It’s swift, solid and polished, but the New Avensis still doesn’t engage on an emotional level

What is it?

This is the new Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T Spirit, tested here on UK roads - and in top-spec T Spirit trim - for the first time. Toyota claims that this is the most European-flavoured version yet of its large family car, combining Lexus-style quality with a dynamic, European-style driving experience.

Toyota has certainly got the quality right this time around. The Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T Spirit feels as solid as anything VW offers, the leather seats feel expensive and there is even a smattering of parts taken directly from Lexus (the start button, for instance, will be very familiar to Lexus owners).

What’s it like?

For all the luxurious touches, there’s still a utilitarian edge to the Avensis’s styling inside and out. You still get the feeling that this is no more than a working tool, albeit a heavily decorated one.

The same utilitarian feel comes through when you get out onto the road. Push the start button and the new 148bhp 2.2-litre common-rail diesel clatters into life and settles into a gruff, thrummy idle. Move off and, although the 250lb ft of torque pushes the Avensis 2.2 D-4D along with considerable vigour (the Avensis feels every bit as fast as its 0-62mph time of 8.9sec suggests), there’s an unpleasant boom to the engine note and the gearchange is occasionally reluctant to swap ratios rapidly.

There’s little sparkle to be found in other aspects of the Avensis’s dynamic performance, either. The steering is smooth and oily, but it feels a tad ponderous and uncommunicative.

Likewise the ride and handling; the Avensis rides quietly and relatively smoothly over British lumps and bumps, and seems composed and controlled through corners, but rarely does it feel agile or the least bit enthusiastic about tackling an interesting B-road.

Should I buy one?

As an enthusiast-oriented publication, we couldn’t honestly recommend it. The Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T Spirit is, in many ways, a perfectly good car: refined, frugal, well built and loaded with kit for a competitive price. But if you want to derive any level of driving enjoyment from your family car, look elsewhere.

Matt Rigby

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Richfromaberdeen 21 January 2009

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T-Spirit

Quite agree, just got 7 grand off the old tspirit 2.2 d-4d. It is very nice, really high quality

stagg 6 January 2009

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T-Spirit

So basically, if it wasn't dog ugly, people might just buy one. I definitely prefer the look of the older car, there must be some pretty good deals to be done on the previous model right now. If you really want a big Toyota, that's where my money would go!

Stevievsf 5 January 2009

Re: Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T-Spirit

Safe and predictable then.

I hope it does well for the Derby plant. British!