New Toyota Avensis Review

Toyota Avensis T4 2.2 D-4D Tourer

The old Avensis was a car that was advertised as being hard to criticise. Remember the mother in law that gets picked up, she moans and moans about everything, yet when she’s in the Avensis, she’s quiet.

Apparently (as told to us by the dealership) the new one we are testing is much better than the last one in every way. So we immediately thought hang on, “if the last one was good enough to make claims like that, this new one should be presidential.” The truth is, the car is easy to criticise, especially when you’ll be the ones paying out thousands of pounds to buy one. So let’s talk about the car.

It does have some road presence, unlike the older model which has come to be noticed by us as nothing more than a Taxi (what we’ve noticed and may not necessarily by like that around your area), from the side the front headlights have a bit of BMW 5 Series about them with a large ‘flick’ that wraps around into the front wings. In your rear view this car looks like a tidy bit of kit. The outside design really ends there and the car at the rear has developed into something that isn’t exactly interesting to look at, at all. It’s not an ugly car, it’s smart and modern but we’ve become used to car manufacturers these days providing some flair and pizzazz in their designs. For an all new Avensis, which is Toyota’s top of the line car, I expect a bit more.

The inside is much better than the last model, in the T4 which is the model just under the to top of the range you get a lovely brown aluminium type look on the centre console which is very attractive, much better than horrible silver and dark grey plastics as used before. It’s comfortable to actually sit in stationary and feels like you could sit in there for quite some time and not get bored by it’s appearance. Having said that, it’s just a ‘normal’ interior, nothing stands out at all and doesn’t make the driver feel special at all, this is a few pounds short of 22k, surely there should be a little more? For instance when I’m in a car, I want to feel like I’m surrounded by it, like I’m part of it and that I’m at one with the machine, it’s a nice feeling that you get from the Germans, the new Fiesta, the Vauxhall Insignia but when you sit in the Avensis, it’s like your sitting ‘on it or with it’ but you just don’t feel connected. I think it’s to do with the high driving position even with the seat in it’s lowest setting.

You can immediately tell that this car has been put together very well. The design of the exterior and interior, although modern and smart, didn’t attract my attention but the quality of the way it has all come together shows. No unsightly gaps, plastics, rubber and leather all feel nice giving a sense that the car did have some air of greatness about it. Remember this car is Japanese. It should be reliable, be fit for purpose and have some nice gadgets, so far it should tick all the boxes in that respect.

Our model (The T4) doesn’t come with a key, it comes with a card. The card however is not what you expect, it isn’t a keyless entry system as you have to press the button on the card to unlock the vehicle, the only thing the card means is that you do away with sticking anything into the car once you’re inside. Instead you put the keys in the car somewhere (as you’ll need to remember to pick them up and lock it once you’ve finished with it) foot on the clutch, press the start button.

Pressing the start/stop button is a strange affair although I quite like it, it may not be to everyone’s liking as when you do press it, there is a delay of a couple of seconds where the dashboard illuminates first, the electrics come alive, then the car starts. It’s as almost you are starting a procedure to start the engines on a space ship or war vessel. I liked that.

One thing this car does have which we were quite impressed with is the electronic adjustment on the steering wheel, that in itself isn’t impressive but what is, is that when you turn the car off to get out the steering wheel moves out of your way to allow you room to get out. I’m a very skinny, gangly being and it didn’t actually do anything for me except give me that technophobe ‘how cool’ ‘look at that’ response but we do know some people do need the extra room to get themselves in and out for whatever reason, top job Toyota.

The engine comes to life and at first you are greeted with a quiet rumble, with no shakes emanating into the interior and you think that this is going to be just like all the other modern diesels. Erm…nope. Pull off after disengaging the electronic parking brake and as soon as you put your foot down slightly hard, the overwhelming sound and essence of ‘Van’ starts to come through the dashboard. This thing either has a noisy diesel unit or has next to no sound proofing from the engine bay, I personally think it’s a let down. Turn the radio up to a ‘normal’ level and the sound or rather ’invasive noise’ becomes acceptable. Remember this only occurs under hard acceleration, at cruising speeds, it’s beautifully quiet.

You can almost forgive it for the sound as this car was a welcome surprise to drive. It manages to be sprightly, nippy and feels very light on it’s feet. We weren’t expecting that at all. The tourer is slightly slower than the saloon posting a 0-62 mph figure of 9.2 seconds where as the saloon does it in 8.9, however it feels quick, responsive and copes with the motorway perfectly.

The ride quality is good too, the car feels very smooth as if the bearings and cogs are all lubricated with the most slippery substance known to man, it has a sporty feel to it, it’s not too soft and not too hard, for someone who needs such a car and happens to enjoy driving, I think they’d get on very well with the Avensis. The steering is sharp and accurate but at low speeds you feel extremely disconnected from the car as the steering is so light. This could be said for a lot of new cars with Speed Sensitive steering though. Interesting to note that the Audi A4 in a previous review, neither had an electrically adjustable steering wheel, or speed sensitive steering.

On the attractive instrument cluster lit up in bright orange and white, inside the rev counter was a light which said ‘Shift’. It looks like something has been transferred from the Prius. This tells you when to change gear to maximise your MPG, basically improving economy and saving the world. A nice feature for those that don’t quite understand how to change gears at the correct time for maximum economy or for those who have never really bothered to drive in an economic way but want to learn. When it advised me to change up, I did so and the car didn’t feel sluggish, it told me to change at the perfect time, up and down. Seems like it works incredibly well and we’re pretty sure if you take notice of the ‘shift’ feature it could well improve how economically you drive and it will definitely mean you can maximise the time until you have to visit the petrol station. Toyota say that this car will achieve 50.4MPG on the combined rating, which is excellent, imagine it on a long motorway run!

The illumination from the Xenon headlights is fantastic, unfortunately not Bi-Xenons on the T4 and it’s a bit of a blow to find that it’s not an option either, you must purchase the range topping TSPIRIT for those.

To sum up, this car is built very well, it’s actually a very nice, comfortable but slightly sporty drive. The T4 comes with heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, xenons, plenty of room for 5 adult occupants and large boot space.

On the downside, I don’t understand why the key card isn’t keyless entry, the engine noise from the diesel is a turn off and why you can’t have the adaptive front lighting with Bi-Xenons as an optional extra on the whole model range baffles me.

On balance this is actually a very good car that seems to be built incredibly well. The faults I have described aren’t really faults, merely personal opinion a-la engine note, it drives fantastically and get this, yes, it’s built in Britain along with the new Auris.

Prices start from an attractive £16,485 for the T2 up to £24,915 for the range topping TSPIRIT which includes Bi-Xenons with adaptive front lighting, lane assist and radar guided cruise control. You get a lot for your money.  It’d be interesting to see how the value of this car holds up when compared with the German counterparts in a few years time, I’d say the new Avensis will hold it’s value much better than the last.

If you’re looking for a car that drives great, is economical, has plenty of gadgets and you want to be a little different and find a car YOU like and not just go with the trends? Then make sure you book a test drive in the new Toyota Avensis.

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