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 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.