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Exciting advances boost Toyota Avensis appeal

12:55 24 September 2015

Revisions to the Toyota Avensis saloon and Touring Sports looks and feels more upmarket, gains more equipment and technology and is better to drive.

Revisions to the Toyota Avensis saloon and Touring Sports looks and feels more upmarket, gains more equipment and technology and is better to drive.

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Toyota has upped the ante with its fleet and family-friendly Avensis. Better to own and drive, dare I say, it’s an even more attractive and exciting choice, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Familiar but so different

“It looks too exciting to be a Toyota,” said my wife about the new Avensis.

Not much of a compliment but job done as far as Toyota’s European engineers are concerned. For that was one of the five key objectives for the latest Avensis saloon and Touring Sports estate.

Now redeveloped in Europe for Europe, Toyota wanted more prestigious and dynamic exterior styling, a more elegant and refined interior, upgraded safety systems, class-leading equipment and technologies combined with value for money and more driving pleasure and lower running costs.

Toyota Avensis

Price: Toyota Avensis Business Edition Plus Touring Sports 2.0 D4D £25,975 (range £18,850 to £28,440)

Engine: 1,995cc, 143hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 9.8 seconds; top speed 124mph

MPG: Urban 49.6; extra urban 70.6; combined 61.4

CO2 emissions: 120g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22%

Insurance group: 19E (out of 50)

Warranty: Five years or 100,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,820mm; W (including door mirrors) 1810mm; H 1,480mm

A big ask but, no question, this new Avensis is also a big advance.

The looks have it

Despite being evolutionary, the new Avensis, especially the estate, looks sleeker and distinctly dynamic. Slightly longer, it benefits from Toyota’s Energetic Elegance design theme with a sharper-styled, wider front grille with LED headlamps and daytime running lights on higher models, bold use of gloss black elements and the impression of being broader for more presence.

New sill garnish makes the side profile more elegant and svelte while the back end builds on the broad stance with LED rear lights also creating a hi-tech lighting signature.

Under the bonnet

Toyota has turned to BMW for efficient new 112hp 1.6-litre and 143hp 2.0-litre turbo diesels, replacing the old 2.0 and 2.2-litre turbo diesels. The existing 147hp 1.8-litre petrol unit also has a CVT automatic option.

The 1.6-litre diesel will appeal to the fleet market with low CO2 and fuel consumption while the 2.0-litre diesel has strong low-down flexibility and mid-range punch with engine noise only noticeable when worked hard. It’s rarely necessary as the speed picks up quickly without really trying and you’re soon up to 70mph.

A tall top gear helps the big Avensis estate to MPG in the high 40s and low 50s in mixed motoring.

So how does it drive?

I never thought I would seek out some of my favourite roads to find out how well the Avensis now drives and didn’t expect to have as much fun.

The body is more rigid and, while the suspension design is the same, spring rates have been updated in favour of comfort, the damping force tuned and electric power steering tweaked for better feel and accuracy. Developed in Europe and built in Britain, it’s honed for our roads.

It flows through bends with good body control and steering feedback while the suspension is well judged for a happy medium between ride and roadholding, smoothing out poor road surfaces with minimal tyre or suspension noise which you’ll really appreciate especially if you are a high-mileage driver.

It measures up inside too

The Avensis seats five adults comfortably with abundant legroom in the back and plenty of headroom.

It’s also capable of carrying large loads with a 543-litre boot but intruding wheelarches create a pinch point on the load floor but this is more lifestyle estate as it also replaced the hatchback of the earlier generations.

There’s a storage tray under the boot floor to hide away those odds and ends we tend to carry and stop them rolling around.

The 60/40 split-fold rear seat backs release easily and drop down flat with the boot floor for a long, continuous load bay offering up to 1,609 litres of space.

Classy cabin

Toyota has upped the quality with a cohesive design, complimentary colour schemes and tasteful attention to detail. The interior looks good and feels good to the touch with soft, tactile materials.

The fascia works well with logical controls and clear dials and all but the entry Active model get the Toyota Touch 2 with Go multimedia and navigation system with intuitive eight-inch touchscreen.

The driving position took some tailoring – I’d have liked it to go lower - but redesigned seats have improved under thigh support and side bolstering. Business Edition models’ part Alcantara seat upholstery also raises the image.

Families and business-users alike will also appreciate the huge glovebox and storage box between the front seats and four large doorbins but there’s only one cupholder in the centre console.

My biggest gripe is reaching down to the left of the steering wheel for the awkwardly-positioned electronic parking brake switch.

Equipment and value

Toyota hasn’t skimped on equipment with even entry-level Active including cruise control, air conditioning, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors and Pre-Crash Safety system with autonomous emergency braking.

Business Edition is particularly attractive with the safety system adding automatic high beam, lane departure warning and road sign recognition. It also gains a reversing camera, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, power-fold mirrors, front fog lights and 17in alloy wheels. There are also Business Edition Plus and Excel models.

Final say

I never thought I’d say this but the Avensis is a Toyota that appeals to the head – reliable, well built and fit for purpose – and now more to the heart. Styling tweaks work wonders for the looks, backed up by a more upmarket cabin. It’s better to drive too. What’s not to like about the Avensis?

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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