Car Test   R0338
May 2003
  Toyota Avensis
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 T3-X 5-door
Despite its staid image and road manners, the previous Avensis (and the Carina before it) generated a lot of owner-satisfaction, because it was comfortable and very reliable.
   The latest version is designed specifically to appeal to more committed drivers, for European roads. Longer and wider, it turns out to be very comfortable, but no bigger inside – except for a bit more boot space. The seats are very supportive, the interior fabrics and plastics exude quality and this extends to the parts not normally on show, such as the interior of oddments cubbies and under the (folding) back seat.
   The commanding driving position offers a softly topped seat with excellent underlying firm support and plenty of adjustments – to the wheel, as well. The back seat is ideally angled, with a centre armrest or a low centre hump that should enable a third rear occupant to cope. Everyone has heater outlets at floor level.
   A perusal of the brochure reveals how generously the ‘basic’ T2 version is equipped, despite its keen price; it, too, has air conditioning, but of the simpler sort – our test car had full climate control with side-to-side temperature variation. More’s the pity, therefore, that only a diesel version of the estate car is available with this cheapest trim at present, and there’s no two-litre version at all.
   So much for accommodation – how does this new contender shape up on the road? Well, cornering is certainly improved, with a more alert response, thanks to rear suspension derived from the Celica. This longer test on UK roads left a better impression concerning this two litre’s ride comfort and mechanical refinement, as well. Some surface disturbance does get through, but it never jars, there’s a taut, fret-free body reaction and wind sealing is impeccable.
   The quite high-geared, direct-injection engine feels very relaxed about low rev pullaways or motorway cruising on the limit. It’s a versatile performer, although our figures show some rivals have an accelerative edge. Our car’s frugality is impressive, but other savings include realigned parts prices and no timing belt change to worry about later.
   The brakes stop the car well, with none of the disc-distorting vibration and inconsistency we experienced on the old Avensis – as well as owners, apparently. Our only grouse now is an over-servoed response if you pounce on the pedal at low speed.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
  • thoughtful anchorages/minor storage around load deck
  • lined oddments spaces inside
  • 'Optitron' instrument illumination (always) brilliant
  • Isofix child seat mounts, with top tethers
  • rain-sensing wipers go frantic sometimes
  • electric windows won't work unless ignition on
  • centre console impedes shorter drivers' left elbow
  • no protective door nudge strips
This latest Avensis enters a sector of the market populated by several truly commendable cars. With improved road manners and largely uncompromised comfort, it gets close to the best in terms of driver-enjoyment. However, it seems better than ever in terms of operating costs, with a lower insurance group rating, better mpg, lower tax liability (thanks to its Euro IV-compatible emission rating) and the excellent features list at the price. Add to all this, proven quality and reliability that exceed most rivals’ and you have a very convincing set of reasons for choosing Avensis.

engine 1998cc, 4-cylinder, petrol; 147bhp at 5700rpm, 144lb ft at 4000rpm; chain-driven double overhead camshafts, 16valves with direct injection.   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 23.8mph/1000rpm in 5th, 19.0 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, coil springs
rear: independent double wishbones with lateral and trailing links, coil springs; electronic stability control standard
  steering hydraulic power assistance; 3.0 turns lock-to-lock; 11.6m diameter turning circle between kerbs (16.8m for one turn on the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard brake-assist, anti-lock and traction controls   wheels/tyres 6.5in alloy with 205/55R16V tyres (Bridgestone on test car); full-size steel spare

size and type upper-medium, mid-priced saloon, hatchback and estate car (also Verso - upper-medium MPV)   trim levels T2, T3-S, T3-X, T4, T Spirit
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.8 litre/129bhp, 4/2.0/147
diesel: 4/2.0/116
  drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 4-speed stepped automatic (with sequential manual mode) on petrol versions

HOW THE AVENSIS 2.0 HATCH COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Toyota Avensis 2.0 4/1998/147 2940 9.4 17.3/24.7 36.5/171 13.5/25 111 99/76 3.0/11.6 463
Ford Mondeo 2.0 4/1999/145 3120 8.6 17.5/26.3 33/194 16/24 111 108/84 2.8/11.3 473
VW Passat 1.8T (4dr) 4/1781/150 3060 8.4 15.0/20.8 34/199 14/26 110 101/74 2.8/11.0 470
Vauhall Vectra 1.8 4/1796/122 2870 11.3 23.3/34.6 36/184 10/25.5 110 100/76 2.9/10.9 460
Audi A4 2.0FSi (4dr) 4/1984/150 3110 9.5 16.6/23.8 38/170 18/25 113 98/72 2.9/10.8 455
previous Avensis 2.0 4/1998/126 3280 9.4 15.5/21.8 33/202 20/26.5 108 99/77 3.1/11.0 449

Dials always crystal-clear, sensible wheel/seat/pedal relationship with excellent seat posture-support. Lots of warning chimes - can grate at times. Computer near-accurate - better than speedo!
Clever rear-end geometry makes Avensis tuck into bends with alacrity; steering moderately weighty to suit model's new-found enthusiast aspirations. Rear head restraints don't recess, so they impinge on rear view (and seat folding).
Arguably not quite as absorbent as predecessor, but still a good ride, with firm damping. Quiet - low wind and tyre noise, with a quality feel, backed up by effective 'dual zone' air conditioning and nicely appointed rear seat/load deck.

Only class-average acceleration from this advanced, direct-injection engine, but its outstanding low-speed flexibility makes it easy to live with - quiet at 70mph, too. Gears and clutch a shade heavy-going.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.0 8.7 12.2
  30-50mph 3.9 8.3 11.7
  40-60mph 4.4 8.4 12.0
  50-70mph 5.6 9.0 13.0
  30-70mph 9.4 17.3 24.7
  max speed in each gear (* using 6000rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      23      57      88      114      126 (5300rpm)

DI pays off at the pumps, as well as attracting better tax rates, thanks to low emissions. Electric filler release and easy-filling - even the gauge tells you which side the cap is sited. Our results better than official figures.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    worst (hard/urban) 24
    best (gentle/rural) 43
    overall mpg 36.5
    realistic tank capacity/range 52/420
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 26.6/42.8/34.9
    CO2 emissions 171g/km
    car tax band D

No less than nine airbags - even on the basic model - plus five 'proper' belts, with a strident warning if the driver doesn't buckle up. Brakes powerful and fade-free, but a shade over-servoed.
  from 50mph (with ABS standard)
front impact     88%%
side impact     100%%
overall     94%%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating    
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     27.5m
sudden 13kg     25m best stop
+ 4kg ie 17kg     26m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

No significant interior space gains compared with older version, but load area increased. Neat additional storage below and beside load deck, with anchorages and shopping bag hooks, 60/40 split cushion, and backrest folds to reveal impeccable trim beneath.
  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  length 463
  width - including mirrors 172
    - mirrors folded 199
  height 148
  load sill height (inside/outside) 17/69
  turns lock-to-lock 3.0
  turning circle (metres) 11.6
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 87-111
    - headroom 93-99§
  rear - typical legroom 99
    - typical kneeroom 76
    - headroom 91§
    - hiproom 128-131
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 100-171#
  load length to facia 287
  load width 100-171
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 47 77/52
§ no sunroof  # rear seat folded

Standard alarm plus deadlocks, with a handily placed roof switch to inhibit interior movement sensing. No two-stage unlocking or 'see-me-home' headlights - just an interior locking switch.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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