What Car? Green Awards 2009 - Family cars

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Best buy: Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D T2
Toyota has always been at the forefront of eco-friendly motoring – the company's Prius hybrid car is arguably the most famous green car there is. However, the Prius isn't the only Toyota that offers you green motoring – the new Avensis is proof.

It's all thanks to Toyota's Optimal Drive technology, which can now be found in most of the firm's cars. We won't bore you with the nuts and bolts of how it all works – we could go on all day about fuel injectors, combustion chambers and low-viscosity oil.

Essentially, it's a collection of small but important technical measures designed to improve efficiency.

Eco-warrior
It's the reason why the Avensis, when fitted with the 124bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, is capable of average fuel economy of 55.4mpg. That's a figure that hardly any of its family car competitors can match. It's the same story on CO2 emissions, because it chucks out the bad stuff at a rate of just 135g/km. The other bad stuff, namely NOx and particulate emissions, are kept to impressively low levels, too.

Despite its cleanliness, the engine won't leave you short of go. Okay, so it doesn't have the outright performance of some competitors, but there's more than enough flexibility to pull you along briskly without the need to change down a gear. It stays nice and quiet on the motorway, too, and it's so hushed at idle that you'd swear it was switched off. In fact, refinement is impressive all round in the Avensis, and that helps its laid-back nature.

So does the slick ride. The Avensis is set up for comfort rather than sportiness, so the suspension does a brilliant job of shielding you from the effects of lumps and bumps. The light steering also contributes to the car's easy-going nature. Yes, it could do with rather more feedback in corners, but the Avensis is still pretty nimble on a twisty road.

As solid as a rock
You can always be sure that those mechanical parts won't let you down, either, because Toyota's reliability record is the envy of the motor industry. That's reflected in the car's build quality: everything is well put together and it feels amazingly solid. Okay, so the cabin design won't set your heart racing, but it's amazingly simple to use and the materials are smart and appealing.

The cabin has masses of space, too, and there's a big boot – even if it's not a hatchback – so the Avensis is one of the most practical family saloons there is. Even with all this talent, our chosen T2 trim is affordable to buy and comes stuffed with standard equipment.

Buying used
You may have your work cut out here, because the new Avensis is just that – new. Any used examples you find will probably be at Toyota dealers, and the price won't have come down that much. We've seen a couple for between £17,500 and £18,000, but we reckon you should be able to haggle that
down a smidge.

Green car fact file

Best buy up to £16,000
Mazda 6 2.2D (123) S 5dr
Price: £15,869
Target Price: £14,706
CO2: 147g/km
NOx: 0.154g/km
Particulate emissions: 0.001g/km
Average fuel economy: 51.4mpg
Green verdict: Never underestimate the lightweight – the 6's slimline stature makes it a cracking green choice

Best buy £16,000-£18,000
Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D T2
List price: £17,545
Target Price: £16,515
CO2: 135g/km
NOx: 0.140g/km
Particulate emissions: 0.014g/km
Average fuel economy: 55.4mpg
Green verdict: The Prius isn't the only Toyota with amazing eco credentials – the new Avensis is our green family car favourite

Best buy over £18,000
Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion 2
Price: £18,095
Target Price: £16,671
CO2: 128g/km
NOx: 0.123g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 57.6mpg
Green verdict: Updated version of the original green family car is better than ever


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