Just as the sneak preview pictures suggests, there proved to be more than a hint of Lexus about Toyota’s all-new Avensis, unveiled today on the Paris motor show floor.
The all-new and improved saloon - which will be built at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in the UK - has a much more upmarket look and a much higher-quality cabin than its predecessor , with stronger feature lines on its body panels and a decidedly IS-like rear three-quarter aspect. It’s a response to the huge improvements in desirability made by Ford’s Mondeo and the new Vauxhall Insignia.
Inside, the added dose of desirability, required to take the fight to the much improved Mondeo and Insignia, is harder to see. Softer touch plastics make the surfaces more tactile than in previous Avensis, and panel fit and finish is typically high. However, the new Avensis lacks the richness and variety of cabin materials that distinguishes the new D-segment class leaders; it all still looks a bit too sober and monotone to really impress.
Toyota Executive Vice President of Research and Development Masatami Takimoto refused to acknowledge the idea that Toyota may have sought to sprinkle a little of Lexus’ fairy dust over the new Avensis. “We strove to differentiate this model from every other in the Toyota and Lexus portfolio,” he said; “it’s our hope that every Toyota should have a character and appeal of its own.”
The new Avensis was designed at Toyota’s ED2 studio in France, and developed by engineers from Toyota Motor Europe and Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan working in tandem. It’s only 50mm longer than the outgoing car, but Toyota claims increased head-, shoulder-, leg- and kneeroom for passengers.
Underneath the car is an overhauled platform with re-engineeered front and rear suspension reinforced for torsional stiffness and rigidity and targeted to produce better ride and handling characteristics.
Three petrol versions of the new Avensis will be offered from launch next Spring, ranging from 1.6- to 2.0-litres in size, and from 130- to 150bhp in power output. There will be three four-cylinder diesel options, the smallest a 2.0-litre D-4D option with 125bhp and 229lb ft of torque, and the largest a 2.2 with 175bhp and 295lb ft. Multidrive CVTs are available as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual transmission on the 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrols; a proper six-speed torque converter auto is available on the middle-sitting 148bhp 2.2-litre D-4D diesel.