Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D 4dr

Japanese firms have never been renowned for their diesels, but with its latest engine Toyota aims to redress the balance. Honda bucked the trend with its new Accord oil-burner, and while the Avensis already has a 114bhp 2.0-litre D-4D, buyers seeking a more powerful family car from the land of the rising sun have been forced to go for petrol - until now.

By plugging a gap in the existing range, Toyota has boosted the appeal of its Avensis. The new oil-burner's refinement and economy make it a real contender. It's not a scorching diesel in the mould of Ford's Mondeo, but should have other opponents worried. The only fly in the ointment is the 12-month wait for the 175bhp unit.

Japanese firms have never been renowned for their diesels, but with its latest engine Toyota aims to redress the balance. Honda bucked the trend with its new Accord oil-burner, and while the Avensis already has a 114bhp 2.0-litre D-4D, buyers seeking a more powerful family car from the land of the rising sun have been forced to go for petrol - until now.

Toyota's latest addition remedies this situation, and the all-aluminium 2.2-litre offers 148bhp and an impressive 310Nm of torque. Yet despite a 0-60mph time of 9.3 seconds, this car majors on refinement and economy, not sportiness.

Helping to achieve these twin aims is a new six-speed manual gearbox, which will be the only transmission available when the car hits UK dealers in July. Behind the wheel, there is no disguising what fuel this Toyota uses, but when cruising the engine is very quiet. There is also plenty of power for overtaking - although the saloon is efficient rather than fast. Motorways are where it is at home, and the only sound in the well built cabin is wind noise from round the A-pillars and windscreen.

The diesel's lightweight construction was also good news for Toyota's chassis engineers, and the ride is smooth. However, enthusiastic cornering is accompanied by some body roll.

Amazingly, the new unit is as clean as it is economical. Expect fuel returns of 47.9mpg and, despite the extra performance, a CO2 emissions figure only 1g/km higher than the smaller-capacity diesel. As such, the 2.2 sits in the same company car tax bracket as the 2.0-litre.

Sadly, UK buyers will have to wait until mid-2006 for a more powerful 175bhp version. It will cover 0-60mph in only 8.6 seconds, yet return 46.3mpg. And this unit also employs clever D-CAT technology, which reduces emissions, meaning a CO2 figure of 161g/km. So if the car in front is a Toyota Avensis, at least you needn't worry about what is coming out of the tailpipe.

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