2012 Toyota Venza Expert Review

3.7 Overall Score
Performance 3.4 Comfort 3.9 Styling 3.3 Value 3.2

Editor's Overview

The Toyota Venza is a slick, user-friendly SUV with a low step-in height for easy accessibility and an elevated seating position for enhanced visibility. Based on the proven Camry sedan, the 2012 Venza features a versatile cargo area along with laudable fuel economy thanks in part to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission and frugal 4-cylinder engine.

You'll Like The 2012 Toyota Venza If...

If you're of the mindset that a big car is always safer than a small one, you'll feel at ease behind the wheel of the 2012 Venza.

You May Not Like The 2012 Toyota Venza If...

The 2012 Toyota Venza doesn't come cheap and doesn't offer a third-row seat. Those wanting more passenger room should look to the Hyundai Veracruz or Mazda CX-9, while those seeking better fuel economy might prefer the Subaru Outback or Kia Sorento.

What's New

The 2012 Toyota Venza wagon is offered in three trims this year, a change from last year's single trim offering. LE and XLE trim levels will be offered with a choice of 4- or 6-cyinder engines, while the Limited is available only with the V6; all versions offer the choice of front drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Interior Features

The 2012 Toyota Venza's interior is big in all directions. Comfortable seating choices include cloth or leather upholstery (trim dependent), heated front seats and a power driver's seat with power lumbar support. With no third-row seat to take up space, the Venza offers an impressive 70.1 cubic feet of cargo space, while figures for head, leg and hip room are all near the top of the segment. The large, clever sliding center console can accommodate all manner of items, from purses to tablets. Optional features to make the interior more luxurious include a huge panoramic glass moonroof and a JBL audio system. Pet-friendly accessories include a rear liftgate pet ramp, booster seat with harness, pet buckles and rear-seat zipline-style harnesses.

Exterior Features

Of all of Toyota's current designs, the 2012 Venza wagon is one of the most daring and original. Standard 19- or 20-inch wheels are definitely uncommon in this segment and contribute to the Venza's good handling and assertive looks. We like the color choices Toyota offers on the Venza, which stand in stark contrast to the boring silver, gray and off-white hues all too common these days. With 8.1 inches of ground clearance, the 2012 Toyota Venza can pretty much tackle the deepest snow drifts while still maintaining its composure in the turns. However, despite its height, the Venza wagon still requires minimal effort stepping in or out, a fact that makes it decidedly easier to load in kids, groceries or whatever else goes inside the Venza's generous interior.

Driving Impressions

While the 2012 Toyota Venza's ride is not quite as soft as those of the Toyota Avalon or Camry, it's far from abrupt. The Venza's ride remains comfortable so long as the roads are smooth. However, road irregularities are quickly picked up by the large wheel/tire combo and transmitted to the cabin. Interior noise levels were also a bit higher than we expected, again perhaps owing to the big tires. If you settle for the 2.7-liter inline 4, you'll get an engine that delivers adequate acceleration and passing power and relatively good fuel economy. However, we think most people will want the added power of the V6; it not only increases the 2012 Toyota Venza's ability to pass and merge, it performs better when teamed with the AWD system. The big Venza's chassis is not tuned for razor-sharp handling, a fact we experienced first-hand while rounding corners at higher speeds. Still, we think that most buyers will be perfectly pleased with the way the Venza handles around-town jaunts. As for long-term driving, we found both front and rear seating positions offer excellent comfort and support, with lots of room in the back to stretch out and get comfy.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 4-cylinder 2012 Toyota Venza LE starts just over $28,000, while the V6 LE is right around $30,000. All-wheel drive will add about $1,500. The XLE starts around $30,500, while a fully-loaded AWD Limited will be around $40,000. These prices put the Venza right in the MSRP range of the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge and significantly higher than the Subaru Outback 2.5i and Mazda CX-7. However, prices can vary due to market conditions and location, so be sure to check out the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to see what others are paying for the Venza in your area. Given Toyota's better-than-average resale values as a whole, we expect the Venza to do quite well over time, outperforming the Murano, Edge and CX-7, and equaling the Subaru Outback.

Notable Equipment

The 2012 Toyota Venza wagon is offered in three well-equipped trims: LE, XLE and Limited. Inside, standard equipment worth mentioning includes dual-zone climate control, 8-way power driver's seat, 3.5-inch multi-information display, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, AM/FM/CD with Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming music, a USB port and power operation of the windows, locks and mirrors. The XLE adds leather seating, a 4-way power passenger seat, anti-theft alarm, heated front seats, Smart Key with push-button start, power rear liftgate and a rear backup camera. The top-of-the-line Limited adds navigation, HID headlamps, a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a JBL 13-speaker Synthesis audio system. All Venzas have Toyota's comprehensive Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology, plus seven airbags.

Notable Options

The 2012 Venza's options are bundled into trim-specific packages. The LE Convenience Package adds a power rear liftgate and rear backup camera, while the LE Preferred Package brings a panoramic glass roof. The XLE Premium Package adds the panoramic glass roof, JBL audio and satellite radio, while the Navigation Package adds voice-activated DVD touchscreen navigation and a rear backup camera.

Favorite Features

Integrated Sliding Center Console
Comprised of a set of cup holders and a padded arm rest that slide independently of each other, the center console provides up 14.7 liters of storage space. This space also hides the auxiliary input-jack cable, which can be left in the console or fed into an MP3/phone holder situated in the center stack.

Power Rear Liftgate
Helpful for anyone who's ever been alone in the rain with arms full of groceries, the power liftgate can be operated with a simple push of a key fob-mounted button.

Under the Hood

Powering the 2012 Toyota Venza wagon is either a 182-horsepower 2.7-liter in-line 4-cylinder or a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Both engines come with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission that offers uphill/downhill shift logic to minimize gear hunting. Those who do more highway driving should opt for the inline 4; rated at 27 mpg in FWD guise, this engine is the more financially sensible choice. However, if having AWD or the need to tow 3,500 pounds is a priority, you'll be happy to know that choosing the V6 will result in only a small fuel economy penalty.

2.7-liter in-line-4
182 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
182 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/27 (FWD), 20/25 (AWD)

3.5-liter V6
268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
246 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (FWD), 18/25 (AWD)

Editors' Notes

With the 2012 Toyota Venza wagon, Toyota combines some of the best attributes of an SUV with the handling and visual appeal of a sporty sedan. Departing from the usual tall and lean SUV look, the Venza is visibly wide in its stance, with big wheels and an imposing grille. This design creates a cavernous interior as big on hip and shoulder room as it is head and legroom. Blurring the line between station wagon and SUV makes it a bit difficult to pinpoint the 2012 Toyota Venza wagon's competition. Its wagon-like styling and available all-wheel drive (AWD) would seem to put it in the same league as the Subaru Outback, while its long and wide body might better be compared to the Honda Crosstour or even the Nissan Murano. To keep everyone happy, Toyota offers the Venza in a number of flavors, ranging from a simple 4-cylinder front-wheel-drive (FWD) version to a loaded V6 AWD model.

Road Test Video Reviews

  • 5 Things I Hate About My Toyota Venza
  • 2012 Toyota Venza XLE AWD Review
  • 2012 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD Walkaround, Start up, Tour and Overview
  • Why a 2012 Toyota Venza Limited under $15000 is such a smart buy
  • 2013 Toyota Venza Drive & Review
  • 2012 Toyota Venza LE AWD V6

Owner Reviews


26 Reviews

69% 27% 3 star 0% 4% 1 star 0%

Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

Toyota: a nice little ride for a small family!

The mileage is not great, but it is not too bad for an SUV. It is very reliable! It sends certain sounds and icons on your dashboard to let you know if you have a problem. It is pretty comfortable for a family of 3. It has heated seats, which are great for the winter. When your start the car, you have to push down on the brake and then push a button to start it up, so there is not any key to push into the ignition. The trunk will open automatically with a push of a button, either on the key ring or inside the driver side and you can push a button on the trunk so it can close automatically. It has front wheel drive, so that can also help in the winter. It is a great vehicle to have and trustworthy like other Toyota's that we have had.

- Emily T

Versatility, performance, and comfort in a crossover sedan

I like the size of the Venda, it's got a comfortable backseat for guests and the back are is easier to load and unload than a regular trunk. The v-6 engine has lots of power to make it easy to merge on the interstate. Happy with the quality and how well it is holding up. Like the way it handles and it has good visibility when backing up. No drawbacks really, except miles per gallon could be higher.

- Cindy B

Great for family road trips.

The Venza is a very reliable vehicle. It is large enough for a family but is not too big to drive easily. It gets fairly good gas mileage for its size and it is actually pretty cute as well. I love how the back seats recline, that has been a major plus for road trips. It is also easy to snap car seats into, the back seats are level and the anchors are easily accessible.

- Stacy M