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Although still suffering from an identity crisis, there’s no mistaking the greatest attribute of the 2015 Toyota Venza: It delivers a very pleasing car-like handling.

That shouldn’t come as any surprise since the Venza sports a Camry-based chassis. The result is a very composed ride that one identifies with a well-conceived sedan.

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The Venza debuted in 2009 when Toyota engineers combined the design elements of the Camry sedan and the Highlander, its versatile SUV. The idea was to create a vehicle that possesses comfort, utility and is easy to drive.

That combination was initially well received. However, the folks at Toyota haven’t provided many changes in the past six years. Adding additional standard features and some minor styling changes is the only difference from previous models.

The Venza identity crisis remains, with car shoppers not really knowing if this is a hatchback, wagon, minivan or crossover sport utility vehicle? The opinion here is the Venza is more of a wagon.

2015 Toyota Venza

  • Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 181 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 268 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 19-26 mpg
  • Price: $28,915 to $39,790
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 2 years/25,000 miles

Toyota says the attractive-looking Venza is a crossover SUV. Yet the low roofline is what creates the identity problem, varying from the typical crossover styling theme and looking somewhat like a wagon.

Regardless of its classification, the Venza is a pretty solid vehicle that is very family-friendly, even though it doesn’t come with three rows of seating. Its unusual makeup is not surprising considering that Toyota has a large and diverse selection of SUVs, trucks, and crossovers.

The Venza is certainly friendly from a utility standpoint, offering numerous storage areas, cubicles and bins to place an iPod or other small devices. All five people have roomy and comfortable seats, making the Venza accommodating for short trips or more sizable journeys.

Cargo space is solid in the normal configuration, and when the second row goes down, the hauling area is a spacious 70.2 cubic feet, which is near the top in its class. One major knock on the interior is the abundance of cheap-looking plastic on the door panels and the dash.

Offered in three trims – LE, XLE and Limited – only the upgraded Limited comes with the larger engine, a fairly powerful 3.5-liter, V6 with 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque that can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

Many car shoppers will consider the 2.7-liter, four-cylinder that produces 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. If an around town, kid-transporter is the Venza’s main function, the lesser engine should work fine, even though gas mileage (20-26 mph) is on the low side.

The downside of going with the Limited model is price. The basic LE model goes for an estimated $28,915, while the Limited has as sticker price that is around $10,000 higher.

The Venza, which is offered in front-wheel drive but has optional all-wheel drive, is pleasant to drive, yet doesn’t quite reach the coveted “fun” category. It’s easy to maneuver in small areas and provides the driver a good road feel in tight turns and is enhanced by a solid braking capacity. What’s not cool about the Venza is the low roofline that limits visibility

The family-friendly Venza could use some remodeling. It’s being challenged by three fresher competitors – 2015 Subaru Outback, Ford Edge and Nissan Murano – and is starting to fall behind in overall value.

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