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 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.