2012 Toyota Venza Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 30, 2012

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2012 Toyota Venza Buying Advice

The 2012 Toyota Venza is the best car for you if you’re ready for something more than a sedan and know in your heart it shouldn’t be an SUV.

The 2012 Toyota Venza is a new-age station wagon with the airs of a crossover SUV – including available all-wheel drive – and the driving manners of a Toyota Camry sedan. This roomy midsize five-seater offers four- and six-cylinder power and the 2012 version is for the first time available in three levels of trim instead of just one.

Should you buy a 2012 Toyota Venza or wait for the 2013 Toyota Venza? Wait for the 2013 Toyota Venza if you want the latest styling and infotainment features. The 2013 Venza will get the first visual updates to this crossover since its model-year 2009 introduction, although the changes amount to no more than minor revisions to the nose and wheels. And the infotainment upgrade essentially adds a smartphone-based interface to the already-available navigation system. The 2013 Venza is otherwise a copy of the 2012 model, so buy a 2012 Venza if saving a few bucks means more to you than subtle styling upgrades or the very latest in connectivity.

2012 Toyota Venza Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Toyota Venza is a visual repeat of the 2011 Venza. Both are based on the understructure of the 2007-2011 Toyota Camry. (Camry was redesigned for model-year 2012, but Venza will retain the 2007-2011 engineering for several more years.)

Wisely, Toyota didn’t simply create an elongated Camry when it created the Venza. Rather, it bulked-up the body -- raising the roof, puffing out the fenders, and elevating the seating -- to fashion a midsize crossover that’s obviously more than a car but less trucky than most light-duty SUVs. Venza helped kick off Toyota’s quest for an aggressive new design language to spice up its stodgy image. The 2012 Venza continues that mission, riding again on huge 19- and 20-inch wheels and tires that complement its swept-back sheetmetal and aggressive stance.

The cabin is characterized by modern, stylish shapes and outstanding functionality. There’s generous room and fine comfort for four adults and decent accommodations for a fifth in the center position of the rear bench seat. Venza has an SUV-like 8.1 inches of ground clearance, so your eye position is elevated slightly above most surrounding traffic. But low door sills mean climbing in or out is strain-free.

The rear roof culminates in a sensible compromise – not too upright as to be unstylish but not so slanted as to detract from cargo room. Indeed, Venza has as much luggage volume as crossovers with higher, truck-like profiles. There’s an expansive 34.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat and folding both sides of the 60/40 split rear seatbacks opens 70.1 cubic feet.

The 2012 Venza adopts the three-model-grade strategy of most other Toyota offerings, introducing a base trim called the LE, a midgrade model called the XLE, and a top-of-the-line model named the Limited. Styling distinctions between the models are few, amounting to chrome instead of body-colored exterior door handles on the XLE and Limited models.

Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota Venza is mechanically unchanged. Standard on the LE and XLE models is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that initiates acceleration and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum). The four-cylinder again is paired with a well-calibrated six-speed automatic transmission. The combination provides surprisingly sprightly performance given Venza’s size and weight.

Optional on the 2012 Venza LE and XLE and standard on the Limited is a smooth and surprisingly strong 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 also uses a six-speed automatic transmission and, as in four-cylinder Venzas, the gear lever sprouts from the base of the dashboard and conveniently slips into a separate gate for manual-type shifting.

Both 2012 Venza engines are available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive (AWD). Venza isn’t an off-road crossover, so the main function of its AWD system is to sustain traction on slippery road surfaces by automatically redistributing power front-to-rear, then returning to front-wheel drive when grip is restored. An optional towing package allows Venza to trailer up to 3,500 pounds, same as most light-duty SUVs.

Venza’s handling balance is a sensible match for its intended duty, but the steering would benefit from firmer, more precise feel – especially in V-6 versions. Toyota embues Venza with a husky character by fitting large diameter wheels and tires, but has failed to address the ride thumpiness and road noise generated by those big feet.    

Features: The 2012 Toyota Venza doesn’t gain any features but does redistribute its combination of standard and optional equipment to help define the three model levels.

The 2012 Venza LE comes well equipped with standard dual-zone automatic climate controls, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with integrated audio controls, remote unlocking, and an overhead console with map lights; The rear seat has climate vents, adjustable personal reading lamps, and three 12-volt power outlets.

The LE dashboard includes a 3.5-inch multi-information screen that displays audio and climate settings, exterior temperature, trip- and fuel data, and other messages. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM six-disc, in-dash CD changer with integrated satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability with wireless music streaming, a USB port with iPod connectivity, an auxiliary audio jack, and six speakers.

The 2012 Venza XLE includes all the LE equipment while adding standard leather upholstery, leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, a four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, and woodgrain-plastic interior trim. Toyota’s SmartKey keyless entry with pushbutton ignition.

Standard on the XLE and optional on the LE is a power liftgate and a backup camera that projects on the 3.1-inch dash screen. The XLE’s multi-information display also can be customized to adjust the font size and content.

The 2012 Limited model is a fully equipped Venza, including all the XLE equipment, plus xenon headlamps with automatic high beams that can detect oncoming vehicles and automatically switch to low-beams. Standard on the Limited and optional on the XLE is a DVD-based navigation system with voice activation and a 7-inch dashboard touchscreen. It’s teamed with a 13-speaker JBL-brand audio upgrade. Also standard on the Limited and optional on the XLE is a panoramic glass roof with front power moonroof.

Every 2012 Venza will continue with Toyota’s latest integrated vehicle-control technology, called the Star Safety System. It coordinates Toyota’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) antiskid system to combat sideways slides, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to improve control in emergency stops, and traction control to reduce wheel spin on take-offs.

2012 Toyota Venza Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Toyota Venza is $28,235-$38,725. That range compares with a 2011 Venza base-price span of $27,235-$30,510 but it reflects both model-year price inflation and introduction of the 2012 Limited model. The new top-line Venza is actually priced $460 less than a fully optioned 2011 counterpart, Toyota says.

Note that Venza’s base prices do not take into account options but do include Toyota’s mandated destination fee, which is $810 for the 2012 Venza. Toyotas sold in certain Southeastern States may carry a different destination fee.

Base price for the four-cylinder version of the 2012 Toyota Venza LE is $28,235 with front-wheel drive and $29,685 with AWD. With the V-6, the LE is priced from $30,060 with front-drive and from $30,585 with AWD.

Four-cylinder versions of the 2012 Venza XLE start at $30,585 with front-drive and $32,035 with AWD. V-6 editions of the XLE are priced from $32,410 with front-wheel-drive and from $33,860 with AWD. Toyota says that’s a decrease in price of $880 on a comparably-equipped basis.

The 2012 Venza Limited’s base price is $37,275 with front-wheel-drive and $38,725 with AWD.

Among notable options, the LE Convenience Package contains the power liftgate and backup camera and costs a reasonable $750. The LE Preferred Package bundles those features with the panoramic glass roof and costs $1,800.

The XLE Premium Package includes the panoramic roof, and JBL audio and lists for $2,130. Adding the navigation system boosts the package price to $2,580

2012 Toyota Venza Fuel Economy back to top

The 2012 Venza -- in both four- and six-cylinder form -- is among the more fuel-efficient vehicles of its type. That’s a credit to Toyota’s powertrain engineers, who deliver this laudable fuel economy without the direct fuel injection or turbochargers employed by rivals to achieve similar gas mileage.    

For 2012 Venzas with the four-cylinder engine, fuel-economy ratings are 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 20/25/22 mpg with AWD.

With the V-6 engine, 2012 Venzas rate 19/26/22 mpg with front wheel drive, 18/25/21 mpg with AWD. Both engines use 87-octane gas.

2012 Toyota Venza Release Date back to top

The 2012 Toyota Venza went on sale in autumn 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Toyota Venza back to top

Toyota will tweak Venza’s styling and upgrade its infotainment technology for model-year 2013, and then leave well enough alone until at least model year 2015. That’s when the second-generation Venza would be due -- although there’s no guarantee Toyota will bring back this stationwagon-like crossover in its current form. Venza handily outsells the Honda Crosstour but it isn’t a high-volume product. Venza is outsold 3-1 by the Subaru Outback 3-1, and by Toyota’s own Highlander SUV.

2012 Toyota Venza Competition back to top

Honda Crosstour: It discards the “Accord Crosstour” badge for model-year 2012 and now is simply the Crosstour. By any name, this is a Honda’s Venza-like riff on the Accord midsize sedan. Crosstour bowed for model-year 2010 with front- or all-wheel drive but with a V-6 engine only – albeit a fine 271-horsepower one. Slow sales compelled Honda to introduce a less expensive 192-horsepower four-cylinder companion for model-year 2012. It’s priced from $28,465 and rates 21/29/24 mpg, but comes only with front-drive. The V-6 starts at $31,150 with front-drive and $35,250 with AWD and rates, respectively, 18/27/21 and 18/26/21 mpg. Crosstour’s racier rear roofline means it trails Venza for cargo volume, and it lags in sales. But the Honda matches the Toyota for passenger space, is sportier to drive, and is priced competitively against similarly equipped Venzas. Bottom line: don’t buy a Venza without a thorough test drive of Honda’s impressive five-passenger alternative.

Subaru Outback: Outback is not so much one of these new-age crossovers as it is a traditional station wagon fortified with impressive multi-terrain AWD as standard. It easily matches Venza, Crosstour, and their ilk for passenger and cargo room. Acceleration is underwhelming with the four-cylinder-engine, which needs more than its 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Performance is fine with the six-cylinder, which delivers 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder rates 19/27//22 mpg with manual transmission and 22/29/24 with its continuously variable automatic transmission. The six uses a five-speed automatic and rates 18/25/20 mpg. Base-price range is $24,070-$29,470 with four-cylinder, $29,070-$32,470 with the six. Outback was all-new for model-year 2010 and won’t change again for several years.  

Nissan Murano: Murano treads the trucky-SUV side of the crossover path a little more deliberately than the others mentioned here. If that’s the route you prefer, this Nissan is a fine choice. Distinctive styling, a roomy five-seat cabin, sporty front- or all-wheel-drive handling, and a strong V-6 mated to a marvelous continuously variable automatic transmission are among its virtues. Horsepower is 260, torque 240 pound-feet and fuel economy is 18/24/20 with front-drive and 18/23/20 with AWD. Base-price range is $30,100-$40710for the Murano wagon, which was redesigned for model-year 2009 and won’t change significantly for several years. Returning from its model-year 2011 debut is the Murano CrossCabriolet, a four-seat convertible version of the wagon with a power-folding soft top, standard AWD, and a base price of $45,350.

2012 Toyota Venza Next Steps