Toyota Avensis

There are some big claims being made for the new Toyota Avensis. According to the latest television adverts, the upmarket Ford Mondeo rival is much more than "just" family transport. Apparently it'll silence ambitious colleagues and quieten an opinionated mother-in-law. All this thanks to its understated quality.

While Toyota's new engines are very impressive, the Avensis remains a rather mundane saloon. Although it offers no financial advantage, the D-CAT's appeal lies in its contribution to the environment, as it's likely to meet future Euro V emissions standards. The petrol unit extends the car's ability as a mile-muncher.

There are some big claims being made for the new Toyota Avensis. According to the latest television adverts, the upmarket Ford Mondeo rival is much more than "just" family transport. Apparently it'll silence ambitious colleagues and quieten an opinionated mother-in-law. All this thanks to its understated quality.

Until now, though, the engine range has been limited to 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol units and a 2.0 diesel. However, Toyota is expanding the Avensis line-up with the introduction of a 2.0 D-CAT diesel - which it says is super-clean - and a new 2.4 direct-injection petrol unit. And we've driven both.

First up is the D-CAT. Arriving early next year, the oil-burner is said to produce fewer emissions than any diesel on the market today... but that depends on your definition of emissions. The ones company drivers are concerned with are CO2, and Toyota admits the figure for its new unit is actually higher than that of the 2.0 D-4D on which it's based - 161g/km as opposed to 155g/km.

But other harmful emissions are down by as much as 90 per cent, and in that respect, the engine is indeed the cleanest around. At the heart of the D-CAT concept is its Diesel Particulate NOx Reduction (DPNR) System.

It sounds complicated, but put simply, it is an advanced catalyst, reducing emissions. The engine manage- ment works to save fuel when the car's cruising, helping to achieve fuel returns of 46.3mpg. That's good - but the D-4D manages 48.7mpg. So is the D-CAT any faster?

The new unit, which develops 280Nm of torque, claims a top speed of 122mph and a 0-62mph figure of 11.2 seconds - shaving 0.2 of a second off the current diesel's time. Toyota suggests that the entry-level model will cost £15,500, which is a premium of about £500 over the D-4D's price.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer's 2.4-litre direct-injection petrol powerplant is now the largest-capacity engine available in the Avensis range. With 161bhp at 5,800rpm and 230Nm of torque at 3,800rpm, it's also the most powerful on offer. Add to the equation a 137mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of only 9.1 seconds, and it's clear that the new car is significantly swifter than the current flagship 2.0-litre VVT-i petrol variant.

To improve refinement, Toyota has fitted the 2.4 Di with a new five-speed Multimode transmission, which offers the driver the choice of fully automatic or semi-sequential gearchanges. With the shifter in auto mode, its changes are seamless, with good pick-up. Over winding roads, however, the gearbox hunts around for ratios, and that is when the semi-auto option can be used to good effect instead.

The ride, though, is just as smooth and as refined as that of the 2.0-litre petrol-powered Avensis. At higher revs, the larger engine can feel a little rough, but compensation for that comes in the form of low-range urge, which the VVT-i currently lacks.

As with the D-CAT, the Avensis 2.4 Di will go on sale early in 2004, and will be available in both the hatchback and saloon before being fitted to the tourer towards the end of the year.

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