Well executed Mondeo rival lacks driving character and personality

What is it?

This is the new Toyoata Avensis, the epitome of the medium-sized Euro saloon. Toyota’s record in this shrinking market sector has not been distinguished.

Toyota says that, according to market research, the strengths of previous models were in emissions and acceleration, so it targeted improvements in design, style, ride and the performance of the transmission for the new car.

Toyota wants to get out of the mainstream with the new Avensis, and closer to the ‘cutting edge’ and ‘premium cars’ in the market.

In an attempt to get closer to the European market, 35 Toyota engineers based in Europe were sent out to Japan, influencing the Avensis from the beginning.

For the second half of the project, chief engineer Yamamoto moved to Europe and drove over 3000 miles in prototypes.

The Toyota Avensis platform is described as new and gets a 44mm wider front track and a 37mm wider rear track than the previous model. It’s 4.7m long in saloon form (and just 70mm longer as an estate), and gets a new double wishbone suspension set-up at the rear.

There will be three petrol engines (a 130bhp 1.6, a 145bhp 1.8 and a 150bhp 2.0) and three diesels (a 124bhp 2.0-litre and a 2.2-litre unit with either 148bhp/250lb ft or 174bhp/295lb ft).

They’ll drive either a new six-speed manual ’box, the Multidrive CVT (petrols) or a regular auto (diesels). It’s the 124bhp 2.0-litre diesel we test here.

What’s it like?

The new Avensis is a considered, mature design but lacks the visual fireworks of, say, the Vauxhall Insignia.

The interior is a masterclass in Toyota’s finely detailed conservatism. It’s easy to praise the clarity and practicality of the layout. The centre console cupholder and armrest storage are neat, too.

Perhaps the best things about the interior are the cabin’s width, the roomy footwells and excellent driving position. Otherwise, the driver is deep in the (admittedly highly competent) medium-car mainstream.

My notes from the presentation include the phrase “agility is nothing without stability”. Judging by my time in the car, agility has actually been laid low by stability.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is a little noisy in the manual car, but the 2.2-litre oil-burner equipped with the automatic gearbox seems more refined.

Everything about the car – brakes, controls and ride – is capable, but no more than that.

Should I buy one?

The truth is that the new Avensis is just a more polished version of the previous one: tightly built, neatly styled, spacious, stable, safe and no doubt reliable. But it’s missing the sort of verve and passion that’s clearly shot through rival cars such as the Citroen C5 and Honda Accord.

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Steak Bake 28 December 2008

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D

The front does look extremley American although I am sure this car is not sold there?

Anyone launching a new car at present will face a tough time but I am sure current Avensis owners will like it and buy it - but they need conquest business to grow share and will they get it?

Interesting comments here about Japanese cars and whatever you think of them there is one fact - they have taught us lessons here and in North America which we will never recover from - say all you want about the romance etc of Alfa and the credibility of the Germans and the history of Jaguar, the fact is that it is the Japanese who are best equiped to ride the current storms and not some of the names I have just mentioned.

So before everyone goes down the lack of history road with the likes of Infiniti and Lexus who would bet against those brands being here and some of the famous European names not in the near future?

aceman 27 December 2008

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D

I'm not so impressed with the looks. The interior design is good but the exterior is a bit oooh woo I'm not sure about this which completly for me kills the idea of buying one. It's a family car so I'm not bothered about BHP and what not just looks and a bit comfort will do it.

dagobah_tony 24 December 2008

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D

Unlike everyone else, I agree with you. I am currently a company car driver (2.2 D4D T3X) and love my car. I get over 52 mpg the tax is reasonable and although it is boring to look at, it does the job I need it too without breaking into a sweat. The MP3 stereo (which other euroboxes are only just including) the standard cruise control and 6 speed box means I can cruise the motorways all day without any problems for 10s of thousands of miles. I am very keen on trying out the new 1.8 petrol TR which has a lower tax band and better fuel economy than many diesel equivalents, plus lots of standard exec toys on board.

For the same price (on my car list), I can have - Mondeo Edge, 21% tax, no alloys, cheap stereo, no climate control, no bluetooth.

Or a Passat - Again high tax, aweful tractor 1.9 engine and unless going for the highline poorly equipped.

Or the new Vectra (Sorry Insignia, named after the 80s deodrant) which although looks nice and is well equipped, it has stupidly high tax ratings (21% + )