Toyota Avensis

If you're looking for great value, good comfort and plenty of equipment, Toyota's British-built Avensis is a used purchase with plenty of common sense behind it.

If you're looking for great value, good comfort and plenty of equipment, Toyota's British-built Avensis is a used purchase with plenty of common sense behind it. The competitive nature of the large family car sector means that, despite its excellent quality, an 18-month-old Avensis can be yours for well below two-thirds of the original list price. Saloons are least popular, while the hatchback is the most prevalent variant in classified ads. 'Tourer' estates are coveted and sell at a premium, as do D-4D diesels. Unusually, the 1.8-litre petrol is preferred over the 2.0-litre; it's significantly more economical, yet not much slower and is cheaper when new. But best buys are the T3 variants, which come in 'S' guise, with sat-nav as standard, or sportier 'X' trim. Currently, dealers are offering plenty of nearly new Avensis models at substantial discounts. Take the opportunity, haggle hard and pick up a classy Lexus lookalike on the cheap.Checklist * Engine: some owners report diesel engines running rough due to a leaky battery corroding the connector blocks, or the wiring itself becoming contaminated. * Steering: the steering column can 'rattle' - it's a fault acknowledged by Toyota, and units have been replaced under warranty. The trip computer is known to reset randomly, too, which can indicate problems with the dial pack. * Sat-nav: ingenious traffic avoidance system is only on models with basic sat-nav, not the more expensive, full-colour set-up. This has left a few customers miffed. * Dashboard: a 'buzzing' dash on early cars can be traced to the glovebox surround or the cup-holder and housing for the heated rear window switch. Dealers can rectify it. * Cabin rear: on the Tourer, the plastic cover above the rear seat, which locks the load screen in place, breaks easily. Toyota is aware of this.Driving Impressions Refinement rules, and the Avensis can do a perfect imitation of a Lexus on the move. Choose your engine carefully, though. The petrol units are a bit high-revving for ultimate serenity, but the D-4D diesels are excellent, while the ride absorbs imperfections well. It's not particularly dynamic, but this Toyota is in its element on the motorway. The stereo and cabin are excellent.Glass's View The Avensis is doing reasonably well in the new car market, and demand is high. Second-hand stocks are relatively low, while the practical estate is the most popular bodystyle. High-specification models are particularly sought after, especially T3 versions, while the excellent D-4D engine means diesel examples are rapidly gaining respectability. But while it's one of the better cars in the family sector for retaining its value, the Avensis isn't completely depreciation-proof. Jeff Paterson, senior editor, Glass's GuideLife With An Avensis I've had Avensis models as company cars for four years.I was never a huge fan of the old-shape Toyota, but this one is completely different. I'm actually proud to park it on my drive. Noel Washington, Sale, Cheshire There has been the odd teething problem on my Avensis: the cup-holder jammed and the glovebox lid rattled. However, my dealer has been brilliant.Ian Cugley, Woking, Surrey

Verdict

According to the latest TV adverts, this upmarket Ford Mondeo rival is far more than family transport. Apparently, it will silence ambitious colleagues and quieten an opinionated mother-in-law - all this thanks to its understated quality. But the Avensis isn't that dynamic, and there have been a few quality issues. Still, precise steering and strong front grip make it an accomplished, though less than involving, driver's tool, while refinement is reasonable.

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