Driven: Toyota Avensis
* Undercuts many of its rivals * Spacious and solid inside * Set up for all kinds of driving...
The Toyota Avensis has always been viewed as a cut above its main family car foes, so it might come as a surprise that this latest model actually undercuts most of them on price and running costs. You can pick one up for well under £16,000 in 1.8-litre petrol guise.
You arent shortchanged by the way the new Avensis drives, either. Whether you choose a petrol or diesel engine, the Avensis is set up to give you an easy life. Its most at home cruising motorways, but its not out of its depth on winding roads. The ride is decent when youre up to speed, the steering is light and the gearchange sweet.
The cabin is spacious and solid. Its not exactly the most inspiring of designs, but the controls are set out sensibly.
Toyota believes the 1.8-litre petrol engine will be the big seller. The smallest diesel, the 2.0, drinks 20% less fuel, but pump diesel is nearly that much dearer so youd have to do a very high mileage to make back the extra it costs to buy.
Toyota also offers a 2.2-litre turbodiesel with either 148bhp or 175bhp, but theyre pricey and we reckon the smaller engine is peppy enough. The same goes for the 2.0-litre petrol, which is dearer than the 1.8 but only a fraction quicker.
Theres no hatchback, just a saloon and, for £980 more, a Tourer estate thats predicted to be the bigger seller.
There are four trim levels, but we reckon the bottom two offer the best value. Base-level T2 models get air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD player, electric front windows and seven airbags. The next level up, called TR, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, electric rear windows, automatic headlights and wipers and an electrically adjustable drivers seat, all for an extra £1700.
Those who need an auto have the choice of a full automatic in the 2.2 diesel, or a CVT (continuously variable transmission) in the 1.8 or 2.0 petrols. We found the full auto to be a bit slow witted, so wed go for the CVT linked to the 1.8 petrol engine, even though its a bit noisy when youre getting a shift on.
Overall, the new Avensis is near the top of the family car pecking order. Wed still take a Mondeo, though, because its just that little bit better in nearly every area.
What Car? says
Cheap to buy and to run, and pretty good to drive.
Toyota Avensis Price: £15,740-£24,570
On sale: Now
You'll like: Affordable; well equipped; solid
You wont: Dull looks; so-so handling