This car review gig can be a challenge at times, particularly coming up with new and (hopefully interesting) things to say about different cars each week. Part of the reason is that all new cars these days are inherently good. Whether you are measuring performance, economy, comfort, or a whole host of other parameters, modern cars are generally objectively superior to cars from two to three decades ago. It was with that burning in the back of my mind that this Toyota Venza Limited was dropped off. On paper, it’s actually pretty anonymous. The only engine option across all Venza trim levels is a a hybrid with a 2.5L four-cylinder. But perhaps there’s more than meets the eye, so let’s get into it and find out.
2023 Toyota Venza Limited Overview
The Venza dates back to the 2009 model year and was built in Georgetown, KY on the XV40 series Camry chassis. I recall seeing my first Venza and thinking “oh damn, that’s not bad looking”. However, the first gen Venza lasted until 2015 when Toyota discontinued it altogether. It wasn’t until the 2021 model year when the Venza returned to the U.S. as a rebadged Japanese-market XU80 series Harrier. Do I wish it was called the Harrier here? Absolutely, but that’s not important right now. It is built on the TNGA-K platform that is underneath all Toyota and Lexus cars Camry sized and larger, as well as the RAV4, Sienna, NX, RX, and more.
The 2023 model year didn’t have any massive updates, the Venza got the newest generation of Toyota’s audio multimedia system and it is now controlled via a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen (XLE and above, LE still has an eight-inch screen). Pricing starts at just over $34,000 for the base LE up to a bit over $42,000 for the Limited trim like our tester. Of note is the new “Nightshade Edition”, which was added for 2023 and gives you some black trim bits for a $1,000-ish premium over the XLE, but is otherwise similarly equipped.
You got a lot of stuff for the money though, highlights for the Limited include standard equipment like:
- Simulated leather upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats
- Heated steering wheel
- Fun tech like a Digital rearview mirror, 360-degree camera, and a Head-up display
- Navigation system
- Nine-speaker JBL audio system
Our “Blueprint” blue painted Limited also gets the stupid cool Star Gaze Panoramic roof ($1,400), a $313 1.25-inch “activity mount” (which sounds dirty but is just a simpler hitch-style mount for bike or cargo racks), and some floor mats ($309).
All in you’re at $45,097 out the door.
2023 Toyota Venza Limited Inside & Out
My first impression of the Venza was “wow that blue paint really sparkles!”. I was doing a swap from the 2022 Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron, which was roughly the same color, but the Toyota really stood out in comparison. I recall saying to the delivery dude “sort of reminds me of a bass boat” which, in this instance, was a compliment (isn’t always oddly enough). Toyota has always differentiated the Venza from the similar looking, and also midsize, Highlander by giving the Venza a sleeker style, both front and back.
I don’t always like the “coupe-like” roof style on SUVs and crossovers, but have always thought that the Venza pulls it off quite well. Like a lot of Limited trim levels, our tester has upscale touches across the exterior, and a nice set of bright “Super Chrome” split-spoke 19-inch wheels.
The interior is where the Venza really shines though, the light and airy cabin is a comfortable place to spend some time. The eight-way power driver’s seat was comfortable and surprisingly well bolstered. I spent a weekend in Pennsylvania for a hockey tournament which meant logging quite a few hours hours in the Venza, and it was a great conveyance for the entire trip.
In particular, I really liked the wood trim. The light color not only helped keep things feeling open, but looked pretty damn classy. Even though it looks a little tacked on (or perhaps a bit of an afterthought) I like the location of the power starter button. For some reason it felt like I was firing up some sort of complex machine each time, which I guess I was. Speaking of complex, I absolutely love that the panoramic roof that goes from clear to opaque at the touch of a button. The 2021 Mach-E that I owned had a front to back pano-roof as well, but not being able to cover it meant that things got warm in the summer. Being able to change the light level so quickly not only amazed my kids, but it was practical as well.
Overall, you’ll find that the Venza Limited has a ton features, though some of the buttons are hidden down to the left, behind the steering wheel.
You’ll get a fairly useful 28.8 cu. ft. of space in the rear cargo area, and while the Venza is a bit smaller than most midsize SUVs, it met my needs for hockey practice and day-to-day errands. There is also an impressive 37.8 in. of rear legroom in the second row, which was also plenty for hauling around the family. The Venza would make a good addition to a two-child, two-child-seat household, with rear facing child seats fitting fairly well based on the size.
2023 Toyota Venza Limited On The Road
Out on the road, the Venza eats up highway miles with impressive comfort. Sure, the 219 horsepower engine isn’t exactly robust in the power department, but even the Limited trim level is under 4,000 pounds, which is impressive these days. I never made any notes about feeling like the Venza could get up to speed, nor did it have any issues passing. Plus, with standard AWD and an 8.2-inch ground clearance, you could do some light trail driving without much issue if you wanted.
It’s the economy angle that is a great selling point for the Venza though, with 40 mpg city, 37 highway, and 39 combined it meant that I hardly had to stop for fuel on my road trip. I liked the fact that the lane keeping assist felt minor on a long drive, it just vibrates slightly instead of making a noise or pulling on the wheel. Naturally in addition to lane-keeping, it has the full Toyota Safety Suite standard with adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, and lane departure mitigation.
2023 Toyota Venza Limited Summary
The question is, would you pick this over the larger, and more practical, Highlander? That will depend on your needs I suppose, the extra (though small) third row in the Highlander is a nice perk but limits cargo space when in place. Plus, if you want a hybrid version of the Highlander, you’re starting at $40,000 for the base LE. There is a solid $6,000 price difference between a Venza Limited and a Highlander Hybrid Limited. So it really comes down to size and price.
Oh, and if you made it this far (thank you), you’ll still likely have that “new cars are better” bit rattling around in the back of you mind. I’ll admit that there are a lot of less tangible, less pragmatic, aspects of older cars that can make them more enjoyable. For example, newer cars generally don’t sound as good, and it would be challenging to replicate your parents V8 wagon these days without spending six figures on an Audi or Mercedes. However, the Venza is just a solidly good car, it does a lot well for a reasonable price. So if you want a nice looking two-row, it’s a good option to add onto your list.
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