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Venza, Flex or Crosstour for a confused family?

2011 Toyota Venza

Toyota

Dear Sirs: I have two Toyota Camrys; one is a hybrid. But we are a four-driver family and sometimes need to carry more stuff then what can fit in these small trunks. We were considering a Toyota Venza but friends suggested that we look at a Lexus RDX or an Acura MDX. Both use premium fuel, which defeats the purpose of low fuel consumption, and they are a bit over our budget. What cars should I really be looking at? – Confused in Oakville, Ont.

Cato: Confused in Oakville cares a lot about Toyotas. Confused also cares immensely about fuel economy and minding the budget – something Ontario politicians could learn from. And Confused cares about owning a family-friendly vehicle for a family of essentially grownups.

Vaughan: To me, that all screams Toyota Venza. I know it isn't exactly this, but I think of the Venza as the Camry station wagon. It's a practical choice for people who like their Toyotas.

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Cato: I'm inclined to end this conversation right here – except the Venza design is getting along in years. Good as it is, the Venza has remained essentially unchanged since it arrived, which was about the time Barack Obama was first elected U.S. president. He's in his second term, but Toyota has yet to elect a move on a full Venza remake.

Vaughan: Yes, but we're discussing a family that owns not one but two Toyota Camrys. Like the Venza, a solid choice, yet, Cato, you have said the latest Camry is not a spellbinding automobile.

2011 Toyota Venza Toyota Toyota  

Cato: Actually, I said it's dull, but no nitpicking. The Venza with the 2.7-litre, four-cylinder engine uses regular fuel, starts at an affordable $28,695, has a six-speed automatic transmission, excellent quality and room for four adults and their toys. We can stop here, though I know you won't.

Vaughan: Yes, the four-cylinder, front-drive model is the way to go. It has plenty of power and, with good winter tires, it'll get you through all the snow you're likely to see in Oakville. What else, Cato?

Cato: I'd set Confused straight to the 2013 Venza, not the 2014 – if Confused can find a leftover 2013. Toyota Canada has a $1,000 factory rebate in play on the 2013, but nothing on the 2014.

I like the money there, but I like even more the $3,500 Honda Canada has slapped on outgoing, front-drive versions of the 2013 Honda Crosstour – $3,500 on the $28,999 base model. Here we have, in effect, the Honda Accord station wagon: a 2.4-litre four-banger, excellent reliability, space for the big kids and such.

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2013 Honda Crosstour. Honda Honda  

Vaughan: It's an ugly beast.

Cato: And you are cruel. I spotted one in traffic the other day and thought, "I've changed my mind on this."

Vaughan: Wrong, Cato. Perhaps the Crosstour should have been called the Crossdresser because it can't decide if it's a swoopy coupe or a practical station wagon. But it is a Honda, so that means it has outstanding reliability.

Being a Honda also means it has more buttons and switches on the dash than the space shuttle. It's worth a look, and if you like it, then beat them way down on price.

Cato: Speaking of price, Honda is selling only pricey, luxurious, four-wheel-drive versions of the Crosstour for 2014 – starting at $37,490. The simple answer here is for Confused to find a 2013.

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Vaughan: And from our file of odd-looking vehicles, our friends in Oakville, home to Ford of Canada's HQ, should check out the Ford Flex.

Cato: I love the Flex for family chores. Again, Confused needs to shop for a leftover 2013 base model with front-drive and the 3.5-litre V-6: $30,499 to start, minus the $3,500 factory discount. You will not find a more sensible wagon. Anywhere.

2013 Ford Flex Ford Ford  

Vaughan: They did a restyling on the hearse, er, I mean the Flex, last year and it made a big improvement. I like the design now; it's cool in a California way. Maybe this is the VW window van of today? Lots of room and comfort but it doesn't drive big – it's almost nimble.

Cato: Consumer Reports says reliability is a tad below average, but it's not awful. Still, my recommendation: find a 2013 Crosstour and take all the money off the table.

Vaughan: Venza is a good choice but the Flex is a Venza with style.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE

 2013 Toyota Venza FWD base model2013 Honda Crosstour EX FWD2013 Ford Flex SE FWD

Wheelbase (mm):

277527972994

Length (mm):

480049945125

Width (mm):

190518981928

Height (mm)

161015611726

Engine:

2.7-litre four-cylinder2.4-litre four-cylinder3.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

182/182 lb-ft192/162 lb-ft287/254 lb-ft

Drive system:

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automaticFive-speed automaticSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

170516842028

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.0 city/6.9 highway9.4 city/6.4 highway11.8 city/8.0 highway

Base price

$28,690$28,990$30,499

Source: car manufacturers

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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