Petrol power is limited to a single 1.8-litre engine, which is a little short on low-down grunt and needs to be worked hard. The 2.0-litre diesel is faster and more flexible, while the 2.2 version isn’t much quicker. There’s another 2.2 diesel that’s available with an automatic transmission, but we’d avoid it.
The Avensis feels well off the pace compared with rivals such as the Ford Mondeo. It’s at its best when ploughing a straight furrow on the motorway, where the suspension quietly goes about its business. Throw in a few bends, though, and a woeful shortage of steering precision and plenty of body roll quickly curtail any notion of enthusiastic driving.
The Avensis is reasonably quiet around town, and you can barely hear the engines at idle. Work them hard and they can get a little gruff, but the diesels settle to a subtle background hum on the motorway. There's little else to trouble you at speed, although rough surfaces kick up some road noise. The automatic gearbox isn’t the smoothest, though.
The Avensis is priced to compete against key rivals, and in the long-term, it is likely to hold its value better than a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. Despite similar performance figures, the 2.0 D-4D is far more economical than the 2.2-diesel version, costs less to insure, and sits in a lower tax bracket.
The Avensis doesn't provide the same feel-good factor as some rivals – the design and materials in the cabin are too bland for that. However, everything feels solidly built, and Toyota consistently scores very well in our reliability and customer satisfaction surveys. If you do have any concerns, they should be allayed by the fine five-year warranty.
The Avensis comes with just about every bit of safety kit you can imagine. There are front, side and curtain airbags, plus one under the steering column to protect the driver's knees. There are also active front seat head restraints, along with a stability control system that helps get the driver out of danger in an emergency. Deadlocks and an alarm are also fitted across the range.
It doesn't score highly for style, but the Avenis's dashboard gets top marks for ease of use, thanks to its bold, simple controls. The only quirk is the push-button handbrake, which takes some getting used to. The driver's seat is comfortable, although the system for adjusting the backrest angle is a little fiddly. Visibility is excellent; the rear view is a lot clearer than that in many rivals'.
The Avensis isn't as spacious as a Ford Mondeo, but it provides lots of head- and legroom and a flat floor makes things reasonably comfortable for a central rear passenger. The boot isn't as large as a Mondeo's, but it doesn't fall far short, so it's massive nonetheless. The rear seats split and fold, but the saloon body limits what you can put in.
Entry-level T2 models have basics including air-conditioning and an auxiliary input socket, but most buyers will upgrade to TR trim, which adds desirable features such as sat-nav, electric rear windows, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, Bluetooth connection, alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control. Extras on T4 and T Spirit models include leather upholstery and fully electric driver's seat adjustment, but they push prices uncomfortably high.
Order a brochure, find your nearest dealer or book a test drive