Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T Spirit 5dr

February 2006

picture of car from the front

While not the most flattering angle, at least this generation Avensis stands out from the crowd

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 9Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Cabin refinement is high thanks to good noise suppression and a supple ride
  • Capacious hatch makes Avensis a versatile family car
  • Diesel engines are refined, powerful yet frugal in the case of the 2.2 unit
  • Customer satisfaction surveys routinely rate Toyota products highly

Gripes

  • Driving experience could be more involving
  • Over-long handbrake lever requires a disproportionate amount of effort to operate
  • The front isn't the car's most flattering angle
  • Toyota's brand image doesn't always rank as high as some of its rivals

For a long time a maker of worthy but dull cars, recently Toyota has attempted to break the mould with cars styled and developed with European tastes in mind. The Avensis is one such car. Available in three bodystyles (saloon, hatch and estate), the bias is clearly towards comfort but there is also a notable emphasis on premium touches - a serious effort has been made in terms of the choice of materials used in the cabin.

There's no mention in the press blurb for Toyota's Avensis about honing the car's suspension at famous racetracks, or modelling the engines on proven race-prepared units. And with good reason - the Avensis is not that kind of car.

In reality, the car is based more on products from Toyota's luxury division Lexus than sporty rivals. The biggest difference between this Avensis and the previous generation is the exterior styling. There's no question of it blending into the background this time - a criticism levelled at the old model.

To cut the car some slack, while its unusual nose is its most challenging feature from most other angles it looks refined and measured. And that's the image Toyota would like you to identify with when looking at its mid-size contender.

The Avensis certainly carries itself with more dignity than some of its closest rivals, as the emphasis is clearly on cosseting occupants and isolating them from the outside world, although driver involvement has been sacrificed. This won't be a cause for complaint for many, though. Toyota knows its core customers have always preferred refinement to a racy personality.

Our verdict on the Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T Spirit 5dr

If you're disillusioned by the increasing emphasis on delivering a sporty ride by the traditional European manufacturers, the Avensis will be the perfect antidote. The comfortable cabin, supple ride and accomplished road manners put many over-firm rivals to shame. The downside is a lack of driver involvement. However, the upside includes high levels of standard comfort and safety kit plus an impressive range of engines.

Costs
Costs rating 8

Historically Toyotas have rarely been the cheapest option in their respective classes, but on the plus side reliability, durability and good aftersales service have adequately compensated. Today the Avensis is one of the better value choices, as it comes with high levels of standard comfort and safety kit. Repair and insurance costs have been reduced and, if bought with a diesel engine, running costs are modest.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

In hatchback form the Avensis delivers a reasonable amount of cabin space, although tall rear seat passengers might struggle in the legroom department. Up front it's, predictably, a different matter. Cabin oddment storage is reasonable - door bins, centre console and glove box are the main depositories for personal clutter. At the rear, the back seats easily split 60-40 style and fold, which in turn liberates more boot space for large loads.

picture of car from the rear

More attractive rear hides a capacious boot

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The car's main instruments are clear and the main controls are intuitive. The audio and climate control features are located high on the fascia, and basic controls for the former are duplicated on the steering wheel although they're not the most tactile. The sat-nav screen - where fitted - conveniently pops up out of the top of the fascia, meaning you rarely have to take you eyes off the road. Minor gripes centre on the larger than average handbrake lever and the awkward location of the stubby, column mounted cruise stalk.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 9

What the Avensis does well is insulate occupants from road surface imperfections and road noise. As a car that's found favour with business customers, it really shines on long distance trips thanks to its comfort bias. The cabin boasts enough space for a quartet of adults and a little wiggle room, and the seats themselves are soft but supportive.

Car security
Security Rating 7

While not an obviously attractive car, the Avensis is well protected. Security etching and a visible VIN are cost effective deterrents. On the active front, remote central locking plus an immobiliser and alarm feature across the range.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

The safety kit on the Avensis is first class. Twin front, side and curtain airbags come as standard, along with an airbag under the steering column for the driver. Rear Isofix mounting points are also thrown in across the range. On the active front, ABS plus electronic traction and stability controls are present.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 6

Despite the inclusion of racy alloy wheels on certain models, the Avensis is no sports car. The focus is, as has always been the case with the Avensis, on comfort and refinement. As such, wind and road noise is low, the seats soft but supportive and the main controls light and easy to use. This is a car clearly biased towards eliminating road imperfections and effortless cruising. All engines deliver above average levels of refinement, with the diesel variants particularly impressive in terms of economy and performance.

picture of car interior

Cabin is well laid out and comfortable, especially on long journeys

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

Although you can't reconfigure the seats as you can in a people carrier, the Avensis will easily accommodate a growing family. The hatch and estate variants are the most versatile, and will swallow large or irregular loads with little fuss. Oddment storage is average - you won't find any MPV-style secret compartments, though. Youngsters are well catered for in the back with Isofix child seat mounting points.

First car appeal
First car Rating 6

There's no question that the Avensis is an easy car to drive, making it ideal for the novice driver. It might not be as easy to park in tight spaces as a supermini, but the car's controls are light - especially the steering and gearshift.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 5

Toyota routinely scores well in customer satisfaction surveys, telling all you need to know about quality and image issues. Many people buy into the Toyota brand purely on the strength of its reputation for building reliable, durable cars and the good service offered by dealers. On the flip side, the company - and the car - is sometimes wrongly perceived as being dull. Strong buyer loyalty says otherwise.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

As five-door hatchbacks go, the Avensis delivers few surprises. Access to the front is straightforward, helped by a slightly raised seating position. Rear access is reasonable considering the reduced size of the door aperture. Once inside the space available is good, though. At the rear the hatch requires little effort to raise or lower, and access is generous.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard audio set-up is a generous one, as you get a unique-fit radio with a legible LCD display, RDS plus a single CD slot and cassette player. With all that lot crammed into the fascia, the unit is on the large side. The upside is easy to use controls, with the basic ones duplicated on the steering wheel. The car's eight speakers do a fine job but radio reception isn't always perfect. Depending on the model, the basic 'turn-by-turn' sat-nav can be fiddly, while the optional full colour, DVD system is fast but costly.

picture of car in detail

Access to the car's large boot is straightforward

Colours and trim

While not the most photogenic car around, its appearance can be improved if you opt for a light exterior colour. Inside the cabin, the atmosphere is more subdued. Dark plastics dominate, although the car's centre brighter console does much to lift the ambience. The car's cloth trim is biased more towards durability than luxury, but the leather trim (where fitted) is convincing and soft to the touch.

Parking

Boasting light power steering, the Avensis requires little effort to manoeuvre. However, the car's big front window pillars and raised bootline can make judging its extremities a little tricky.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engines: 1.8 VVT-i (127bhp); 2.0 VVT-I (145bhp). Diesel engines: 2.0 D-4D (114bhp); 2.2 D-4D (148bhp). Five and six-speed manual gearboxes depending on variant, same is true of auto option. Trim levels: T2, T3, T3-X, T4, T Spirit.

 

Alternative cars

Ford Mondeo Fleet favourite delivers a sportier ride but comfort is sometimes compromised

Vauxhall Vectra Revised Vectra now better to drive and is spacious, refined and good value

Mazda 6 Affordable Mazda is well built and well equipped

Renault Laguna Stylish Laguna comes with excellent diesel engines and generous levels of standard kit



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February 2006