Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T-Spirit

It’s well built and equipped, but does it have enough in way of flair?

It's the world’s biggest motor maker, but Toyota’s line-up lacks one vital ingredient: flair. Even though the firm is famed for reliability, all of its cars appeal to the head more than the heart.

Any hope of a victory in this test will hinge upon adding some character to the mix. First impressions aren’t promising.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Toyota Avensis

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It’s hard to get too fired up about the new family model from the outside – even in sleek Tourer guise. It’s more modern than its predecessor, but the Avensis still isn’t a car to lust after. Its bland looks are instantly forgettable next to the aggressive Accord.

You can level the same criticism at the interior. The neat dashboard doesn’t feature the confusing array of buttons that clutters the Accord cabin, but there’s little to get excited about. Build quality is predictably solid, though, and standard kit in top-spec T-Spirit trim is generous. The Toyota comes with a huge panoramic sunroof, seven airbags and xenon lights all as standard. However, the driver’s seat could do with being lower for the perfect position.

We’ve no complaints about the space on offer. Adults sitting in the middle of the rear bench will struggle for headroom, although it matches the Accord for rear leg space and has a more practical boot. With the back seats in place its load area is shorter than the Honda’s, but it’s 200mm wider and provides 543 litres of luggage space – the Accord has only 406 litres. Fold the rear seats flat and it can swallow loads up to 1,940mm long.

Thanks to keyless entry, starting the 2.2-litre diesel is simply a matter of pressing a button, although the electronic parking brake is fussy. It’s hidden behind the steering wheel and is counter intuitive, as you push it to apply the brake and pull it to release.

On the move, the Toyota’s 148bhp oil- burner has been tuned to deliver economy rather than performance – and it shows. At the test track, 0-60mph took 9.2 seconds, but you don’t get the mid-range punch usually associated with a torquey diesel.

Nevertheless, our biggest complaint is reserved for the suspension, which struggles to cope with small surface imperfections. This is most evident at lower speeds, as even small bumps filter through to the cabin over poor surfaces, and potholes send a crash through the interior.

On the motorway the compromised ride is less obvious, although the Avensis could still be more refined. Taller gearing ensures the engine is more relaxed than the Honda’s at 70mph, but the Toyota generates more wind noise.

The Avensis fails to deliver any surprises and appeals on a logical level rather than an emotional one. Fuel economy of 35.7mpg is better than the Honda’s, while lower CO2 emissions will benefit company drivers – we just wish it had a personality.

What it will cost you When it comes to choice, the Toyota outshines its rival, because the Avensis is available with two diesel engines, and the larger 2.2-litre unit comes in two outputs. An automatic box will also join the oil-burner line-up late in the spring.

Fuel economy of 35.7mpg is predictably impressive, and it helps to make the Japanese newcomer a wallet-friendly option. Better still, business users will benefit from its lower CO2 emissions and list price with a smaller tax liability – especially for higher-rate payers. Flagship T-Spirit trim includes xenon headlamps and a panoramic roof, but it lacks the Honda’s standard-fit sat-nav.

In detail * Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 148bhp * 0-60mph: 9.2 seconds * Economy: 35.7mpg * Annual road tax: £145 * Euro NCAP rating: N/A

Details

Price: £24,080Model tested: Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D T-SpiritChart position: 2WHY: Previous Avensis was lacklustre, but new model aims to add desirability to package.

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