Venza still feels luxurious today, but it wasn’t a Lexus, and that was part of the appeal.

Even though Lexus is a Toyota sub-brand, it carries an elevated prestige that some people just aren’t comfortable with. After all, luxury brands are ostentatious, while Toyotas typically aren’t. Obviously, this is reflected in the price, because holy moly, was there ever a difference. Back in 2010, if you wanted an all-wheel-drive Lexus RX 350, you’d be looking at an MSRP of $39,025. However, if you wanted a V6 all-wheel-drive Venza, it started at $29,550, or in the mid-30s with options added. Keep in mind, it had the same engine, same transmission, same platform, and similar refinement as the RX 350 – the Toyota was just much less expensive.

Toyota Venza Interior

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That transverse platform shared with the RX 350 and Camry makes for a ton of interior space. Not only do a litany of center console compartments slide for configurability, the rear seat reclines and there’s a solid 39.1 inches of rear legroom on tap. Best of all, that cabin was an unexpectedly nice place for four adults, with funky woodgrain-like soft-touch plastics, available mahogany, and some pretty comfortable seats. There was even a little pocket to keep an iPhone in. Want to haul furniture? Toyota thought of that and included remote release handles for the rear seatbacks in the cargo area to really open up that load bay. Sure, it might not be the most rectilinear crossover ever made, but access is half the battle.

Toyota Venza Engine

Is the Venza sporty? Absolutely not, and that’s part of the appeal. Because it’s essentially a stylish, tall Camry station wagon, it’s as easy to own as a Camry. It’ll happily commute up and down the highway day in, day out in comfort until the heat death of the universe or the moment we run out of gasoline. The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is economical, but the optional 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V6 turned the Venza into such an unlikely straight-line performer that Motor Trend took a shining to it in a three-car comparison test against the Nissan Murano and the Ford Edge. As per the outlet:

Although it’s not quite as fun or sharp as the Murano, the Venza impresses us as the one that could get up and over the hills the quickest, thanks to its heady 268-horse 3.5-liter V-6, intuitive six-speed slushbox, and grippy Michelins. It posts the briskest 0-to-60 and quarter-mile times—6.5 seconds and 15.0 at 93.7 mph, respectively, not only putting the Edge and Murano on the trailer but also the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track—as well as a carlike 0.81 g on the skidpad. “Exceptionally smooth transmission and burly engine. Put your foot in it, and you’re treated to instantaneous and delicious acceleration,” says Loh.

Hot damn, zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds certainly isn’t slow. Add in the aforementioned space and creature comforts, and it’s no wonder the Venza handily won that comparison test. Competency doesn’t always equal popularity, however. In 2009, the original Venza’s most popular year, Toyota sold 54,410 across America. That same year, Toyota sold 83,118 Highlanders, the worst result the Highlander’s ever had. Unsurprisingly, after years of steadily declining sales, Toyota canned the Venza before eventually bringing it back as a smaller hybridized crossover. So what happened?

Toyota Venza Interior 2

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There’s some evidence to suggest not everyone understood the Venza when it launched. NBC News complained about subjects like the sheen of the plastics and the fingertip lightness of the electric power steering before urging shoppers to “Look at the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Ford Edge, and Mazda CX-7 before signing papers on a Venza.” The Equinox? Surely, they weren’t serious. It turns out that Automobile Magazine didn’t quite get it either, albeit approaching the Venza with more self-awareness than NBC News, writing:

I know the Venza is targeted at the Ford Edge and the Nissan Murano, but the entire time I spent behind the wheel I kept thinking that a Subaru would do a better job of being what this Venza is trying to be. The Subaru Forester is similar in price and fuel economy but offers more utility. Maybe I’m missing the mark completely here, but I’d much rather have a Forester, which weighs some 500 pounds less, than the few extra inches of overall vehicle length that the Venza offers.

In 2009, the Toyota Venza was a bit weird. It filled a strange niche at a time when many buyers were looking for either a traditional midsize sedan or something with five o’clock shadow styling, and its only natural competitors were the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. In 2024, though, the Venza is downright normal. Style-conscious feature-rich midsize two-row crossovers are fairly normalized, and the midsize family sedan is almost a memory.

2013 Toyota Venza Limited

Of course, because the Venza wasn’t a hit, it’s quite good value on the second-hand market. For instance, this loaded 2013 Toyota Venza Limited with just 76,187 miles on the clock is up for sale in Oxnard, Calif. for $15,160. That might sound like a lot for an 11-year-old vehicle, but because of a few turbulent years in the car market, it really isn’t.

2011 Toyota Venza

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Going back a few years and up in miles, this 2011 Venza with 96,491 miles on the clock is currently listed for sale in Phoenix at $10,601. Sure, it may be a fairly low-spec model with cloth seats, but it still has that potent V6, those 20-inch wheels, and that Toyota reputation for reliability. That’s the sort of money similarly-aged Honda CR-Vs with under 100,000 miles on their clocks command, and the Venza seems far more appealing.

Toyota Venza 3

So, if you’re looking for a second-hand family vehicle and aren’t particularly enthused that well-kept decade-old four-cylinder compact crossovers are five-figure cars, why not look at a V6-powered Toyota Venza? So long as sheer excitement isn’t on the docket, this thing does it all, is as pleasant as a warm bath at the end of a cold winter day, and can still wow passengers with its on-board toys. It’s more interesting than a Highlander, more humble than a Lexus, and just flat-out good family transportation that flies completely under the radar. How about that?

(Photo credits: Toyota, Autotrader sellers)

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VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

From everything I’ve found, the Venza is the replacement for the Prius v in terms of size, albeit not fuel economy. I have them on my mental shortlist “in case of accident and/or simultaneous death of the water pump, engine, high voltage battery, and brake accumulator.” (A man can dream nightmare, can’t he?)

So I’d presumably look either for a Venza, or a 4th gen Prius and just take the hit to storage space.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

I’ve been recommending this car to people needing a basic used family car for years. Sometimes dealers end up with these and don’t really know what to do with them. Deals can be had on occasion.

It’s basically a Camry/Avalon wagon. Toyotas of this era have semi-craptacular interior materials, but everything is well put together and hardly anything ever breaks. If you don’t care about appearing outdoorsy, and you just want something perfectly competent at transporting a small family, you could do much worse.

OldGuy inan Avalon
OldGuy inan Avalon
2 months ago

Toyota would have sold more Venzas if they simply named them “Camry Wagon.”

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
2 months ago

Camry MAXX, anyone?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

They are completely anonymous. Not long ago I met one coming out on our narrow dead end road. I’m coming home in my big old lifted work van, and this white blob kept coming at me…I’m thinking, “Great: another idiot who doesn’t understand how this road works!” -thinking they’re going to try to edge past me on this effectively one-lane road.

Then he darted up into a driveway and I saw the bike on the back: it was my bil who I live across from. I’d seen the vehicle every day for several months, but still couldn’t identify it from 30 yards until I saw the color of the bike on the back. 😉

Andrew Pappas
Andrew Pappas
2 months ago

Have a friend who got one new. Very comfy, very ugly. Some really cheap interior pieces, but mostly fine.

It’s an Avalon wagon.

Pit-Smoked Clutch
Pit-Smoked Clutch
2 months ago

Ugh. These were the most bizarrely fugly things I had ever seen when they came out. I wasn’t aware of them before one showed up in the parking lot of the apartment complex I was living in and I just had to stop and stare. I thought it must somehow be fake.

Since then, they’ve aged poorly.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
2 months ago

> the most bizarrely fugly things I had ever seen when they came out

I see we haven’t met

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago

And that they’ve never seen a second-gen xB.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

Or a Nissan Cube.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
2 months ago

I didn’t understand it back then, but I thought it looked nice.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
2 months ago

This beige car series is fire man. Very calm, peaceful, well controlled fire. Keep it up!

Keon R
Keon R
2 months ago

These were absolutely fantastic cars. Dead reliable, very comfortable, and just different enough from other crossovers. So why the hell did NBC tell people to buy an Equinox instead? Such a braindead take.

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 months ago
Reply to  Keon R

Ad revenue?

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago
Reply to  Keon R

Nobody builds better Buicks than Toyota.

Jeff Byers
Jeff Byers
2 months ago

We bought brand new a 2013 XLE V6 front wheel drive. It’s a wonderful car, it’s the wife’s drive. With 76k on it, it’ll last forever.

Randal Son
Randal Son
2 months ago

We’ve had a ’14 V6 Limited AWD for a bit over four years now. It follows having a Passat Wagon Fourmotion. The Venza is much roomier, with much better ground clearance for those unplowed snowy road days. Not so low to get in and out of. We get 25-26 mpg on Regular, the Passat got 29-30 on Premium. Affordable maintenance compared to VW. It has held its value over four (admittedly inflated) years quite well. So far it looks like a keeper until there is an AWD EV for less than $40K.

Lardo
Lardo
2 months ago

I looked at one new. I liked it. The salesman (who never lie) said that it was gonna be a Lexus, then corporate changed their mind. It seemed way nicer than the typical Toyota. I can see it being a good vehicle to drive today.

Parsko
Parsko
2 months ago

These are one of my “automotive hidden passions”. I would argue, and I hate saying this as an SUV/CUV hater, this and the Edge are the perfect sized vehicles for the average human.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago

I mean, there’s a reason I’ve been sleeping on the Venza. It’s nicely appointed, but a definite bore.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
2 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Can you imagine how many puffalumps fit in there though

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago

There are far more interesting vehicles with more space that exist. Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, anyone? Any hearse?

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
2 months ago

These used to be fairly common in Northeast commuter traffic when I lived out there. Not as common as many other cars, but still not rare. Their proportions were closer to a traditional station wagon or “estate” car than other crossovers which made them a bit more attractive to somebody like me who appreciates long-roofs.

My guess is that the all-wheel drive for dealing with foul weather plus Toyota reliability and comfort was appealing to New England commuters who just wanted a good commuter/family car.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
2 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Still see a few here and there up here.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

How on earth is a bloated tall station wagon with the same power from it’s same-sized V6 and one less gear as my Mercedes-Benz a couple tenths faster to 60?
I wonder if it’s because Mercedes did their 0-60 testing in Comfort mode?

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
2 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

because GR stands for Gazoo Racing 😀

(sorry, I had to)

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
2 months ago

The Venza is cool because it’s the closest thing to a Camry wagon, and used examples are priced accordingly. They are expensive.

It’s almost impossible to find a 4-cylinder FWD model with a sunroof. That would be the Venza’s holy grail and the best example to get, as the other versions are fucking thirsty, you can’t turn off the AWD, and a transverse V6 is impossible to work on.

They come with huge 19/20 inch wheels for no reason, though aftermarket wheels as small as 17 are available.

As much as I love Toyota, and I’d totally rock a FWD I4 Venza, the version to get is impossible to find, and when you do find it, is too expensive.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Camry Wagon – I can’t unsee that now. I knew the grill was familiar, but couldn’t exactly place it.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

It’s too ugly to be a wagon though. It’s bloated like a Pacifica with a fat ass like a Murano. I felt myself warming to it the tiniest bit as I read, then got to the final image and the illusion was dispelled.

Meh, I’m just grumpy today.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
2 months ago

My sister got one of these to replace her old Sienna, and I have to admit it’s a pretty nice vehicle. And when I see them on the road, they always strike me as looking quite nice.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

The Venza is style-ish, the way George Santos was Jew-ish. Seriously though, I never see these rolling around, then the other day I saw a Toyota I didn’t recognize on the street. When I passed the tailgate and saw ‘Venza’ there, I was surprised. These really do look better in reality than in photos. Perhaps it was the color. But for a few exceptions, I’m not an SUV or crossover fan; however, I wouldn’t mind having a Venza as my do everything ride.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

For me, they’re kinda like the new Crown – rare enough that when I see one, I kinda get this fleeting sensation that it’s somehow a non-U.S.-market model.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I can definitely see that.

DadBod
DadBod
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I saw a Crown today and it took a second to figure out what it was. Not bad looking at all in solid white.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

I like ’em too – not quite a hatchback, not quite an SUV, but perhaps actually really useful for a lot of people, if they could let go of the I-need-to-drive-an-offroad-vehicle-looking thing.

Ford has a Chinese-market vehicle, the Evos, that looks very similar and to my eyes cool.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago

Ironic to see this story today. As I was thinking of my 09 Venza which I unloaded to a local Toyota dealer a year ago. I owned it for two years. Bought it for the boss to have a bit nicer ride. She drove it less than a mile in the time we owned it. V6. On her test drive I told her to floor it from a stop. Scared the shit out of her, and that stuck in her mind.

Since I became the default driver, it gave me time to get to know the car well.
And for what it was, was impressed by the comfort, ride, and Toyota reliability. But boring enough to put one to sleep. Plus it felt huge and I prefer a smaller, more nimble car.

But I prefer cars with personality. The Venza felt like it had been lobotomized at the factory. Not a bad car, but not much fun either. As such I don’t miss it a bit.

Last edited 2 months ago by Col Lingus
Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago

I’m actually considering one of these. My 178,000 mile 2005 Acura MDX is getting a bit long at the tooth and with my daughter leaving high school I’m considering moving out of a (cramped) 3 row. With a roof mounted cargo bag or small trailer it would suit all my needs. I don’t mind the station wagon looks at all.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tbird
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago

Always thought the Venza was what the Ford Edge aspired to be but never quite made it. You need a minivan but aren’t willing to be quite that contrarian, but you really really just want something you don’t have to worry about? Toyota’s got you covered.

And yay on the lack of roof rails. Yeah, I know there will be some people here who use them daily and how dare I question their utility, but really, the overwhelming majority of buyers never ever will.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jack Trade
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

Okay, I haven’t even read the article, but I have an immediate and urgent need to object to the title.

The Venza isn’t stylish. Not even close. It’s by far the ugliest car Toyota made at a time when Toyota made quite a few ugly cars. Nobody thinks you’re stylish being in a Venza.

Update: I’ve read it and I don’t have much more to say. The Venza is hideous. Also, hard pass on any transverse V6, which is automatically a maintenance nightmare.

Last edited 2 months ago by Rust Buckets
Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

When they came out, I also thought they were awful. What was Toyota thinking with the front end?

I admittedly have not thought of these in a long time, but think it has aged well. Or maybe cars are just getting uglier.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

It has aged well as in, “it doesn’t look any worse than it used to.”

It does look more normal, more mainstream, but thats just because ugly crossovers are more common than ever.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago

These certainly have an odd charm, but I’d rather have the RX. I looked at one of these for the family a decade ago, before we had need of our current minivan, and simply could not get past the absolutely goofy center console/stack layout. The interior was nice, the V6 was fine (the 4-cylinder was horribly underpowered), but the interior ergonomics were a deal killer.

Matt Hardigree
Matt Hardigree
2 months ago

… Stylish?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

These frumpwagens have about as much style as a used bar of soap.

So, peak beige-era Toyota, then. I don’t call it the Bad Times for nothin’.

Last edited 2 months ago by Stef Schrader
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Good points. The overall body shape reminded me of a beached whale. Just an ugly car to me. I love and have owned Toyotas almost exclusively for over 45 years.

But that stupid body with the stupid swollen fenders and crap looking front end were just too much to live with. It depressed me every time I had to look at it. Even with power seats it was near impossible to be comfortable for more than 10 minutes.

And the dealer cost to replace spark plugs and the cost of tires 20 inches, (300 bucks each), quickly killed whatever little love I had for it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Col Lingus
Chris D
Chris D
2 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

The dealer cost for pretty much anything is way too high.
Tire Rack or America’s Tire could have done much better, and the plugs could have been replaced at a local shop.
However, if the boredom does you in, then then it’s time for it to go.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

Good point. We have neither of the stores you mentioned here though. I do buy my tires from Tire Rack the last 15 years, and like them.
And because I started working at dealers 47 years ago, I have no interest or desire at all to do business with any of them.

And yes, the Venza was a boring car. A good car, but I wish they had built it on a smaller scale, re: body size. Did not need to be that huge. YMMV

lastwraith
lastwraith
2 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I don’t think you need a Tire Rack near you, they’ll drop ship your tires anywhere you want (home, work, an installer’s location, whatever) and then there are even mobile installers available who will come in a van and mount/balance your tires at your house, in your work parking lot, etc.

Unless you meant you live in another country, that’s different obv.

Last edited 2 months ago by lastwraith
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  lastwraith

No. I already have them shipped to me. Sorry if I was not clear.
And thanks.

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