2023 Toyota Venza
Confidently Average - Just As Expected
Is it an SUV? Is it a minivan? Is it a sedan? No, not really, but kinda. The Venza does a good job at being a little bit of everything.
By J-F Wright
Tue, Apr 25, 2023 10:51 AM PST
all images by the author, J-F Wright.
What’s a Venza?
The Toyota Venza isn’t the sort of car that everyone knows about. It’s not something you can just throw out to friends and expect them to know what you’re talking about. The Venza doesn’t stand out enough (in any way) to attract the kind of recognition that some other cars do.
Nope, the Venza flies a little under the radar - but it still has everything you might be looking for, and come to expect, from a Toyota.
It’s marketed as a crossover, listed at the bottom of the list of models in the category “Crossovers & SUVs” on Toyota’s website. The Sequoia, 4Runner, and Highlander make up the SUV part of the list, with the RAV4, bZ4X, and Venza making up the somewhat SUV-looking of the crossover offering. Interestingly, the Corolla Cross makes its way into this category as well - I guess you can’t call it a “Cross” without also having it represented on this list.
Is The Venza An SUV?
No. No, it is not. But, it does a great job at being a little bit of everything - in true crossover fashion.
Driving the Venza you’ll note that you’re sitting a little higher than in a sedan, but not up in the air like in a full-size SUV. You’ll note that you have plenty of space and easy access to all the seats in the car, without being a minivan. You’ll enjoy the space offered, without being overburdened and loosing small children in the third row (there isn’t one).
The exterior design of the 2023 Toyota Venza doesn’t surprise. It has all of the tell-tale Toyota elements - the swooping headlights that go way back on the sides, the large black front grille below the Toyota logo, and the protruding rear lights that stretch across the entire body to name a few.
The very angled rear window/door steals some space from the storage capabilities in the trunk, but it does add a sporty look to the exterior. The dual exhaust pipes give it an extra touch of fun as well.
From front to end, the 2023 Toyota Venza has a touch of “fun” and “sport” - a silhouette with an almost coupe-like feeling to it. (But no, I wouldn’t call it a coupe either).
The interior of the 2023 Toyota Venza doesn’t come with any surprises either. The regular layout, as expected, makes it easy to locate features - of which most are easy to use too. You won’t be taken aback by any super-awesome design elements, but you’ll quickly feel right at home.
The one beef I have with Toyotas, and unfortunately it’s in all Toyotas, is the way the current seat is designed. The headrest is positioned unnaturally far forward, making it impossible for me to sit with my back against the seat. If I do, my head is pushed forward.
At first I thought I might be the only person with this problem, but it turns out it’s not just me. I’m apparently not the only one trying to sit up straight while driving, as my physical therapist’s advice seems to apply to most folks.
Talking with a representative from Toyota I learned that this design is intentional and has to do with safety. Apparently, it’s to help minimize whiplash effects if you’re involved in a high-speed rear-end collision. In other words, it helps keep you safe if you’re hit from behind.
I’m always pro-safety and I have a lot of respect for - and trust in - the safety systems Toyota engineers come up with. However, this design is causing neck pain during regular drives, which isn’t so great for my safety/health. My solution has been to recline the seat a bit back, so that I can sit up straight with only the back of my head touching the vertical part of the seat. That can’t be great for safety, but it beats the alternative solution that I’ve heard others employ: removing the headrest altogether or flipping it backwards. Now that’s a horribly unsafe solution!
Comfort And Handling
The 2023 Toyota Venza isn’t a huge truck, nor is it a small car. It shows no signs of “large vehicle bounce”, and doesn’t exhibit much rolling tendencies either. The ride is relatively smooth on uneven dirt roads - not quite as smooth as in a Lexus, for example, but the sister brand has quite a different price tag as well. You’ll feel the crossover-esque elements of the Venza make a rugged path not so rugged - just as expected.
Cruising around town is also a no-brainer. The Venza will get you and you family - this is a family car, after all - to wherever you’re going, and it’s capable of hauling most of your stuff too. The handling on paved roads and shopping mall parking lots won’t make you feel like a race car driver, but it will make you feel confident. Confident that the Venza will go where you point it without fussing around, and even if you come around a corner a tad too fast you’ll still feel in control.
The rear seat easily swallows three kiddo-butts, but two adults is probably all you’ll get back there for any longer stretches. Rear legroom is comparable with most crossovers of this size, kids will do fine and adults won’t get cramps. Actually, in all fairness, adults will do just fine in the rear seats - there’s space for everyone!
The 2.5L 4-cylinder hybrid engine makes good use of both the combustion and electric propulsion systems. Having the gas engine stop at red lights is not a problem when the electric engine always is ready to go. The two mesh nicely and if you aren’t paying attention you might not know what’s actually propelling you forward. As long as you’ve driven for long enough to top up the battery you’ll enjoy a quite final approach as you make your way through parking lots. Remember that pedestrians around you can’t hear you coming!
Technology & Notable Features
The Venza can be loaded up with a plethora of Toyota safety and convenience systems. The adaptive cruise control is as helpful as ever, and the active lane keep assist too. Together the two systems help offload a lot of the driving from the actual driver to the computer. I’m of the opinion that this is a great thing (as long as we still stay focused as drivers), but I’m aware that some do not agree with me. I’d say to give the adaptive cruise and other safety systems a try for at least a week - I’m almost certain (hopeful) that everyone can get used to them and learn how to integrate with them.
Toyota’s current infotainment system is easy to use and understand. The medium-sized touchscreen puts everything within easy reach, and the menu is fairly self-explanatory. Toyota has larger screens available in their other models, but for a car of Venza-proportions you can only offer so much dashboard real estate to a screen.
Plugs for mobile devices abound and you’ll find cupholders throughout. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are accessible by bluetooth connection.
The 2023 Toyota Venza is confidently average. It’s a great car if you’re looking for a do-it-all kind of vehicle. It’s not large, nor is it small. It’s not sporty or fun, nor is it sluggish or dull. If you’re not looking for something specific (like a minivan, an SUV, or a sports sedan for example) then the Venza should probably be on your list of cars to test drive.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.