Retrospective

The original Toyota Venza was a crossover ahead of its time

The Toyota Venza crossover was ahead of its time when it debuted in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

You may see one heading down the street now and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, they made that." When the Toyota Venza debuted at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, it was ahead of its time. That was both its blessing ad its curse.

The Venza was based on the Toyota FT-SX Concept, which debuted at the 2005 iteration of the Detroit auto show three years earlier. The concept car had the telltale signs of a modern crossover. It featured an extended height body that rode slightly higher than a traditional wagon and a sloped back end gracefully ended at the hatchback.

2009 Toyota Venza The interior of the Toyota Venza was very much of its time.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The project was the design child of Ian Cartabiano who had just come off a successful redesign of the third-generation 2005 Toyota Avalon. Today Cartabiano is the President at ED2 design center, Toyota Europe Design Development.

The concept and production model that followed were the same size as the Subaru Outback was in 2005. The 2020 Outback is around 10 inches longer than it was then.

First Generation (2009-2015)

The 2009 Toyota Venza was built on the Toyota Camry platform, giving the model its official crossover stance. Like the Camry, the Venza was a front-wheel drive model with available all-wheel drive.

Toyota gave the base model Venza a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Buyers could upgrade to the available 3.5-liter V6. Both were paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder achieved reasonable fuel economy for its time - an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

2013 Toyota Venza The original Toyota Venza was ahead of its time. It only lasted one generation and was refreshed in 2013. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Unlike other models in the Toyota lineup, the crossover was originally sold in just one trim level. Buyers could add to their model utilizing several packages and options. The list of standard features included fog lamps, 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio, a six-disc CD changer, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-way power-adjustable drivers seat, Hill Start Assist, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and the Toyota Star Safety System suite of safety equipment and technology.

Options including automatic high beams, a power lift gate, leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof, 13-speaker JBL sound system, Bluetooth, navigation, push button start, and rearview camera were available.

Toyota priced the 2009 model starting at $25,975. It topped out at $29,250. Those prices rose by about $200 per model year through the 2013 Venza mid-cycle refresh.

The 2013 Venza was a thoroughly modern vehicle. It got Toyota's Etune infotainment system that allowed smartphones to connect and interact with the display as well as hands-free Bluetooth phone calls and text functionality. Also, drivers could stream Pandora by linking the system with their phone.

Discontinuation

Citing slacking sales and changes in customer preferences, Toyota killed the model in the U.S. in 2015 and ended global production in 2017.

The New Venza

Rumors are rampant that Toyota is revving the Venza as a thoroughly modern crossover. It may just be one of the new models Toyota showed during a dealer meeting that was leaked. Stay tuned!

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris punches above its weight.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Folks are always fascinated about what I do for a living. "Oh, you drive a different car every week? That's so exciting!"

What follows is a fairly predictable set of questions. "What's your favorite car?" (Rolls-Royce Wraith). "Have you ever driven on a race track?" (Numerous times.) "What's the fastest you've driven?" (180 MPH in a Porsche Panamera on the Autobahn in Germany.)

But then I'll start asking them questions, trying to learn about what they drive and why. What car do you have and why did you buy it? What other cars did you consider? What do you look for in an automobile?

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris has Toyota looks up front.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's my own form of market research. I can't review a car if I don't understand who my reader is and how to best guide them. It's part of why I don't dive too deep into horsepower and performance figures — I've found that, performance cars excepted, most vehicles perform adequately for the everyday tasks that people buy them for.

That brings us to this week's car, which is perhaps one of the least-interesting cars I've tested — but in a very good way. The sub-$20,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback is aimed solidly at folks who want an affordable, entry-level vehicle that's safe, practical, and with just a touch of luxury-ishness.

My tester was the (slightly) fancier XLE trim, pricing out at $19,680. It's equipped with an adequate if unexciting 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a whopping 106-horsepower. The engine might be tiny, but it comes with the added bonus of 32/40/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel economy. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (and a real transmission too, not a continuously variable unit that some folks love to hate).

2020 Toyota Yaris The hatchback is convenient but the car also comes in a sedan variant.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It has 16-inch wheels, a bunch of airbags, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a seven-inch color touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has push-button start, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Oh, and there's automatic climate control too, which I've seen missing on cars that cost way more than this.

Here's where things get a bit confusing. Toyota sells the Yaris in other markets around the world, and it's their own in-house vehicle. But the Yaris sold in America is a rebadged Mazda2 that's assembled at Mazda's facility in Salamanca, Mexico. It's related to the Toyota Yaris sedan which used to be called the Scion iA, which is also built by Mazda, but also has the Toyota brand on it.

Whatever.

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris rides okay, about what you’d expect for a sub-$20,000 vehicle.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I've driven a lot of Mazdas and a lot of Toyotas, and it's obvious to me that this is a Mazda. That's not a bad thing. Mazdas vehicles have punched above their weight for a long time (I had a 2011 Mazda3 for years, and I've praised them frequently in these pages), bringing both upscale materials and design to lower-priced segments. That's true here too. The Mazda2 — I mean, Toyota Yaris Hatchback — doesn't feel like a stripped down econobox. It's small and maneuverable and the engine, though a little noisy, gets you through traffic nicely.

It's a great new car for a teenager or for someone looking to spend as little money on a new car as possible. New cars, after all, come with new car warranties and can appeal to folks who don't want to imagine what came before when buying something used.

The Yaris competes with the Honda Fit, which is a perennial favorite in this class, and it seems a little nicer and a little more polished, though with less rear-seat legroom if you anticipate carrying adults back there.

2020 Toyota Yaris Even low-cost models have an infotainment screen these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The front is comfortable and attractive enough, with solid buttons and knobs and dials that are all pleasing to touch and fiddle with (which isn't as common as you'd think). It seems to be a better car than it's bargain-basement price would indicate, with a solid ride, comfortable seats and two reliable names behind it.

I took it to Costco (as I have with all my COVID-era test drives) and, with the 60/40 seats folded down, was able to fill it with ease. It swallowed up toilet paper and paper towels and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper and all manner of other things. It's no Rolls-Royce Wraith, but I'd be happy to recommend the little Yaris to someone looking for a new car that won't break the bank.

Trending News

 
 

The newly named Lunar Cruiser is set to arrive on the moon's surface in 2030.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

A partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has delivered the Toyota Lunar Cruiser, a four-seat moon rover. Work on the project has lasted over a year, commencing in July 2019.

With a name inspired by Toyota's Land Cruiser SUV, the Lunar Cruiser is a six-wheel utility vehicle that is six meters long, five meters wide and about four meters high. It can accommodate two people for regular use and four in an emergency.

JAXA-Toyota Lunar Cruiser

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

This isn't just a one-off project designed to generate publicity for JAXA and Toyota. The Lunar Cruiser's design and engineering process has a number of milestones set out to meet. Starting in 2022, the partnership will manufacture a 1:1 scale prototype of the rover then begin acquiring and verifying testing data on driving systems required to explore the moon's polar regions.

Two years later, it is expected that progress will be able to advance to allow for design, manufacturing, and evaluation of an engineering model of the rover and design of the actual flight model will begin. By 2027, the flight model will be manufactured and design and evaluation of the model will be underway.

It's projected to be ready for work in 2029. JAXA plans to use it as part of a manned exploration in 2030.

When manned, the rover will be pressurized and is designed to use fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technologies to navigate the moon's surface.

Pressurised Rover Concept | Toyota and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency www.youtube.com

This isn't the only massive fuel cell technology undertaking Toyota is involved in. They recently revealed plans to create an alternatively fueled live-work-play testing facility at the base of Mt. Fuji.

While those projects are ongoing, Toyota is moving forward with passenger car and tractor trailer FCEV technology. They recently debuted a redesigned Mirai sedan and have begun installing hydrogen fueling stations along the western coast of California to be used by the overland trucking industry. The company continues efforts to lobby towns on the East Coast of the U.S. to adapt restrictive laws to be more receptive to FCEV vehicles.

Trending News