Toyota Avensis 1.8 Valvematic TR Saloon

December 2008

picture of car from the front

Avensis boasts a more substantial exterior

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Well equipped as standard
  • Very efficient
  • Extremely smooth petrol engines
  • Attractive exterior design

Gripes

  • Uninspiring driving experience
  • Not as roomy as some competitors
  • Interior plastics attractive but not the most solid
  • Ride suffers on larger alloy wheels

Now in its third generation, Toyota's Avensis has always been a solid and dependable choice for drivers, appealing to company cars drivers and fleet managers in particular. While some manufacturers are steering away from fleet sales with premium cravings, Toyota is embracing company car drivers with a vehicle more suited to their needs than ever.

Although never endowed with the most flattering of images, the Toyota Avensis is a vehicle that competently provided for the majority of D-segment drivers needs. While some of its key rivals have attempted to make the shift toward the premium end of the sector and lessen their dependence on fleet sales, Toyota has acted on feedback from its main customers in order to develop a vehicle that meets their needs with greater efficiency.

Efficiency is apparently a key ingredient, encouraging Toyota to implement what it calls Optimal Drive across its comprehensive range of petrol and diesel engines for the Avensis. Across the range, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 6.7g/km. The introduction of new Valvematic petrol units in 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre form have made a large contribution. The lift of the inlet and exhaust valves can be individually controlled for maximum efficiency - meaning fuel consumption is lowered by as much as 26 per cent. A new six-speed automatic gearbox for the diesel engines and an efficient CVT transmission called Multidrive S are also new.

Exterior design has been beefed up, and the Avensis is now more substantial to look at, with bulky arches reminiscent of the Lexus IS and a clamshell bonnet. Using a new platform, the Avensis is now a roomier car. The A-pillars have been moved forward by 110mm, while the C-pillars have been pushed back by 50mm - freeing up extra space inside.

Toyota has retained its traditional trim levels. T2 is the entry level specification, with the TR specification expected to account for the majority of UK sales. Above that, T4 and T Spirit offer increasing levels of equipment. However, the model is well specified as standard, with an electric parking brake and Bluetooth phone integration.

Our verdict on the Toyota Avensis 1.8 Valvematic TR Saloon

As the lines between the premium and mainstay D-Segment contenders become increasingly blurred, Toyota is refreshingly honest about the role of the Avensis. The quality is there, but there are few pretensions about it being a sporty drive or luxury vehicle. It is safe, comfortable, subtly handsome and represents good value for money - all the qualities that its core buyers are likely to require.

Costs
Costs rating 8

Toyota's Optimal Drive initiative means all versions of the Avensis boast impressive fuel economy, which in turn means road tax and Benefit In Kind rates are very appealing. Proven build quality and reliability means owners should find maintenance bills easy to live with.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

For outright practicality the Tourer model is clearly the best choice, however, the Saloon is not without its practical benefits. Headroom is good and rear legroom will not disappoint either. There's ample provision for storage and conveniently placed cup-holders for life on the road. The boot presents a decent amount of volume, boosted by the one-touch folding rear seats, and the boot door is wide. It does have a high lip, however, that might hinder the ingress of bulky items.

picture of car from the rear

Saloon is slightly shorter than the estate

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

With an electric parking brake as standard across the range, the Avensis instantly receives a high mark for controls. This frees up some space in the centre divide, but it's taken up with storage rather than more buttons. The majority of the controls are positioned in the usual spots around the centre console, with knobs for temperature and some sound system functions, and solid feeling buttons for the rest. Further controls, including those for Bluetooth phone control, are placed on the steering wheel. Some of the additional safety functions are controlled by buttons by the drivers knee, which may not be immediately obvious. Displays are all clear and easy to read and the presence of a shift light for optimal fuel efficiency is a sensible touch.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

Comfort levels are high, with supportive seats, decent headroom and an interior that gives the illusion of increased space, even it hasn't swelled to the proportions of some of its rivals. Electric lumbar support is present from the TR trim grade upwards and it's easy to find a comfortable driving position. Naturally there are electrics all-round and dual zone air-con on the TR model. Refinement is excellent, with wind and road noise limited through an impressive drag co-efficient and up-rated sound-proofing.

Car security
Security Rating 7

A Thatcham approved category one alarm and immobiliser is standard, as is automatic door locking. Higher specification models benefit from keyless entry and start, but all models have remote central locking.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

The previous generation Avensis set records for adult crash safety when first introduced, and its replacement carries on that good work with a strong safety element. VSC+ is a standard equipment feature that applies torque to the steering in an emergency to assist the traction control and airbags are copious, including full side curtain and driver's knee examples. An advanced safety system with lane departure and lane-keeping assist can also be specified.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

One of the key appeals of the Avensis is the smoothness of the engines and transmissions. The 1.8-litre Valvematic is particularly refined and has a very linear power application, with more to be found at the top of the rev-range if required. Handling feels competent and reassured rather than sporty with the emphasis clearly on comfort. The Avensis is not a particularly involving car to drive, but it holds the road well and feels relatively nimble. Regardless of gearbox choice the Avensis offers jerk-free progress. The manual offers a slick shift with sensibly spaced ratios, but both automatic transmissions also make good sense on a car that's destined to spend much of its life motorway-bound.

picture of car interior

Interiors are very comfortable

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

Able to comfortably seat three children in the rear and with room for a respectable compliment of luggage, the Avensis would serve well as a family vehicle. A strong emphasis on safety will also increase its appeal among drivers with families.

First car appeal
First car Rating 5

The Avensis is not a car you'd normally associate with new drivers as it inhabits one of the more sizeable segments. Although an undemanding car to drive, its appeal is more likely to be with those in need of a business or large family car.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 6

The previous generations of Avensis suffered from something of a dour image and rep-mobile associations. Rather than shy away from the model's business routes, Toyota has opted to embrace them, involving key customer groups in the planning process. The result is a car that should raise the model's profile thanks to a more attractive exterior and carefully considered specification. Build quality is robust, although some of the interior fittings fail to reach top of the class.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The Avensis poses no problems in terms of accessibility. The doors are of good proportions and the seats positioned at a reasonable height. The fact that the A-Pillar has been moved forward and the C-Pillar moved back also contribute to good head room, which means less stooping on entry.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard equipment is a six-speaker system with a single slot CD player and radio. Sound quality is good and the system is easy to operate. An auxiliary jack for audio input is present and, notably, Bluetooth phone integration is also standard - useful for business drivers. Various upgrades are available depending on trim level, culminating in a 10Gb hard-drive system with parking camera and sat-nav.

picture of car in detail

A large boot, but a shallow aperture

Colours and trim

As a business focussed car it's no surprise that the colour range is built around sensible blues and greys, but the more substantial and stylish exterior of the new Avensis lends itself to more sophisticated shades. Inside, cloth trim is standard for the TR trim, you'll need to opt for the two higher trim levels do get leather. However, the TR model does get a leather steering wheel and gear-knob and the cloth seats are attractive and seem hard wearing. Also present on the TR model is a titanium finish to the centre console, which breaks up the black or grey-beige combination. Higher spec models get an attractive charcoal effect finish to the interior plastics.

Parking

Unlike some of its rivals, the Avensis has not got a great deal larger and its sensible shape and dimensions mean it will slot into a standard parking space with little fuss. The power steering is extremely light at low speed, great for manoeuvring, but parking sensors are only standard don the top-spec T Spirit.

Spare wheel

Steel spare fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.8-litre (147bhp); 2.0-litre (152bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (126bhp); 2.2-litre (150bhp); 2.2-litre (177bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed automatic gearbox, Multidrive S CVT gearbox with seven-speed sequential manual over-ride. Trim levels: T2, TR, T4, T Spirit.

 

Alternative cars

Ford Mondeo Spacious and competent handling rep-mobile

Vauxhall Insignia Vectra replacement is a more upmarket affair

Volkswagen Passat Excellent motorway cruiser with good build quality

Peugeot 407 SR version aimed squarely at the business driver



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December 2008