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Toyota Avensis UK drive

New-look Toyota gets a dash of style, but the healthy kit count can’t compensate for a lack of fun

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The Avensis has long been the perfect choice for drivers who value reliability, running costs and practicality above driving thrills. The latest changes to this 2.0 D-4D engine and the improvements to the cabin and standard equipment list mean this is now even more the case. But if you’re after an involving driver’s car, it’s better to look elsewhere.

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Toyota knows what’s important to Avensis buyers  – lower emissions, greater value for money and making those long motorway journeys pass by comfortably. That’s why the latest Avensis has been improved in all those areas, and has been given an extra dose of style, too.

The new look is designed to incorporate Toyota’s new family face, which features a redesigned front bumper, bolder grille and more angular headlights. Perhaps the most important changes, though, are the improvements to the best-selling 2.0 D-4D engine tested here.

CO2 emissions have been cut from 139g/km to 119g/km, which not only reduces the road tax bill by £85 a year but also has big implications for company car drivers. Fuel economy is boosted from 53.3mpg to 62.8mpg.

Toyota has also improved the way the Avensis drives. It’s now smoother and more refined than before, and while the 124bhp power figure is unchanged, there is plenty of performance for most people, with the sprint from 0-62mph taking 9.7 seconds.

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If you push the engine to the upper limits of the rev range it can become rough, but when the new car is cruising at 70mph, it can barely be heard at all.

Changes to the cabin, including more sound-deadening, have also made it a quieter and more luxurious place in which to spend time. The centre console has been subtly redesigned, a leather-trimmed steering wheel now comes as standard and the dashboard is finished in higher-quality soft-touch plastics.

If there’s one thing the Avensis has always been lacking, it’s a healthy dose of dynamic ability, but a stiffer anti-roll bar has been fitted at the rear and the steering has been made quicker and more responsive in a bid to resolve this.

The changes don’t add up to much, and while there is slightly less body roll through corners, the Toyota still lacks the kind of involving drive available from rivals like the Ford Mondeo. That’s not the only bad news, as smaller lumps and bumps in the road are felt more than in the old car.

It’s better value for money, though, as our top-selling TR model now comes with sat-nav, a reversing camera and automatic lights and wipers as standard. Compare that to the likes of the Mondeo, Mazda 6 and Vauxhall Insignia and the equipment tally looks very generous indeed – especially considering the Toyota’s £21,525 price tag.

In updating the Avensis, the company has managed to make it more sensible than ever. The new car is comfortable, efficient and good value. The trouble is, it will still never draw you to just pick up the keys and simply go for a drive.

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