Toyota is a brand with an interest in many areas of the market – from the Aygo city car to the GT86 sports coupe and Hilux pick-up.
Cars like this Avensis, however, are its bread and butter. They might not be sleek and sporty like the GT86 or fun and funky like the Aygo but they’re a huge part of Toyota’s business, appealing to buyers who need something spacious, reliable and well-equipped in which to cover big miles.
The Avensis was refreshed last year with sharper looks, better equipment and two new engines. Our test car sported the larger of these two new units –a 141bhp 2.0-litre diesel borrowed from BMW. While it’s a smooth unit with little vibration transmitted to the cabin, there’s more obvious diesel noise than in many rivals. It’s not an engine to set the pulse racing but 141bhp is plenty to get the Toyota moving along nicely. Realistically, this is a car that’s going to spend huge chunks of its life on the motorway and the engine feels ideally suited to this – it’ll get you up to speed reasonably quickly and cruise along comfortably all day long.
Toyota Avensis Business Excel
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top Speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
Fuel economy: 58.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 124g/km
Its ride and handling, too, point to a car designed to cover huge miles on big roads with the minimum of fuss. The ride treads a delicate path, comfortably soaking up bumps without getting spongy. Handling is benign, it’s not a car to be hustled along a twisting B road but at the same time you never feel less than secure at the wheel.
The Avensis comes in five trim levels starting from £18,835 for the Active model. Our test car was the range-topping Excel spec and came with Toyota’s comprehensive Safety Sense package along with a generous level of other equipment for your £27,830. Cruise control, keyless entry and start, automatic wipers and automatic adaptive headlights are among the standard driver aids. There’s also leather upholstery, heated seats with memory function, dual-zone auto climate control and Toyota’s Touch 2 with Go media/navigation system. This packs in a surprisingly good 10-speaker stereo with DAB, Bluetooth and USB/aux inputs as well as voice control for the media, phone and navigation functions. The eight-inch screen also acts as the display for the reversing camera. The camera is clear and quick to respond but, surprisingly, its presence means there are no parking sensors.
Inside there’s plenty of room for four people to travel in comfort. All-round space is great for front-seat passengers and there’s enough room behind to keep rear-seat passengers happy. Very tall drivers might get frustrated by the virtually non-existent reach adjustment on the steering column but most people will be able to get comfortable quickly.
I tested the saloon version of the Avensis. Its 509-litre boot can swallow a surprising amount of stuff but suffers from the usual access problems that come with a saloon tailgate. For an extra £1,800 I’d take the Tourer, which boasts a slightly larger (543 litres) but much easier-to-access load space. The only downside of that is that the Avensis is one of the rare cars that looks better in saloon form than estate.
The Avensis is a consummate motorway mile muncher. The driving experience is solid rather than engaging but it’s smooth, spacious, has all the kit you’ll need and comes backed with Toyota’s five-year warranty and impeccable reliability record.