Petrol power is limited to a single 145bhp 1.8-litre engine, which is a little short of low-down shove and needs to be worked hard. The 124bhp 2.0-litre diesel is much more flexible, if still not exactly brisk. There’s also a 148bhp 2.2 that’s available with an automatic transmission, but it’s not much quicker than the 2.0.
The Avensis feels well off the pace compared with rivals such as the Ford Mondeo. It’s generally comfortable and at its best on the motorway, where the suspension quietly goes about its business. Throw in a few bends, though, and a shortage of steering precision and plenty of body roll quickly curtail any notion of enthusiastic driving.
It’s reasonably quiet around town and there's little to trouble you at speed, even if rough surfaces kick up some road noise. The diesel engines could be smoother and quieter, especially when being revved, but they’re decently hushed at a cruise. Pity the optional automatic gearbox isn’t a little smoother.
The Avensis is competitively priced and will hold its value better than a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. All versions are cheap to run, but it’s worth noting that despite similar performance, the 2.0 D-4D is far more economical than the 2.2-litre diesel model, sits in a lower tax bracket and costs less to insure.
The cabin doesn't provide the same feel-good factor as some rivals – the design and materials 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 five-year warranty.
The Avensis comes with just about every bit of safety kit you can imagine. It has 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, while a stability control system helps you avoid an accident in the first place. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted across the range.
It doesn't score highly for style, but the Avensis'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. Forward visibility is excellent, so it’s a shame that the thick rear pillars obscure your view behind.
The Avensis Tourer is a ‘proper’ – rather than lifestyle – estate, with maximum space taking priority over style. With the seats up there’s as much boot space as in a Ford Mondeo Estate. There’s not as much when they’re folded, but the load space is long and flat. There’s so much head- and legroom on board that no one will struggle for space.
Entry-level T2 models have the 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 lights and wipers, Bluetooth, 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.
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