By on February 22, 2017

2009 Toyota Venza - Image: Toyota Canada

Maybe they should have called it the Toyota Camry SportWagon.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a hint of a difference.

The first-generation Toyota Venza lingered for seven model years in the United States, ending its run with MY2015 before managing to collect 593 sales since, including four in January 2017. (They’re not easy to clear out, apparently.)

But the end of the Venza’s U.S. run in June 2015 was not the end for the Venza in America. Venza production at the Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant continued through the first 11 months of 2016 because of insatiable Canadian demand.

Well, now that demand has been sated. The Toyota Venza is officially dead. Kaput. Gone. Defunct.

Did it have to be this way? 

In theory, a Toyota Camry wagon makes all kinds of sense. Take America’s best-selling car and make it more practical and flexible, without the RAV4’s lesser underpinnings; without the Highlander’s slightly-larger-in-every-way dimensions. Raise it to take advantage of the Subaru Outback’s goodwill. Add optional all-wheel drive. Result: outrageous success.

Or not.

At least not in the United States.

North of the border, the Toyota Venza quickly became a popular vehicle, perhaps boosted by its placement as the winning vehicle in 2009’s Tim Hortons Roll Up The Rim To Win contest that seemingly controls the lives of countless coffee drinkers each winter.

The Venza even managed to outsell the Camry in 2010 and 2011. Canadian Venza sales peaked in 2011 at 13,159 units when Venza volume in the vastly larger U.S. market — eight times larger than Canada’s at that point — was only three times stronger.

At its high-water mark in its first full year of 2009, U.S. Venza volume climbed to 54,410 units, only 3.6 percent of Toyota brand sales that year.

9.1 percent of the Toyotas sold in Canada in 2011 were Venzas. Never did the Venza rank among the top 50 in U.S. annual new vehicle sales rankings, but it ranked 32nd in Canada in 2011.

Canadians were clearly somewhat more willing to overlook Venza faults, some of which were glaring. Rearward visibility was atrocious, with a belt line borrowed from Carl Fredricksen.

Carl Fredricksen
The Venza’s interior design was odd to behold. Material quality was not what you’d expect. Rough ride quality on 19-inch and 20-inch wheels was not married to exceptional handling.

But rear seat space was vast, and the Venza offered 36 cubic feet of space behind those seats, more than double the Camry’s trunk volume. Moreover, the raised ride height is in keeping with society’s demands.

But it wasn’t to be, not with the more affordable RAV4 deemed sufficient by hundreds of thousands of buyers, the even more flexible Highlander operating in the same domain, and the Camry still an otherworldly success in an anti-sedan climate.

Toyota says the automaker built only 5,821 Venzas in Kentucky in 2016. Automotive News says the final 647 drove out the factory gates in November. 248 Venzas were sold in Canada as recently as January, enough to make it Canada’s 101st-best-selling vehicle, ahead of the Toyota Yaris, GMC Canyon, Ford Mustang, and Kia Sedona.

2016 Venzas remain sufficiently common on Canadian dealer lots for buyers who are into that sort of thing (my local dealer has six). But Toyota Canada spokesperson Melanie Testani confirmed to TTAC earlier this week, as if there was any doubt, that the Venza’s 2016 model year was the last.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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71 Comments on “A Moment of Silence, Please – The Toyota Venza Is Now Well and Truly Dead...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    When the Venza was introduced Toyota claimed they were aiming at the “Carrie Bradshaw” types who possibly had one child but were successful independent professional women.

    The only folks who I ever saw driving them were retirees who wanted a higher hip point than the Camry. The first one I saw after introduction had been sold to a very nice couple who were both retired from the local school district. V6, AWD, metallic brown.

    • 0 avatar
      runs_on_h8raide

      and by one child for the “Carrie Bradshaw” types that would be their tea-cup Yorkie.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      @Dan: Nailed it.

      There is a retired couple who lives on a road I go down to see my close friend. They have a brown Venza, they bought it the same day as a Toyota Tundra. Both fully loaded. The new Tundra never goes anywhere but he kept the old one and parks it in front of it. Sometimes the old one is out in the yard. I’ve never driven by with the new one gone, and its extremely rare to see the Venza gone.

      At times, I’m down there a lot. John and I lived down there for a couple months. Its not like I go by every blue moon haha. More like two hours at that point (I was the only one in the house with a running/driving car, and the lady had kids lol).

      Toyota wanted a piece of the Nissan Murano and the Ford Edge. Swing, and a miss.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I vaguely though about a Venza when I last car shopped, but I t was too small, and more or less like the Crosstour (which I did test drive, and had Venza-ish awful software and useless rear visibility).

      But I like metallic brown AWD and a six, as proven by my … metallic bronze XC70 T6.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Canadians that purchased these bought them because ‘Camry Wagon’. Predictable, reliable and affordable. Or so they thought.

    Then we heard the stories. Poor gas mileage and a real problem finding winter tires that fit. Plus the expense of those 20 inchers.

    A lot in our neighbourhood. And they do seem to have Camry quality. Still, it is a relatively rare Toyota misfire.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Pour one out. I actually kinda liked this car.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Could’ve been a really good Camry wagon if they had spent the money that went to those ride-killing 20-inch wheels on some decent dashboard materials. Solved the two biggest problems with this car in one deft move.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Agree with both of you. Had a ride in the back of one as a Lyft passenger. Really a rationally sized vehicle, marred by those huge wheels that are at least part of the reason for the stiff legged ride, and interior materials from the lowest of low points for Toyota interiors. An AWD V6 variant with rims no bigger than 18 inches would be a tempting combination.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I wonder if the base 17 in alloys from a similar vintage Highlander would bolt right up? That would give lots of sidewall for the Venza.

          • 0 avatar

            According to some Forum posts I found some have fit both 17 and 18″ rims to v6 models. So yeah I would wear out whatever came with it and switch down to the 17’s.

        • 0 avatar

          I rode in the back of one on an UBER ride a while back. It really is surprisingly bigger in the back seat, the camry is roomy but this thing has space. It’s also a lot easier to find one of these with a V6 then the camry. I have added them to my list of potential Daily drivers because of that ride.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          They put *20s* on the Venza?

          The 18s on my Volvo are too big and I intend to go to 16s… 20s on a Venza is a Horrible Mistake.

          • 0 avatar

            I have an 01 XC70 now and follow the forums. Because I buy used and rive till dead I’m thinking about switching back to Toyota, the Volvo is delightful to drive but lots of annoying things break. My XC has 16’s and the ride is very nice. The ride and quietness on the highway are the cars best features. My I5 is a bit underpowered thou.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          I agree. Part of the issue though is Toyota specifically stiffened the suspension and anti roll bars on the V6 models compared to the 4 cylinders. I’m not entirely convinced smaller wheels would solve the problem. Also, those 55 series tires are not beneficial in terms of ride, replacement cost, and they tend to follow grooves in the road really badly. I would suggest going down to 40 or 45 series.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        The crappy dashboard and door panels prevented me from test driving a used Venza a few years ago so I never found about the ride killing 20 inchers.

        My wife really liked the way it looked and thought it had plenty of room inside for her needs but couldn’t get over how cheap it looked from the drivers seat.

        The RAV4 Limited she ended up buying looks like a Lexus inside compared to a Venza.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wish automakers would just come out with a damn “wagon”. Not the Venza, which was overpriced, thirsty, and subtly Outback-fied for no discernable reason. Not the CrossTour, which took a perfectly doable wagon design and sloped the rear hatch so far as to make it pointless. Take a mid-size sedan, raise the trunk upwards, don’t cheap out and use the same rear doors, and that’s it. It’s not a difficult formula to understand, and I wouldn’t think costly to implement, but no mainstream automakers will release such a car in the US. Maybe they wouldn’t sell well to the general public, but it would have sold well to me. (Who owned an ’04 Passat Wagon for 167k.)

    I suppose there are reasons why automakers occasionally try these “totally-not-a-station-wagon” designs, but the lack of “real” wagon versions of good cars has totally driven me into the arms of my brand-new ’17 CR-V.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    It was soooo close to being a CUV… only needed a 2″ lift kit and some plastic cladding.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Actually, I think the Venza needs to be seen as a chopped Sienna without sliders on it.

    No, no reason to buy this over a Sienna…on the contrary.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Had one of these as a rental. Really bland, and not all that spacious.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    “Raise it to take advantage of the Subaru Outback’s goodwill.”

    Except that the first commercial for the Venza basically called the Outback, _and people who drive the Outback_, ugly. I’ve never owned a Subaru but even I was offended by Toyota running an ad accusing another automaker, whose cars at least have some semblance of character, of lacking “style” in order to sell a blandmobile.

    Screw you, Venza. Nobody will remember you a year from now.

    • 0 avatar
      runs_on_h8raide

      Put another shrimp on the barbie…stick a fork in it…now taste it…mmm tastes like…another failure by Toyota.

      You would have thought the Venza would have been good for rental fleets, but not even there.

  • avatar
    John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

    I can’t give you a moment of silence when I’m clapping and cheering, sorry.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    It was only ever pale (or bloated) shadow of the great V20 wagon – http://bit.ly/2l06ltV

  • avatar
    whynot

    Probably didn’t help that they looked like the contemporary Ford Edge, and the Edge wore it better.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      You mean it didn’t hurt. They were aiming at Edge and Murano, both of which are highly styled cars of the same concept.

      Toyota’s “highly styled” cars are hideous. They manage to get almost everything wrong, from entire proportions down to the tiniest details. Their popularity escapes me.

      “RELIABLE EVERY SINGLE ONE GOES 694,890 MILES WITH NO PROBLEMS!”

      Even if it were true and I DIDN’T regularly see Toyotas with issues just like most any other car, what good is all that longetivity when you trade/turn it in every 3 years or so?

      Virtually any new car will be just fine for 3 years (and you have a warranty and usually a choice of dealerships if it isn’t). Someone might get a total lemon (that has a European name on it lol) here and there, but most everything that is competitive with Toyota (and Nissan) will last the three years just as well, will drive MUCH better, and won’t cause you to look down at the concrete instead of up at it when you are walking towards it.

      When life tosses you a curve, you won’t be in some blob that “adequately” gets you around it. You may be in something that will do such a superb job that it puts a grin on your face. With the exception of the 86, name a grin-inducing North American current Toyota.*

      *Does not include grins obtained by being a badge/wealth snob as you drive by a 23 year old Lumina on the shoulder with a 19 year old kid on the phone with mom kicking the fender. That’s a $500 car, you don’t get to gloat when yours cost $37,000.

      If you bought a $500 car named Taurus, then you can gloat as you drive by.
      LMAO that’s a joke, people, mine isn’t a $500 car either, although you can find ratty ones for that.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “what good is all that longetivity when you trade/turn it in every 3 years or so?”

        I’ll fully agree with this and it applies to Honda as well. Even though they have higher than average resale value you still lose a lot of money doing this and all you’ve accomplished is rotating through utilitarian, joyless cars.

        Regarding the Edge, it has been refined over the years into an attractive vehicle inside and out. But when it first debuted the exterior was wonky and the interior quality was worse than the Venza, and that’s saying something. Maybe if Toyota had put the effort into updating the Venza that Ford did with updating the Edge it wouldn’t have bombed as hard.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yes.

        Toyota styling lately is a train wreck.

        (And I *like* Toyota cars; I own an ’05 Corolla which is a fine transport appliance, and I wore out a ’92 Pickup at 280kmi.

        I like my parents’ ’15 Camry Hybrid just fine on the inside, too.

        But the styling on the entire fleet, ugh. They even managed to make the Prius ugly – it was always different, but at least the previous generation had nice clean lines.)

  • avatar
    Rocket

    A good idea poorly executed. I test drove one myself on two separate occasions, and I couldn’t believe how disappointing it was. It’s too bad, because there is a market for 2-row mid-size crossovers. It’s surprising that Toyota (and Honda) have been unable to come up with something to compete with the likes of the Murano and Edge. Sure, you can fold down the third row in the Highlander, but it’s still lacks the style and sportiness of the dedicated 2-row mid-sizers from Ford and Nissan. That said, I would consider the Highlander if they offered a 2-row only option for the Limited Platinum. And no … folding the third row is not the same as a dedicated 2-row configuration.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      Personally, I think Toyota could easily solve its problem. Make a Toyota version of the RX350, give it a 4 cylinder, decontent it a bit, and make it look bland so people actually buy it. Problem solved. Give it a highbrid model like the RAV4 hybrid, and watch sales take off.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        People are perfectly willing to buy the RAV4 or Highlander, they don’t need to spend the cash on another model.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          True, however, one should consider the potential sales being lost. People who would buy this instead buy an edge, equinox, etc, as their is not direct competitor in toyota’s lineup. If toyota wanted to make an option to delete the third row in the highlander, I would happily be for it. However, they don’t. One can’t deny that between the sales of the edge/equinox/terrain/etc, toyota could be denying itself a very profitable part of the pie. As for the RAV4, I think most consider it one size smaller, more escape than edge competitor.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            I think what you’re suggesting there is that some people avoid the Highlander because it has three rows of seats, and instead purchase an Equinox or Edge, when they’d have otherwise purchased the Highlander.

            I bet this amounts to three total persons in the US. The third row folds completely flat if you don’t want it.

          • 0 avatar

            I think there is an Edge, Murano and Grand Cherokee market out there that Toyota misses but honestly most of those are likely filled by the RX.

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        A Toyota version of the RX would do well … assuming they tone down the styling. Honestly, that’s what I was expecting when I took my first Venza test drive. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. I think they can even leave the V6. The Avalon and ES do just fine being mechanical clones. Lexus seems particularly concerned about cannibalizing RX sales for some reason. I think they’re being shortsighted.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          An unwanted third row is a deal-breaker for some. Demand for the All Terrain trim level of the Acadia is proof of that. Even folded, the third row seat eats up cargo capacity, plus it adds weight and can make run-flats a necessity. Besides, the Highlander is a little long to compete directly with the Murano and Edge.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Other than a stupid looking centre stack, these were just fine.
    Strange how they didn’t stick in the market.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Time for this one to go. Silly looks and bad overall dynamics paired with a “We don’t care about this car!” interior.

    A decent idea overall, just really poorly executed.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Generally agree. I drove one once.

      Cheap, cheap, cheap interior. Noisy. Weak, raspy motor. Overall the car would have been mediocre in the 80’s. By modern standards, it was unacceptable.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I saw a brown Venza at the car wash last week. The guy that got out of it was wearing his brown UPS uniform. I think he really likes brown.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Pity. A 63.5″ tall Camry with a hatch sounds really nice.

  • avatar
    Notmyname

    The Venza was just too expensive for what it was.
    I think Toyota figured it was easier selling upper trim Rav4’s, instead of redesigning the venza.
    But, if Toyota did want another option unibody “crossover/wagon” to slot in between the Rav4 and Highlander, they could bring the Harrier here.

    https://s1.cdn.autoevolution.com/images/gallery/TOYOTA-Harrier-5032_21.jpg

  • avatar
    Fred

    I looked at it 3 years ago and thought it out of date then and expensive. Too bad because I thought it was okay, at least as a SUV goes.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    We looked at those back in 2009 when we bought our Highlander. You got a good bit more equipment for the price in the Venza, but the weird center stack design turned me off (too feminine), and we liked the 3rd row in the highlander for our young kids. Still, it came off as higher end than the Highlander at the time. It also, strangely, made less HP with the same engine and transmission. Odd.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I think the interior design is what killed this car. Compare its dash with that in the Avalon for example. Materials are part of it- the Avalon has a nice mix of wood, (faux?) brushed metal and fake leather with fake stitching. In pictures at least it looks good. Stark contrast to the “2005 Camry dash with the RX350’s shifter console” and the vertical center HVAC grilles reminiscent of a GM work van. Yeech. I could see a lot of people being intrigued by its attractive exterior, only to open the door and curl their lip at the sight of the interior.

    As I’ve said before, with cars so commoditized design is going to play a bigger and bigger role in success or failure. This seemed to be a clear case of that.

  • avatar
    AVT

    When I was looking around to replace my Audi A6 Avant, I really considered this vehicle. I didn’t end up with one though. One issue was the ride; it really was to stiff and uncomfortable on Minnesota roads with the V6 AWD setup. The 4 cylinder was underpowered, and generated some unwanted NVH in everyday use. The V6 was much more real world friendly, expect the fuel economy was not really the best in mixed driving. Fit and finish were not up to standards that I would have expected, especially in the dash area. However, it was very quiet and it did have good cargo room. I personally didn’t find issue with the dash layout, but I was looking at a fully loaded model with all the bells and whistles. The other thing that was unfortunate was the visibility. Fine through the first and second row, but the C pillars really obstructed the view. Overall, I honestly think it wasn’t SUV enough for us. Had it been more plush riding, which should have been easy given it weighed a lot less than a Edge or Equinox (like 700 pounds less), and downsized the wheel choices (20 inch 55 series are spendy to replace), I think it would have done a lot better.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I sat in one of these a few years ago at the Chicago auto show and was shocked at the terrible quality of the interior. I know Toyota is not generally known for stellar material quality but this was old GM levels of cheapness. It was also a very dated looking design which might explain the appeal this car had to the AARP crowd.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    My step mother bought one of these a couple of years ago, in silver of course. She likes it because she has had both hips and knees replaced. It’s easy to get in and out of. More so than my father’s F150.

    I’ve only ridden in it once. I was shocked by the plasticy interior, for the price she paid. Hers is a higher model with leather seats too.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    The roof wasn’t high enough.

  • avatar
    Mickdog95

    I have owned a Lexus RX, Rav4 and a Venza, the RX Will always be one of the best vehicles I ever owned but to expensive, the Rav4, is more of the peoples vehical, everyone has one, the Venza has it’s flaws, but I don’t feel I am driving a peoples vehicle.

  • avatar
    B_C_R

    I liked the Venza and test drove a few of them, but ultimately ended up with the equally weird and potentially future obscure Honda Crosstour.

    I liked the V6 in the Venza, but I HATED the cartoon mad tyte DUBZ wheelz. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? I toyed with the idea of trying to put some 17s on it, but I found a loaded Crosstour with 18s and a slick 6 speed automatic and went with that.

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