By on January 20, 2010


Cross a car and a truck, you get an SUV. Cross a SUV with a car and you get a CUV. Cross that CUV with a car and you get a Crossover Sedan, the term used by Toyota marketing mavens for their Camry-based Venza. With this step the evolution comes full circle, as the Venza is really just a good ole station wagon. Not to be outdone, this year Honda released a Crossover Sedan of their own, only they don’t call it a Crossover Sedan. Instead, Honda says their new Accord “blends sporty, low-profile contours with CUV functionality.” Get the picture? Actually, the new Honda should be called the Accord hatchback. So it is that I evaluate these two new Crossover Sedans wrought from the DNA of two of the top selling cars in North America. First up, second place: the Toyota Venza.

IMG_2578Call the Venza whatever you like, it is big and shares nary a body panel with the Camry. Its hood is broad, short, flat and lacks the Camry’s obscene protruding bulge. The doors too are flat and tall, making the most of the space above the vehicle’s footprint. This Colossus of Roads stands 3.3” wider and 5.5” taller than its (relatively) diminutive chassis partner.

Inside, the sense of spaciousness continues. In fact, call it vast; a vast expanse of hard cheap plastics. The most striking thing about Venza’s inner confines, other than the openness of the space, is that it looks like futuristic interior mockups that carmakers like to put into concept vehicles for auto shows. You know, the ones where none of the buttons or gauges are real and they use a lot of sterile colors accented with splashes of neon lighting, and long flowing lines. Seats: meet George Jetson.

In their wisdom, Toyota engineers planted Venza’s gear select in the middle of the IMG_2580dashboard. Not only does this placement bring on the very minivan blahs the “crossover sedan” category might have been invented to avoid, it also crowds the HVAC controls away from the driver into an asymmetrical contortion of buttons and knobs. On the positive side, it frees up the center console space to be used as a dedicated storage bin filled with handy cubbies and niches that lift and slide into multiple handy configurations. Auxiliary audio jacks are conveniently located at the front of the center console.

The highlight of the Venza’s interior is the light high above the passenger’s heads that Toyota calls the panoramic glass roof option. It is a conventional sunroof plus a large fixed pane over the rear seat occupants, perfect for taking your kids on a driving tour of Jurassic Park.

Automatic folding rear seats can be actuated by levers conveniently located on either side of the lift gate. With the seats up, the rear quarters can accommodate 30.1 cu.ft. of cargo. Fold the rear seats down and that space grows to 68.8 cu.ft. For those of you keeping score, that’s 4.2 cu.ft. smaller than the back of the RAV4. But it’s also four and a half times more than you can squeeze into the trunk of a Camry.

Everything about how the Venza drives is tuned for comfort and smoothness. My Barcelona Red Metallic test car was powered by Toyota’s 268 hp 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed electronically controlled transmission. If you have the patience, it is actually capable of producing a fair amount of power. If you have the patience.

IMG_2601Before the engine will sing though, you have to endure it lugging through low rpms at the shallow end of the power band and wait for the slothful transmission to downshift a gear. Or two. Or three. I suppose this is for the best since the car has the weakest brakes I have encountered since I began my saga testing cars for TTAC in 2006.

The traction control allows for excessive wheel spin before it invokes ABS intervention, which then comes on way too hard. Furthermore, the electric power assisted steering pulls demonically to the right after the car shifts into second gear at about 50 mph during full throttle blasts. Otherwise, torque steer isn’t a problem (I type with trembling hands).

But hey, it’s a family-oriented station wagon. Gear shifts are as disruptive as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing. The velvety suspension devours potholes so you don’t have to. Under normal driving conditions, the Venza is a rolling sensory deprivation chamber, perfect for pacifying fussy babies and soothing the savage beast after a long day at the office.

And long days are exactly what you will have to work in order to pay for Toyota’s fancy station wagon. My test model rang in at $34,893, $4,513 more than the Accord Crosstour EX. Throw in AWD and navigation and you’ll get stuck for $40 large.

[Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review]


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69 Comments on “Comparison Review: Toyota Venza Versus Honda Crosstour: Second Place: Toyota Venza...”

  • avatar

    I don’t get it. A colleague just got a new Highlander and at the same price point it offers fairly similar performance, ride and if I’m not mistaken, fuel economy.

    I’m beginning to agree with comments of many of the B&B…Toyota seems to be acting like GM.

    • 0 avatar

      the highlander LOOKS LIKE A TRUCK.

      CUV’s/crossovers/ whatever you may call them are the new style. No one wants anything that looks or smells like a truck, whether because of the Green movement or because of the belief they aren’t as fuel efficient as the CUV.

      I’ve been in the Venza.  If God damned me  and wrecked my s550 and forced me into a crossover, I’d hope it would be the Venza.

      The Edge is too small.
      the Crosstour is too small.
      The GM crossovers are too big and ugly.
      the SRX is too slow.

      I’d take the Venza in a heartbeat if I had too.

    • 0 avatar

      What about a Flex EcoBoost?  If Jack Baruth likes it…

  • avatar

    Yep, Toyota went so SUV/CUV happy it’s ridiculous.  I wonder if GM is the wrong comparison, though.  Maybe (considering they make mostly appliance cars) they are really Black & Decker with six different ways of making the same dry piece of toast.

  • avatar

    IDK, IMHO, it looks better then the honda…

    but thats not saying much.

    • 0 avatar

      From the outside, sure. But inside we have, as the review notes, significantly cheaper-looking plastics than in a current GM or Ford product. The woodgrain trim is especially bad.
      I drove the four-cylinder. It’s adequate, no more, no less. This V6 usually feels strong, though. My impressions of the ride quality also differ–the low profile tires can get a bit thumpy.

      TrueDelta has only a little preliminary data on these so far. Based on this limited data, reliability appears similar to the Camry,  and better than average.

      About the Car Reliability Survey:

  • avatar

    On the plus side, this is the best looking vehicle to come from Toyota in more than 10 years (IMHO).

    On the minus side, and there are probably many, there is no real reason a Camry wagon should cost into the mid-$30s. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about crossovers, it’s that you can stick an extra $5-$7k on the sticker by simply calling it a crossover. This isn’t much different than any other form of platform sharing (see: Lexus RX, ES), but I find this to be the most reprehensible version of it.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree completely with you on the styling.  I think that this is an uncommonly handsome vehicle with proportions that are just right – as opposed to the Honda that is just awkward.
      The only sour styling note on the Venza is that place in front where it looks like a hot radiator cap melted the middle of the hood and grille.

    • 0 avatar

      35 grand for this?  And it isn’t even the most expensive version?  Get real.


  • avatar

    When are they just going to get rid of the dumb “stick” in automatic cars? In most cases they’re only electrically connected to the tranny and in this case look like crap. For 99.9% of the users they stick it in drive and leave it there. So put some pushbuttons on the dash somewhere and reclaim that space for storage.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe (but have not researched it) that it stems from a 1960s Federal law or safety standard that standardized gear selection on automatic trans cars beginning in 1965.  This is why Chrysler’s pushbuttons went away after 1964.

    • 0 avatar

      Just because the Feds mandate it doesn’t mean:
      It’s correct.
      It should stay that way for all time.
      Better things get invented all the time and they don’t come from the District of Control.
      These “rules” may have made sense when the shifter was moving a lever/rods/springs/cables but we’re in an electronically controlled automatic-transmission world.

      It’s a decent looking/driving vehicle. Much too heavy (about 4000 lbs) – lowering gas economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed – at least use the Prius’ gear nubbin

    • 0 avatar
      Dave Skinner

      Actually, even in the case of electronically controlled transmissions, the lever still provides a mechanical connection to the transmission. Manufacturers being the belt and suspender types, the lever mechanically locks the transmission when the driver chooses “Park”.

      If you’re looking for specifics, EVERY Honda model with an automatic transmission uses a mechanical linkage between the selection lever and the transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      Manufacturers are stupidly moving away from column shifters. My 1st-gen CR-V had one, but the latest model does not.  Now, I am almost forced to shop for a truck to get one.

  • avatar

    I’d rather have a Sienna…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I think the Venza is supposed to fulfill two long-term functions in Toyota’s lineup.

    1) Offer a CUV

    2) Partial replacement for the Avalon (a stretched version of the Camry may come later).

    3) Supplementing the Sienna’s reach by offering a ‘family vehicle’ alternative to the minivan.

    Which brings us to the big point here. The Sienna is really the best value as it pertains to the ‘family vehicle’. Cars like the Venza are just overweight compromises that really don’t offer any type of enduring advantage over a minivan, other than the ‘social stigma’ and ‘size’ factors.

    Once Toyota starts offering a hybrid variant on their minivans the ‘size’ issue is going to go away. At that point I seriously doubt that there will be enough of a market to make the Venza viable in it’s current form.  

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the new Jag come with a rotary knob for gear selection?

  • avatar

    Definitely better-looking than the Crosstour, which looks like some horrible creature that either escaped from the teleporter in “The Fly” or a Dali painting. All the Venza needs to be handsome is a toned-down grille that makes more sense. The shifter blocking the HVAC controls from the driver is silly and pointless; if you want the center console for storage, use a column shifter. And something nearing $40K that has poorly fitting trim pieces and huge expanses of Daewoo-grade plastic? Simply unacceptable. If GM ever makes one of these crossover sedan thingys, it won’t be hard to improve on the plastics.

  • avatar

    …Toyota engineers planted Venza’s gear select in the middle of the dashboard. Not only does this placement bring on the very minivan blahs the “crossover sedan” category might have been invented to avoid, it also crowds the HVAC controls away from the driver into an asymmetrical contortion of buttons and knobs.
    This works out better than you’d think.  The controls may not have the Accord’s visual symmetry, but you can pick them out better at a glance than the rows of identically-shaped buttons.  But yes, it does look goofy.

    Call the Venza whatever you like, it is big and shares nary a body panel with the Camry.
    The Venza isn’t so much a Camry wagon as it’s a Sienna with big wheels and a third row.  The Sienna you buy when your kids move out, if you will.
    …powered by Toyota’s 268 hp 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed electronically controlled transmission. If you have the patience, it is actually capable of producing a fair amount of power. If you have the patience.
    That’s definitely the transmission, as this engine in the lighter RAV or Camry and the athletic IS and GS is a stellar performer.  Again, this is what the Sienna does, and it’s about the only way you can get decent peak power in a big, heavy vehicle without resorting to turbocharging and all the problems it brings.
    The Venza is not a bad car, especially now that consumers don’t need to be coddled with cars that look like trucks.  The lineup is also kind of rational, in a way:
    * RAV/4 & Highlander: Cars that look like trucks, but aren’t.  For people who need to look rugged and individualistic
    * Venza and Sienna: Cars that look like vacuum cleaners.  For people who don’t need to look rugged and individualistic
    * 4Runner and Sequoia: Actual trucks
    The problem is the xB, FJ and Land Cruiser.  Because of the xB, the RAV is too big (it really ought to be an Escape competitor).  Because of the FJ, the 4Runner is embiggened and the Land Cruiser made redundant.  Toyota could reduce the size of the xB and FJ, and then shrink the RAV and 4Runner.  The problem there is that North Americans buy badges as much as they buy brands, and people have trouble moving into a “downmarket” car, despite it’s meeting their needs.
    This is the problem with, say, criticizing the Accord for being bloated.  It’s not bloated, it’s just a full-size car.  Honda still makes the Civic and Fit, but current Accord buyers won’t step down.
    The Venza exists partly to get Camry buyers who want a higher hip point, but mostly to get ex-Sienna owners and people for whom the Highlander and RAV are too butch.

  • avatar

    I would like to know the facts behind the gearshift design regulation. What is the law today? Maybe it’s been relaxed since the ’60s. As far as the 1965 law goes, I think it was intended for safety reasons. The thinking was that serious accidents could occur if cars had widely varying shifter mechanisms where P, R, D could be easily confused and had to be re-learned each time when driving an unfamiliar car. As an aside, I also have wondered about how many airbags are required today in cars sold in the US. Maybe is there is one go-to source that has all this government information.

  • avatar

    Suddenly, the dashboard and interior trim of my 2000 Chrysler Voyager looks upscale.

  • avatar


    Really, I don’t see it.

  • avatar

    Remember when wagons only cost a couple hundred more than the sedan versions?  Heck, when wagons started to die, some cost less.  Honda and Toyota are starting to offer vehicles that cross into the Acura and Lexus pricing barrier.  I doubt they will sell well…especially in the current environment.  Hyundai is going to continue to steal market share from them if they don’t know how to get their prices down.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Parked my 13-year-old Audi A6 Avant next to one of these at the theatre.  Same color.  Came out after the flick and was hard pressed to tell the two vehicles apart from 50 feet.

    So much for Toyota design leadership….copying decade-and-a-half old German designs….

    • 0 avatar

      Huh?  They don’t look anything alike.

    • 0 avatar

      wow … you clearly need glasses (or new glasses), they are like night and day (ex-A6 Avant owner here, I know well what they look like) …
      both the Venza and the Crosstour are WAY too expensive for what they offer IMO, I wouldn’t go near either of them (of course, I wouldn’t go near an Audi A6 today either after experiencing 11 years of Audi “quality”, LOL).

  • avatar

    Okay, so where is the manual transmission version?
    Someone had to say it.

  • avatar

    Way overpriced for what is for all practical purposes a Camry wagon. But at least it is attractive to look at, unlike that hideous Crosstour. By the way, saw the new Acura ZDX at the Detroit Auto Show. It is even uglier than the Crosstour.

  • avatar

    I think this comparison might have been more useful if we could have roped in the Edge, CX-7, Santa Fe and Murano as well.
    “Battle of the Glamour-Wagons”, as it were.

    • 0 avatar

      Every time I have my Mazda6 up for a tire rotation, I can’t help think “man, this would make a sexy SUV” — not that I’d buy it, but at a height where you’re not dropping down to get in the vehicle, it has that “outback sedan” feel to it.
      If they’d have made the CX-7 as nice as the 6 instead of holding back on the high-end features for the CX-9, they would have had a better chance at what it was trying to compete with: the RDX.  But now that Honda feels AWD-only option is passe, the bar got lowered for them.
      The vehicles you mention are actually defined in accepted classes.  This is the new “HAH! wanted a wagon? This is all you get!” class of vehicle :(

  • avatar

    Good Lord. It’s like a beauty contest between Sandra Bernhard and Rosie O’Donnell.

  • avatar

    Gear Heads are funny, especially when it comes to anything made from Honda or Toyota. Remember the 2006 Civic? Well, the Gear Heads went wild with laughter and proclaimed that Honda would never sell any and would thus go bust.
    And then Honda sold about a gazillionteen of them.
    Same for the present Camry. Yes, the drop in quality was derided as obscene. Except every rating agency I have ever seen gives the car stellar reliability.
    And then Toyota sold about a gazillionteen of them, most at list without taxpayer funded incentives.
    The present model Accord comes to mind. Honda’s “purity and devotion to driving” was decried, the car was too large and Honda had “lost its way.”
    And then they sold about a gazillionteen of them.
    Finally, the Humble Corolla. Constantly decried as “lacking the joie de vivre” of  what makes a car worth driving, hated for lack of luxury features, forgetting people spend more on home theatre systems then they do on Corollas.
    And they sell about a gazillionteen of them.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Sounds like the engineers were on a day off when the Venza was okayed for production.

  • avatar

    The only person in town I know with one of these (and it’s a FULLY loaded model) is a couple in their 60s whose kids are all grown and moved out.  Husband is a the local Catholic High School principal and his wife has a Central Office job with the local public school district.  So I guess it is the Sienna you buy when your kids move out.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    James Nance (the President of Packard when it very foolishly took over loss-making Studebaker) loathed the styling of the then all-new Studebakers styled by the Raymond Loewy team. 

    The front end of the car hood bulged up at the front, and he literally called it the “flaccid penis look”.

    I have to admit Toyota must have taken a chapter out of Raymond Loewy’s book when they styled their latest front-ends.  

    If Nance were alive, he’d loathe them, too.  

    At least the front end of the Venza won’t scare dogs, babies and children when they see it like the Accord Crossover might… now THAT’s fugly. 

  • avatar

    So, unlike the station wagons of the ’90’s, can the back seat fold flat?  How does the back seat layout work on this one and the Honda? As a hauler, I would like to see this addressed, even marginally (even if it’s just a picture of the back seats).  Also, since this is a family hauler, how hard would it be to load/unload a kid in a car seat?

    • 0 avatar

      From what I saw, both fold pretty flat, but you pay for that flat floor through having a high load floor that cuts into trunk space.
      The Venza is a little taller and has a taller door opening, and is easier to load kids into than the Crosstour.  Neither are as easy as the Sienna or Oddy, whose door openings are much larger still.  About the only advantage the Venza had over the Sienna was that you could get it with a four-cylinder; an advantage the next Sienna will erase.

  • avatar

    I loved the line-crossing analogy to get from truck to station wagon.
    Inside Line compares the same two cars on their site.

  • avatar

    Apparently the Crosstour is the “winner” of this particular comparo, but if forced at gunpoint to pick one, it would have to be the Venza just on looks alone. It isn’t as contrived as most Toyota designs, with odd angles, round reflectors in square holes, and tortured sheetmetal. Some Toyota designer finally looked up the word “proportion” and, his lips moving as he read, thought it might be nice if a Toyota had one, for a change.

  • avatar

    I just can’t wait for the comments on the Crosstour!

  • avatar

    Back in the 60’s, Mopar fans would brag about their brands’ “pushbutton trans, unibody and front torsion bars” not just for the uniqueness, but for supposed superiority. I would grant them the t-bars and the monocoque, but pushbuttons?? Never! They were totally dumb. First, inconveniently located left of the wheel, and requiring left-hand motion. Second, didn’t just require the hand, but fingers! (Thumb is more like it!) And third, had to be used by looking at them, not just by feeling.
    A really good column shift is unbeatable, IMHO. Easy. Instinctual. Operable by feel.

  • avatar

    I really miss my 93 Camy wagon, so I was really excited when the Venza came out. But three things gave me pause:
    – How much does it cost to replace 20″ tires? If I’m going to sport wheels that large it ought to be purposeful.
    – Super dark tinted windows in the rear. Despite the plethora of windows and sunroof and interior space, it is really claustrophobic back there!
    – Bloat bloat bloat. 4000 lbs huge. Way more car than I need.

  • avatar

    The new Outback would have been very good competition in this comparo too.

  • avatar

    Are you sure your price quote is right?

    Here in Canada, a FWD I4 Venza is about the same price of an I4 Accord sedan (CND$28k before everything kicks in). I don’t know the price of the Crosstour yet. But the Venza, compared to $30k+ CRV and Rav4, sounds like a deal to me.

  • avatar

    “Demonic” torque steer is a term probably not used since the ’80s. And bad brakes on a car this size (or any size) are inexcusable. I’d hate it just for the sluggish transmission.

    How disappointing. I “test-sat” one at the dealer and thought it was pretty nice.

  • avatar

    As a wagon fan, I built a V6 version of this, and a similarly equipped Crosstour. And, though a different animal altogether, and Audi A4 Avant. While both of these are bigger, for my haulin’ needs I’d take the Audi – with heated seats, bluetooth and AWD it stickers for about $36.5k while the Venza is about $35.5k

    • 0 avatar

      i would also choose the audi, though it has significantly less storage space (its like 17.5 cubic feet with seats up compared to this cars 30).

      then again the interior is 10 times nicer, quattro is amuch better awd system, and the 2.0T probably uses less gas as well.

  • avatar

    The Venza’s pretty, and frugal and surprisingly powerful with the excellent I-4, but after reading the Crosstour review, I’d go with it instead. I don’t mind revs that much; especially with those mostly wonderful Honda engines. Too bad there’s no stick/standard, and they’re both shockingly expensive.

  • avatar

    I thought I had met the perfect vehicle to suite my needs when I saw the Venza in an auto show. Roomy, good sized engine (the V6), available AWD. I changed my mind fairly quickly when I test drove it. I can only equate the experience to driving a large soft pillow! At least, I only suffered disappointment. The rest of my family fared worse – they developed varying severities of motion sickness!

    And I don’t know what revolver1978 was thinking when he made the comparision between the Crosstour, Venza and A4 Avant, but he must be wearing the same thinking cap I was wearing – I ended up with an Audi A4 Avant.

  • avatar

    I wish there were (or I wish I knew) what the standards are for measuring volume of cargo area. I would posit that the Venza’s 30 cubes are from load foor to ceiling, and that the A4 Avant’s is from load floor to cargo shade. (The trunk volume for the A4 Sedan is listed as 16.9)

    I’d have to see them side by side to really tell though; from ym memory of the Venza at the Auto show, that hatch area seamed pretty big.

    • 0 avatar

      true, i also have seen the a4 avant trunk, and it seems pretty large.

      at least form the pictures the storage area of the venza doesn’t look that much bigger, then again the venza is a longer and wider car than an A4 and it probably is actually bigger.

      I just bought an A4 sedan, and though the trunk is 17 cubes, it also doesnt seem that much bigger than my last car which has a 12.8 cubic foot trunk (tsx) but i think its hard to perceive depth x a little extra width if you are just looking at it in a picture.

      i mean a half a foot wider trunk, that is hafl a foot deeper probabl doesnt look much bigger… but say a car that has a 3 x 2.5 x 2 trunk area, 3.5 x 3 x 2 would be 20.5 vs 15.5 so maybe it is something like that where we dont think half a foot is much but it really is.

  • avatar

    I’ve checked out the Honda Crosstour and it does have flaws that’ll cost you in the long run. If you raise the hatch and look at the tail lights. There is a gap where water can leak between the tail light and the body itself that’ll surely cause rust or an electrical problem. Other car makers usually have a seal in that area to prevent problems. The gas lid doesn’t sit right either after you open it a few times. The crosstour is just a cheaply made cut corners kind of car.

  • avatar

    “The only person in town I know with one of these (and it’s a FULLY loaded model) is a couple in their 60s whose kids are all grown and moved out.  Husband is a the local Catholic High School principal and his wife has a Central Office job with the local public school district.  So I guess it is the Sienna you buy when your kids move out.”

    We are in our mid 40’s with a small kid, and are probably going to get the Venza.  This has been a process of elimination, much like voting…you just go to the polls holding your nose, selecting the least objectionable candidate. 
    The Venza will replace our 2002 Camry.  We want:
    -excellent gas mileage
    -a quiet smooth ride
    -at least 50% more cargo space than we currently have 

    (That last trip to Mammoth was pathetic…the snowboard was lying across the floor of the backseat with our daughter’s feet resting on it.  We were packed to the gills.)

    The Acura RDX is my ultimate dream car but the ‘real world mpg’ is not good.  We don’t want or need anything as large as a van, and I refuse to go a hair lower than 20mpg city.  I really like the Mazda CX7, but there apparently significant climate control issues.  Don’t know if they’ve been corrected in the new model.

    Sooo…the posters here seem so well informed I can’t resist just asking: Any suggestions for me?  (We’re going to test drive a couple of Subarus this week, after that we are out of ideas.) 

  • avatar

    Oh and p.s…the Venza grill is so butt-ugly that I already have an after market replacement selected.  It’s actually a pretty handsome car with the other grill.

  • avatar

    Better late than never to say that the Venza looks OK, but is too porky, too thirsty, and too inefficient in its use of interior space. Plus, too expensive for what it is. Doesn’t mean it won’t sell, though.

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