Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Saloon

December 2011

picture of car from the front

Styling remains familiar but has been sharpened up

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 7Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Quiet cruiser at motorway speeds
  • High quality interior materials
  • Excellent seats offer lots of cruising comfort
  • Impressive list of standard equipment

Gripes

  • Engine sometimes lacks power to match its more sporty rivals
  • Not a car for enthusiastic drivers
  • Can struggle over large surface imperfections
  • Touch-screen sat-nav requires a steady hand to operate when on the move

As it chases after fleet sales, Toyota has revised its Avensis to include a more efficient engine for lower ownership costs, especially for company car drivers. The styling has also been sharpened up and several changes have been made to the chassis to try to improve the driving dynamics; never the Avensis' strongest suit.

Key to the revised Avensis is an improved version of the 2.0-litre D-4D diesel engine, which in previous generations has taken up about two thirds of the model's overall sales. Company cars make up a big proportion of the Avensis' sales, and this model's lowered CO2 output helps make it much cheaper to own that the old one thanks to a much lower Benefit-in-Kind cost and improved fuel economy.

A smaller, more efficient turbocharger combines with faster warm-up from cold starts, more effective lubrication and several other minor alterations to make the Avensis a much more efficient package overall and it's quieter than before. The engine is less powerful than some other mid-range diesels, shown by its performance figures, but this fits with the car's understated character.

The car's seats are well suited to long-distance cruising. They are long under your thigh and carefully shaped at your back, with just the right firmness of padding. They are generously sized and the vast majority of people will never feel cramped. Rear seat comfort is impressive too, with ample legroom and shoulder room. It isn't wide enough to allow three adults to sit comfortably in the back, but two should be more than happy.

Despite claims of many improvements to the chassis and driving dynamics, this Avensis remains a conservative car to drive. Where this car really shines is in the standard equipment that it offers. A huge list of impressive luxury kit is standard even on mid-range models, including touch-screen satellite navigation, adds an increased sense of appeal for company car drivers.

Our verdict on the Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Saloon

While this generation of Avensis has witnessed a relatively minor evolution from the last, the financial implications of the modifications are rather larger. Combined with slightly improved and very pleasing interior quality, a quiet cruising ability and a thoroughly impressive amount of equipment, it's often quite easy to overlook the lacklustre engine and uninspiring drive. As a motorway cruiser it represents first-rate value for money.

Costs
Costs rating 8

The efficiency updates for this generation make it excellent value to own, particularly by company car owners, who will pay a lot less to keep this one than the old version. As an engine tuned specifically for economy it responds best to gentle pedal inputs, and will return respectable mpg figures. Driving more quickly requires a disproportionate amount of extra effort from the engine, which spoils the economy.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

Although the Avensis doesn't look as large as rivals like the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall's Insignia, there is an impressive amount of interior space for passengers and luggage. A family of four would find it more than big enough for their needs. An average weekly shop might even need some form of restraint to keep goods from falling over and rolling around the boot.

picture of car from the rear

The saloon boot is more than big enough for company car use

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 7

The main instrument cluster will divide opinion; some would say dated and boring, and others would say pleasantly uncomplicated. The central digital screen can't always be read easily at a quick glance, but both the speedometer and rev counter are clear. The large satellite navigation screen is clear and bright, and intuitive to use. It also allows access to media and central control functions.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

Excellent seats underpin the car's generally comfortable ride. They are large, supportive and relaxing, and provide a very good driving position. The position is even and balanced, which helps to avoid over-stressing key muscles in a driver's back or legs. A large amount of standard kit also helps to enhance the sense of luxurious comfort.

Car security
Security Rating 7

As standard the Avensis has a Thatcham category one approved alarm and immobiliser system, as well as central locking. High-end models have keyless entry, as does the mid-range TR when fitted with the 2.2-litre diesel engine. Remote central locking is standard on all models, and for models with alloy wheels there are locking wheel nuts.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

The Avensis is excellent for safety, thanks in part to its airbag count.Optional advanced safety gear includes Pre-Crash Safety, which will brake the car automatically and activate the seatbelt pre-tensioners if a collision looks likely.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 6

The Avensis has always struggled to create any driver appeal other than the pleasure of driving a smooth, reliable and solidly-built car. It offers the same pleasure in this guise, but even more so because it's quieter. In terms of driving enjoyment, though, the modestly powerful engine line-up, chassis nor the steering offer sufficient feedback to satisfy keen drivers. It's best enjoyed as a motorway cruiser.

picture of car interior

Interior quality has been raised with more tactile materials

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

Although it's being aimed openly at company car drivers, the Avensis would make an accomplished family car, where space, practicality, reliability and affordability generally take priority over other factors. Thanks to the quantity of standard equipment the car feels more premium than its price, especially in a mid-range trim level, and it provides all the 'must-have' qualities that make a great family car.

First car appeal
First car Rating 4

This is a car to perform a set function, and the talents it has don't match the desires of a first-time car buyer. There are always exceptions to the rule, but the Avensis isn't small enough, cheap enough or desirable enough to fit the bill as a first car. For some older people who pass their driving tests in later life, it might be a more attractive option.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 4

Toyota has a very distinct image in Britain, where its products are thought of as faultlessly reliable yet less than exciting. Because of that the brand attracts buyers who prioritise reliability above all else. This generation of Avensis has higher quality interior plastics than the preceding model, and it shows in a solid, tactile and premium-feeling environment.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Four quite short doors combine with a relatively flat roofline and lots of interior space to make it very easy to get in and out of the Avensis, whether it's the front or the back. The boot is capacious and although the aperture shape and size isn't the most convenient on the market, in day-to-day use few people are likely to notice any shortcomings.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

While the basic stereo is adequate, T4 and T-Spirit cars are fitted with an 11-speaker upgraded system, which with a little experimentation with settings sounds very good, if not the match of the branded ones in premium executive saloons. The touch-operated screen's functionality is up with the best, thanks to clear diagrams and instructions.

picture of car in detail

Touch-screen sat-nav is standard on nearly all models

Colours and trim

Aside from a sophisticated red, the majority of the Avensis' colours are very similar. It's a modest choice under normal circumstances, but the requirements laid upon fleet drivers often include an inoffensive colour choice, of which there are many here. The trim is of pleasingly high quality for the price of the car, and provides a welcoming environment. It's available in light and dark colours.

Parking

Part of the car's standard equipment list on all but the most basic model is a reversing camera, which helps the driver guide the car into a space. Visibility is good all around the car, but the precise distance control that the camera provides is more than welcome. As a four-door, its doors are relatively short and getting in and out is very easy.

Spare wheel

Space saver spare wheel supplied as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.8-litre (145bhp). Diesel options - 2.0-litre (124bhp); 2.2-litre (148bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, six-speed continuously variable automatic.

 

Alternative cars

Hyundai i40 A very good car for a very good price with a very good diesel engine

Volkswagen Passat The class leader for image, but more expensive and less well equipped

Ford Mondeo Great to drive and a stable cruiser, but expensive for a good specification

Vauxhall Insignia Looks great and has good engines, but rides poorly on large wheels



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December 2011