Toyota Avensis review
A facelift late in 2011 means the Toyota Avensis is more efficient and better to drive than before
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 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 Icon Business Edition
Despite a 2011 facelift, the Toyota Avensis remains a fairly dull – if inoffensive – family saloon. If you avoid the basic Active spec, you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers and front fog lights, while top-spec Excel versions add LED daytime running lights, headlamps washers and electric folding mirrors.
Inside, all cars get air-con and Bluetooth connectivity, with mid-range Icon models boasting touchscreen sat-nav, climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Icon Business Edition cars add leather, while range-topping models add electric everything and an 11-speaker stereo.
Toyota’s 2011 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 122bhp, which allows the Avensis to accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. The 2.2-litre diesel is only available with an automatic gearbox, making it only fractionally faster to 62mph (9.5 seconds) but considerably less economical. The manual is smoother, too, so unless you really need a self-shifter, we wouldn’t bother with the auto.
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 125th in our 2014 Driver Power Top 100. This is probably due to the fact the car is now more than six year old and in need of a thorough overhaul. Toyota slipped overall, too, finishing a mid-table 17th out of 32 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.
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.
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 petrol engines both emit over 150g/km and the larger 2.2-litre diesel is nowhere near as fuel-efficient either – largely due to the fact it’s only available with a fuel-sapping automatic gearbox. If you want an auto, we’d try the brilliant DSG in Volkswagen’s new Passat. It’s smoother and cleaner, making it a much better bet for high mileage drivers.