First DriveThe Avensis gains new diesel engines, suspension tweaks and a restyle inside and out. Can it now match the class best?
First DriveOverhauled Toyota Avensis estate wades back into battle against all-new rivals with new diesel engines from BMW
What is it?
This is the Toyota Avensis Tourer, the estate version of the third-generation Toyota Avensis.
Of the two body styles available from launch, the Toyota Avensis Tourer, with its more substantial proportions, that feels the more successful interpretation of a euro-friendly large family car. Having said that, the Avensis is no more of a looker than a Ford Mondeo or Honda Accord estate.
Much emphasis has been placed on this Avensis’s potential for lower running costs. This is in comparison not only with the outgoing model, the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of which it substantially improves upon, but also its rivals, most of which it betters as well.
Some of the economy gains have been made through a new range of so-called Valvematic petrol engines, which have the ability to alter the degree of inlet valve lift. This largely eliminates the role of the throttle body butterfly valve, reducing pumping losses and allowing for more acutely optimised combustion.
The 42.8mpg combined and 155g/km achieved by the 1.8-litre petrol engine we test here, for instance, are very competitive.
What’s it like?
Not quite what you’d hope, given Toyota’s ambition for this car. On the plus side, the Tourer is modestly handsome, the interior finish is a decisive improvement over the previous model’s and the equipment you get is comfortingly generous.
The 1.8-litre Valvematic also proceeds with moderate zeal and high-speed stability, and the Toyota’s cruising ability is quietly impressive.
There are buts, though, and quite a few of them. The powered driver’s seat is uncomfortable after a couple of hours, and its electric motors are unable to counter your ache. The ride is noisily unyielding over sharp bumps.
The steering, though convincingly weighted for an electric system, offers little feel and there’s wind noise from the base of the front screen at speed.
When it comes to load carrying, you have a flat floor on your side, which stays that way when the seats are dropped, and there’s a standard-fit rail system for securing loads, but the seat cushion does not lift to form a protective bulkhead, and the load bay itself is relatively shallow and narrow for the class.
Still, there’s plenty of room for rear seat passengers, even if taller occupants may find that the descending roofline slightly impedes their view through the side windows.
Should I buy one?
If low running costs are a priority, the Avensis has much to offer, with its better-than-average scores for fuel consumption and, emissions, as well as its low benefit-in-kind tax exposure and maintenance costs.
But despite Toyota’s renewed efforts to build a more appealing model, this Avensis still falls short, particularly in the areas of ride and seat comfort and, while the Tourer can clearly haul a big load, that load is not as big as some of its rivals can carry.
It’s quite good-looking – more so than the saloon – and is generously equipped and well priced, but some its competitors offer a more convincing blend of capabilities. Like the smaller Auris, this European-developed Toyota falls short.