Toyota Avensis

Estate variant aims to give newcomer fresh edge

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Toyota has worked hard on improving the quality of the new Avensis, and it’s paid off – it’s now closer to the Lexus than ever. It’s a shame that the same flair wasn’t applied to the design and driving dynamics, which fail to impress. A definite improvement over the last model, but the company has played it far too safe – especially when you consider the competition.

The Avensis has arrived with high expectation – yet when we drove Toyota’s new saloon in Issue 1,042, we were underwhelmed by its bland looks and personality.

But will the estate change our minds by adding a large helping of practicality? Well, its elongated profile makes it far easier on the eye, and it doesn’t compromise versatility as there’s still 1,609 litres of space with the rear seats folded flat – over 100 litres more than in a Citroen C5 Tourer.

Now there’s no hatchback in the range, Toyota predicts the estate will account for more than half of Avensis sales in Europe. Our test car had the 146bhp 2.2-litre D-4D engine mated to a six-speed box. It pulls cleanly from low down and is quiet – although there is a hint of clatter from start-up.

Dynamically it’s hard to find any real weaknesses. The steering is numb but direct, while the brakes and gearchange have a solidity to them, although offer little connection to the road. It’s effortless but uninspiring to drive.

The Avensis’s strength lies in its Lexus-like cabin, due to the fine materials and logical layout. And in our top-spec T Spirit, you even get toys such as a premium sound system and a panoramic glass roof as standard.

Rival: Citroen C5 Not the choice for keen drivers, but the C5 has personality all of its own. It offers practicality and is a great cruiser. The looks alone are enough to lure people away from more traditional family car choices.

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