Toyota knows that there are people who still love station wagons. People who don’t own five windbreakers that say Columbia on them and who don’t order coffees with six names in the description. And they don’t cover the back of their car in bumper stickers involving the name “Bernie.”
Basically, Toyota knows that there is a station wagon market outside of Boulder.
And so there is the Venza. The Venza is in its second generation and now features all-wheel drive and hybrid MPG returns as standard equipment. Touted as a “midsize SUV,” the Venza is, as anyone looking at it can see, a station wagon.
The Toyota Venza shares a platform with the best-selling RAV4 sport utility. It’s a little larger and a little shorter, and much more car-like by comparison. It comes as a 219-horsepower hybrid, combining a tiny four-cylinder engine and Toyota’s now-well-vetted Hybrid Synergy Drive system to create all-wheel drive in the same way that the RAV4 hybrid does. The engine powers the front, an electric motor powers the rear.
Inside, the Venza has more in common with the Lexus lineup of cars than it does with the Toyota lineup of sport utilities. It’s stylish, comfortable, and full of mostly passive technology. Meaning it’s not in your face and glaring like, say, the giant screen in a Tesla.
The 2023 Toyota Venza is rated by the EPA for 40 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Our highway test resulted in 36.5 mpg, which we think is close enough for government work. Our high altitude does make getting EPA returns difficult. Since we’re neither at sea level nor in a confined, lab-like environment here in Wyoming.
The interior’s appeal comes not only from its looks and comfort, but also its size. There’s a surprising amount of headroom, legroom, and buttocks accommodation in this one. Even in the back seat–assuming you aren’t in the middle.
Cargo space in the 2023 Venza is not as good as it would be in an SUV, but it’s good enough for most needs. We made a Sam’s Club trip for a family of two adults and three teenagers without a problem. Plus it looks good by the FE Warren base lakes where these pictures were taken. The pelicans seemed to be honking in approval.
I think that’s what pelicans do, anyway. It sounds like a honk. Halfway between a chirp and a bullfrog burp, anyway. Not in the F range like a car, but still a honk.
Pelican sidetrack aside, though, the Toyota Venza is one of the last of the station wagons. The days of backward-facing seats and piling stuff on top to go on a road trip are gone, of course. But we can reminisce while we look at today’s versions of wagons, which are mostly not-quite-SUVs, and be happy.
Wagons seem to be making a comeback. Gone are the days when the only option was a Subaru and all the jeering from your bar friends that this would bring. Now there’s also this Toyota, which is way more sensible and a lot less insistent that you also own a paddle board and some stock in an IPA brewery.