Toyota Avensis Tourer packs a punch

Andy RussellThe Avensis Tourer made the grade on the full-on university run, says ANDY RUSSELL.Looking at the growing pile of clobber on our garage floor I was having serious misgivings.Andy Russell

The Avensis Tourer made the grade on the full-on university run, says ANDY RUSSELL.

Looking at the growing pile of clobber on our garage floor I was having serious misgivings.

Firstly, would there be anything left in our house and, secondly, how was it all going to fit in the car. Yes, we have lost our son - along with many possessions - to university.

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Luckily his departure coincided with the arrival of Toyota's new Avensis Tourer - the name given to the estate version, but often such a fancy label denotes a lifestyle estate, able to carry a bit more than a saloon or hatchback, but not a full-blown load-lugger, and it's not until you start filling it you discover possible shortcomings..

But the Avensis loadbay looked generous and, as we piled stuff in, I recalled a game we used to played on long journeys when the boys were young - 'I packed my bag and in it I put…' It involved each person coming up with zany items and the next person having to remember what had already been listed before adding their own suggestion to the list.

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Well, we packed that Avensis and in it we put… two huge suitcases and a large holdall stuffed with clothes ('I won't need to do any washing and can bring it all home at Christmas,' says Ben), five assorted coats (obviously expecting a hard winter), towels, duvet and bed linen (two sets with pillows - but unlikely to get changed unless Mum visits), enough crockery and cutlery to make washing-up a weekly event (at best), assorted groceries (mainly beans - so Chicago won't be the only windy city!).

So far, so good. But with two bin-liners of shoes, a box of cleaning products (likely to go the same way as the spare bed linen), lotions and potions, a computer printer, reading lamp, table lamp, saucepans and a very small overnight bag for Mum and Dad it was time to drop the widest section of the 60/40 rear seat back and with a lovely flat extended boot floor it all went in thanks to some careful packing and a load of nick-nacks filling the storage boxes beneath the boot floor.

It certainly proved the handsome Avensis Tourer is more - a lot more - than just trendy lifestyle estate (Toyota says it will outsell the saloon with the new Avensis line-up no longer featuring a hatchback).

The new 2.2-litre diesel made light work of the heavy load and even with a six-speed automatic gearbox - a first for a diesel Toyota car - had plenty of poke, especially in sport mode changing gears manually using the lever or paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, and still returned just over 40mpg. That said, the cheaper 1.8-litre petrol automatic does the same miles per gallon, while the manual 2.0-litre diesel has very similar performance but much better fuel economy.

Toyota has gone to great lengths to make the Avensis more dynamic to drive and it feels crisper and more agile on twisty roads, handling well for a big car, but it's still not as entertaining as a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. Where the Avensis scores well is its long-distance cruising comfort with the supple suspension ironing out lumps and bumps even with the range-topping T Spirit's 18in wheels. I suspect smaller-wheeled models will be better still.

Nor will passengers complain about a lack of space with generous all-round head and legroom and no awkward hump in the floor for the middle rear passenger to straddle.

The interior is beautifully put together with quality materials that look and feel good, and, while hardly exciting, you can't fault the user-friendly, logical layout when it comes to the straightforward controls and big, clear instruments. Only the electronic parking brake to the left of the steering wheel feels unnatural at first - you push to apply and pull to release - and it's a shame it does not release automatically when you pull away.

Toyota has also played it safe with front, side, curtain and a driver's knee airbag and stability and traction control amid an array of safety features across the range. Available in T2, TR, T4 and T Spirit models, even the entry model is well equipped but TR will be the big seller with desirable features including dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic headlamps and wipers, front fog lights, Bluetooth phone connection and alloy wheels. T4 adds electric folding door mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather seats and electrically-adjustable front seats and steering wheel with memory setting. T Spirit gets bigger wheels, brighter, adaptive headlamps, 11-speaker upgraded audio system with CD changer, rear parking sensors and satellite-navigation with music hard-drive and rear parking camera - but it pushes the price to serious money.

'We packed our car and in it we put… ' - surely we had forgotten something. And just as we pulled into university my wife blurted out something unrepeatable about an ironing board, clothes horse and washing-up bowl.

We might be picking up some of that washing before Christmas after all…

Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-Cat T Spirit automatic

PRICE: �27,515

ENGINE: 2,231cc, 148bhp, four-cylinder, turbo diesel


0-62mph 9.8 seconds; top speed 127mph

MPG: Urban 33.6; extra urban 51.4; combined 42.8

EMISSIONS: 174g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,765mm; width 1,810mm; height 1,480mm

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