Tall Wagon Comparison: 2010 Toyota Venza vs. 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour vs. 2010 Nissan Murano

Matt Tierney

Third Place: Toyota Venza

On paper, the Venza is the clear winner here. It strikes the best balance in this group between carlike driving dynamics and crossover-rivaling utility, which is, of course, the stated reason for this subsegment to exist. Although it has essentially the same size footprint as the Crosstour, it offers nearly twenty cubic feet more cargo room with the rear seats folded down and even edges out the taller Murano. Toyota engineers did a particularly good job packaging the rear struts so they only barely intrude into the cargo hold (take a good look, Honda).

So, why the last-place finish? In a word, execution. The lack of attention to detail is most noticeable inside, where, despite the aforementioned packaging advantages, the Venza's interior ranks dead last. A mess of mismatched, shockingly ill-fitting plastic panels form the Venza's dash, and the controls for the air-conditioning and radio feel five years old. It's not what we'd expect from any Toyota, let alone one carrying a Lexus-like price tag of $34,759.

The exterior also seems like it needed a bit more time to coalesce. It has the best basic profile among this bunch (which is, admittedly, not an attractive group of vehicles as a whole), but fussy lines in back and a toothy grille up front give the impression of a Lexus RX that melted in the sun.

As noted, the Venza drives very much like a car -- an exceptionally boring car. Under most conditions, body control is decent and steering is reasonably precise. But push the Venza at all on a curvy road, and only the optional 268-hp V-6 feels up to the task, as the cushy brakes and Cool Whip suspension squirm in protest. The garish, twenty-inch wheels do nothing to help in this department, as the soft dampers seem to send them bouncing in four different directions through bumpy corners. Overall, it's not much better than a well-mannered crossover or minivan. Given that Toyota's lineup is chock full of just such vehicles, from the RAV4 to the Highlander and the Sienna, we must wonder what this new model actually brings to the table, aside from added sales volume on the cheap.

There's nothing egregiously wrong with the Venza, and yet, there's nothing remotely appealing about it, either. Executed properly, the Toyota could easily be the best in this group, and yet right now, its styling, driving dynamics, and interior quality all scream mediocrity.

I had the opportunity to experience both the Crosstour and Venza side-by-side over the weekend ~ thanks to friends. The Crosstour is hands-down the most attractive of the two and the most pleasing to drive. The Crosstour was sporty and agile; the Venza was sluggish, truck-like in handling, and rather droll. I received a number of compliments from strangers while out-and-about in the Crosstour; the Venza went unnoticed. If given a choice between the two, I would choose the Crosstour without hesitation.
I purchased a Murano in 03 and put 100K on it. Never had a single problem. It's only negative was poor "premium" gas milage. Last year, we bought a Venza and it has been perfect so far. The ride is carlike and very quiet. David Zenlea, the reviewer, seems to have confused these three crossovers with other sports sedans or perhaps thinks they should perform like a $60K Porsche Cayenne. In either case, this review is meaningless.
Subarudonelp fair point. It's always difficult to figure out where to draw the line of what to include and what not to in a comparo. We did recently run the Outback in a crossover round up (http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/driven/1003_japanese_crossover_suv_comparison/index.html) but the argument can be made that it fits here as well.
Hmm. Where's this race everyone keeps mentioning? Didn't see it in the story...
Where is Subaru other car magazine are remembering the remaining forerunner of the crossover segment, the Subaru Outback. Some have even made their SUV of the year, made record sales even in this economy. Why is this magazine still disrespecting Subaru.
Wow, just wow. I'd argue with this article, but almost everybody has said what I had in mind. I just read until the Venza... and its just plain ridiculous. A TALL WAGON (as it is titled) is NOT meant to be raced. And that review about the Venza is filled with so much HATE... why? I have too actually driven it and is SO good. And I too stop subscribing to your mag. Im glad I did.
It is the winner of ugly, least cargo space, worst ride and poor dash buttons.
So once again, Honda (interchange with BMW) wins a comparision even though it is the ugliest, and has the design which provides the worst utility (and these are 'utility' vehicles). Surprise, surprise. Do you really think people buy these to street race with two kids in the back?
Review is another reason I stopped subscribing to your paper edition. I have 4 cylinder 2009 Venza. $10,000.00 more for the funny-looking Honda?? No way! I seem to recall that your initial review of the Venza was very favorable. Big turn around for reasons unclear. Maybe Honda should wise up and produce a 4 cylinder model!
At first you said Venza should be #1 and then you slipped .To downgrade it to #3 because of interior is totally wrong. Very nice feel inside. Most other auto reviews of the Crosstour are very poor. Has Honda been taking you to lunch?
You bash the Venza for it's "toothy grille" and for A/C and radio controls that "feel five years old", while the same grille on the Crosstour is not even mentioned. And the fact that the $2000 price premium over the Venza is also conveniently not mentioned. I owould rather have the "five year old" controls over ones that are "nothing an owner couldn't fully decipher in a few weeks". You praise the Venza for it's rear cargo area and the well hidden rear struts, and state your disappointment with Honda "that the Crosstour fails to use its size nearly as well as the other two vehicles in our test", but still have no reservations about naming it the overall winner in this group. What does it take to knock you guys out of Honda and BMW fantasy land? The Crosstour is simply an Accord with a big butt, and that's it. The Venza, and even the Murano, offer true utility, which is why people buy these Goliaths. I'm sure they don't buy them for their beauty, or their power to weight ratio.
The key question is, what are these cars? If they're supposed to be utility vehicles, plain and simple, then indeed, there's no reason for them to be anything more than tolerable on the road, and the Venza likely would have been our winner. However, we think the point of these "tall wagons" is NOT just to offer utility. If hauling around people and cargo is your primary purchasing priority, you'd be infinitely better served by a minivan like the new Sienna, which, by the way, drives about as well as the Venza but has twice the cargo capacity.What these "tall wagons" promise is comfort, style, and driving dynamics approaching that of a midsize sedan along with a bit of extra room for your gear. To be perfectly frank, none of these vehicles fulfills this promise. But the Honda absolutely comes the closest.It's also worth noting that we are, unabashedly, an enthusiast's publication. We think even practical cars should drive well, and celebrate those that do.
VENZA FTWYou guys GOT to be kidding me...I've seen both the Toyota Venza and Honda Throw-up in real life...no way in hell the Honda looks better. The Venza cabin is much more creative and better looking then the dull accord interior in the Crosstour. Who cares how these cars handles...are they trying to compete with the M3 ? No they are not they are all going to be driven very normal. The Toyota does what these cars are supposed to the do the BEST and it loses ? Lemme get this straight you chose the Honda because it does things no one will buy it for... Other reviews said the Venza handles good so idk what you guys are talking about. The Toyota is the most sleek looking out the bunch and the Toyota is the one that would get my money.
Do we expect these to be sports cars? Not in the least -- but we have driven some crossovers that actually reward the driver with direct steering, little body roll, and superb dampening. I understand folks are buying these primarily as people/cargo movers, but that doesn't mean they need to completely abandon the notion of enjoying the time spent behind the wheel.
This article is as relevant as this website - terrible. I will say I'm a Venza driver and I disagree with everything about this article. How can you call Venza's styling mediocre vs. Honda's Crosstour? Are you blind?? The Crosstour is Honda's pathetic knee-jerk response to the Venza.
Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder. In this company the Crosstour actually looks good - I can't get past the Venza's obscene grille and general bloatedness, or the Muranos silver inlay front teeth. The photo above to my eyes really makes the Crosstour look the nicest of the bunch. and oklets forget handling - the crosstour is still the best finished, best riding, quietest car here. And this is what the author is saying. sure, its load space is really compromised, but for some people it will be enough. CRVs and Rav4s are more practical than any of these. It's a different market.
Buying either of these vehicles, why in the world would I care how fast it can take a corner? Does every vehicle have to have great handling to fulfill it's purpose. No. You couldn't give me that ugly Crosstour, I would take it straight to Toyota and get that handsome Venza. Terrible logic for winning a comparison of tall wagons. Terrible.
Why make such a big deal on how well or how bad these things handle corners? It's not a bad thing but these aren't sports cars yet you seem to have made it a point that it's a critical part of the appeal of these cars. It's NOT. Talk about utility, fuel efficiency, passenger room, etc. Driving experience, handling dynamics, catlike maneuverability are not important here. Remember, these are, afterall, based on accords, camrys and altimas - none of which are sports sedans by any definition. If I needed something fuel efficient yet able to carry passengers and cargo, the Venza wins. If I wanted something that hugged corners and maneuvers with agility, I'll go get a Miata or Lancer EVO.
If you're going to talk about how good or bad the interior is, I think you should include a picture of the interior.
I always chide my wife for liking or disliking cars based only on their looks but I haven't been able to get past the Crossstour's appearance. The front is ungainly (to be charitable) and the rest of it is, um, unconventional to a fault. I wouldn't be interested no matter how good it is.
Sure, Nissan was the first "tall wagon" --if you don't count the Mitsubishi Colt, Toyota Tercel 4WD, or Suzuki Tall Wagon R. Granted, those all used smaller platforms, but since the models you test hear are car-based, the point stands.

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