Toyota Avensis

All new model from Japanese firm aims to bring executive quality to the family car class

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Toyota has gone to great lengths to bring the Avensis closer to premium rivals such as Audi and BMW. In terms of build quality and finish it has achieved exactly that. But with the conservative styling and detached driving experience, it feels more like a polished version of the last model than a completely new car. Steer clear of the CVT gearbox – we’d go for the manual instead.

The Toyota Avensis has always defined what a sensible, mid-size family saloon should be all about. But, with this latest model, bosses at the company claim to be breaking new ground by adding desirability to its image of reliability and practicality.

Improving the car’s looks was a priority, although our first impressions are mixed. The crisp lines and neat detailing give the newcomer a fresher appearance than its predecessor. From certain angles there is even a resemblance to the Lexus IS saloon, which is a good thing.

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

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But overall the restrained styling left us a bit cold. The cabin, however, is a masterclass in clear, logical layout. There’s also lots of room and 509 litres of boot space, too.

On the move, the Avensis is stable and unflustered. The brakes and steering have a solid, well engineered feel, but provide little feedback. Fortunately the car’s ride is comfortable.

We tried the new entry-level 1.8-litre Valvematic petrol engine, which Toyota expects to be the biggest seller. With 145bhp and emissions of 157g/km, it’s certainly a willing performer.

Where the Avensis scores really well is safety. Alongside the usual ABS and EBD, three all-new systems have been introduced. The package includes new airbags, and an advanced traction control set-up. By far the most radical feature, however, is the Steering Assist Vehicle Stability Control (VSC+), which turns the wheels automatically to counter understeer or oversteer in an emergency situation.

It’s an impressive feature, but it’s not enough for the Avensis to stand out from the crowd. It does everything well, but nothing exceptional. While there’s no denying it’s a decently executed car, it feels as though Toyota has played it too safe, especially when you consider the talent of the opposition.

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