Toyota Avensis review

Our Rating: 
2011 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

A facelift late in 2015 means the Toyota Avensis is more efficient and better to drive than before

Spacious cabin, good value, refined motorway cruising
Dull drive, forgettable styling, dreary interior

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The current generation Toyota Avensis has been on sale since 2009. Available in saloon and estate bodystyles, it rivals cars like the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia – though at more than six years old, it’s starting to show its age against more modern competitors.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car. The saloon is spacious, reliable and relatively efficient – especially with the 2.0-litre diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox. A facelift in 2011 and another in 2015 injected some life into the otherwise dreary family car, but the nondescript looks and undesirable badge mean it can’t compete with an Audi A4 in the style stakes. It’s similarly inoffensive inside, too, where simplicity and functionality outweigh any kind of class or polish.

Things don’t improve much on the move either. The diesel engines feel powerful and motorway refinement is good, but a sports car this is not. Lifeless steering and soft suspension mean it pitches and wallows in the corners, feeling more like a boat than a car. If you value driving fun, your money would be better spent on a new Mazda 6.

However, thanks to its competitive price, low running costs, comfort, efficiency and reliability, the Avensis remains a favourite of company car owners and taxi drivers alike. It’s certainly an accomplished machine, but it’s one you buy with your head rather than your heart. 

Our choice: Avensis 2.0 D Business Edition Plus

Engines, performance and drive


Toyota’s 2015 facelift didn’t just tweak the car’s aesthetics – the Japanese car maker also made changes to the noise isolation and suspension. While it did improve the way the Avensis handles, it’s still someway off the class leaders for driver enjoyment. Lifeless steering means it’s beaten by both the Mazda 6 and new Volkswagen Passat in the corners, and even the now more grown-up Ford Mondeo is more fun to drive.

That said, the Avensis is comfortable and quiet on the motorway, making it a solid choice if you spend a lot of time trawling up and down the country. The soft suspension makes light work of lumps and bumps, with only the biggest potholes tending to send jolts through the cabin.

The best all-round engine is the 2.0-litre diesel engine with 141bhp, which allows the Avensis to accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds. There's also a new 1.6-litre D-4D diesel – 110bhp and 0-62mph taking 11.8 seconds – and a 145bhp 1.8-litre petrol that gets to 62mph 9.4 seonds.  

The six-speend manual is the best gearbox too, so unless you really need a self-shifter, we wouldn’t bother with the CVT Multidrive S box.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Getting CO2 emissions to under 120g/km has big implications for company car drivers so Toyota has worked hard to get the 2.0-litre diesel engine down from 139g/km to 119g/km. However, a few years on, the 62.8mpg combined fuel economy is some way behind the class best. The new 1.6 D-4D emits 108g/km and returns 67.3mpg. The 1.8 petrol engine emits 139g/km but returns only 47.1mpg.

Interior, design and technology


Despite a 2015 facelift, the Toyota Avensis remains a fairly dull – if inoffensive – family saloon. Entry-level Active gets a Pre-Crash Safety system with Autonomous Emergency Braking, cruise control, air conditioning, six-speaker CD/radio audio, Bluetooth, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, LED rear and daytime running lights and power windows, but no alloys.

Business Edition adds Toyota Touch 2 with Go touchscreen multimedia and navigation system, digital/DAB audio package with eight-inch display, reversing camera, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, automatic air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels and part-Alcantara seat upholstery. There''s also Automatic High Beam, Lane Departure Warning and Road Sign Assist.

Business Edition Plus adds leather and Alcantara upholstery, front fog lights with a cornering function, LED headlamps, smart entry and rear privacy glass, while Excel gets Toyota Touch 2 with Go Plus, a 10-speaker audio system, full leather seat upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats with heaters and adaptive headlights.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


In comparison to other cars in this class the Avensis boasts a pretty spacious load area. In the boot there is 509 litres of space and dedicated one touch controls allow the rear seats to fold down for a maximum of 1,320 litres.

The cabin is large enough to comfortably seat four tall adults as well. Soft-touch material on the dashboard and a redesigned centre console make everything a little easier to use than before, too.

Reliability and Safety


Toyota has an excellent reputation for reliability and the Avensis boasts a strong track record in this department. It comes with a five-year warranty, too, which should help to alleviate any doubts that may have been created by the high profile recalls that have hit Toyota’s brand in recent years.

Disappointingly though, the Avensis only managed 111th in our 2015 Driver Power Top 100. This is probably due to the fact the car is now more than six years old and in need of a thorough overhaul. Toyota also finished a good eigth out of 31 manufacturers.

The car hasn’t been crash-tested since 2009 – and the tests have become more demanding since then – but Euro NCAP gave it a five star safety rating, with a 90 per cent mark in the adult occupants category, 86 per cent for child occupants, 53 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 86 per cent in the safety assist category.

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Auto Express category scores for the Avensis, based on your star rating are approx:

3.2 + 3.1 + 4.5 + 4.2 + 4.0 = 19
Av component score = 3.8
Your final score = 3.0

Its OK to like well engineered, safe, reliable etc. products made in UK.

People (& reviewers aping JC) can be dull. This car is probably suitable for most environments Toyota customers will want to make use of it in. Track days & boasting to your mates, probably not.

Last updated: 10 Feb, 2015