Toyota’s Avensis, now starting its third generation, has always provided sensible shoes motoring with the sort of reliability you would want from a rocket for a mission to Mars
Toyota’s Avensis, now starting its third generation, has always provided sensible shoes motoring with the sort of reliability you would want from a rocket for a mission to Mars. And though criticised by the boy racer, sideways-orientated motoring magazines, the rather classy, won’t frighten the horses styling of the last model saw it increase its slice of a shrinking sector of the market. Built only at Toyota’s Burnaston factory, near Derby, the new Avensis is intended to appeal to the same 115,000+ mature families in Europe as the outgoing car but with a tinsey bit more glitz in the styling, and improved performance.
Designed at Toyota’s south of France studio, the new Avensis has more visual presence courtesy of a bigger front grille and larger headlights blended into the more flared front wheel arches. This makes the car look lower and sleeker, though in reality, unlike Ford’s swollen Mondeo it’s the same height and only 50mm longer and 50mm wider. There are only saloons and estates (Tourers) to choose from – the hatchbacks are no more.
The wide choice of diesel engines starts with the 2-litre 130, followed by the 2.2-litre 150 and D-CAT 150, and the top spec 2.2 D-CAT 180. A six-speed automatic gearbox will be offered on the D-CAT 150 from April. Toyota has upgraded the engines to deliver more torque at lower revs in pursuit of better economy and lower carbon dioxide (and nitrous oxide) emissions. More efficient piezoelectric injectors controlling fuel volume and injection timing have replaced the solenoid types.
I was therefore quite surprised in the 148bhp Engine: 1998cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel Gearbox: 6-speed manual Max Power: 124bhp at 3,600rpm Max Torque: 229lb ft at 1,800 – 2,400rpm Max Towing Weight: 1,600kg Combined Consumption: 54.3mpg CO2 Emissions (taxband): 136g/km (C) 0-62mph: 10.0secs Max speed: 124mph Insurance Group: 6 200 mile drive in Italy in a Tourer was 40.3mpg according to the car’s computer rather than the claimed 50.4mpg. A different route the following day in the expected best seller, the 124bhp 2- litre delivered a near identical figure in wet and snowy conditions when an automatic stop-start system would have improved this a lot. Neither engine was particularly quiet. All Avensis though use the, rather inappropriately named, Optimal Drive technology to cut carbon dioxide emission by one to 10 per cent compared to the previous car.
Toyota shipped engineers to Europe for an extended period to experience our roads in a bid to make the Avensis a more dynamic drive than before. As a motorway cruiser it’s terrific but when you get to the twisty stuff you wouldn’t see where a well driven Mondeo had gone. There’s simply not the same agility and zest you get in the Ford and not a lot of feel through the electrically assisted power steering. The Avensis so majors on stability, it’s hard to imagine a driver ever needing the electronic stability system.
Though I found the multi-adjustable driver’s seat in the spacious, plusher cabin comfortable, ride comfort wasn’t brilliant over some poor surfaces and twice the electric parking brake didn’t want to hold on a hill, giving little lurches backwards. There’s a rail system for securing loads in the Tourer’s boot but the rear seats don’t lift to form a bulkhead.
The new Avensis has gained more road and car park presence but it’s still for someone who sees a car as transport rather than something to be enjoyed, though there’s no arguing with the potential fuel figures.
RIVALS: CITROËN C5 TOURER VTR+ 2.0HDi 16v, VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SPORTS TOURER S 2.0 CDTi 16v
- Engine: 1998cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 124bhp at 3,600rpm
- Max Torque: 229lb ft at 1,800 – 2,400rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,600kg
- Combined Consumption: 54.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 136g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 10.0secs
- Max speed: 124mph
- Insurance Group: 6