What's the used Toyota Avensis estate like?
The Toyota Avensis Touring Sports is the Japanese brand’s entrant in the big family estate class. Its core rivals are the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Skoda Superb Estates, against which the Avensis struggles to make a case. Sure, this estate variant of the Toyota Avensis is reasonably well priced, and has the benefit of a five-year/100,000-mile warranty from new, but there'll be precious little of that left now, when you come to buy one used.
However, in the family estate class, interior space and practicality rank high and the Toyota is not as roomy or as functional as the Mondeo, and is even further behind the excellent Superb Estate that leads this class.
We would avoid entry-level Active models (partly because you can’t have the bigger diesel) and go for Business Edition trim. This adds climate control, sat-nav, alloy wheels and a rear-view camera.
You can tell that the Avensis Sports Tourer has been set up for long distance work. The soft suspension delivers a comfortable lope on the motorway, and larger bumps are dealt with adequately (if with a fair bit of heaving and pitching from the body), although sharp-edged potholes can really unsettle the car.
With its sloppy suspension, it’s no surprise that the Avensis leans quite a lot in bends, although few will be overly bothered by it. The steering is precise enough, and it’s well suited to muddling through town or cruising on the motorway.
In terms of handling, it’s good to drive for the majority of the time, but the Mondeo Estate would much better serve a keen driver, and the Superb Estate is also more comfortable and more composed through corners.
Of more concern are the diesel engines, which are some way behind the refinement of the engines in cars like the Superb. They sound gruff at both idle and high rpm, and you feel vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals, although they do settle down at a cruise. You’ll also notice a fair amount of road noise over rougher surfaces, and some wind noise at speed.
Our choice of engine, the 2.0-litre diesel, offers plenty of flexibility from low rpm, but it isn’t as quick as rival engines and there’s a noticeable surge in acceleration as the turbo kicks in, making it less easy to predict than the smoother, more flexible diesel in the Superb. The 1.6-litre diesel in the Avensis offers lower CO2 emissions but it’s underpowered for a car of this size, particularly if you plan on towing, or carrying a car full of people and their belongings.
Disappointingly, there’s a significant amount of scratchy feeling plastics in areas you often interact with. For example, the door grab handles are made out of a hard, glossy plastic that isn’t particularly tactile and easily attracts greasy marks. Ultimately, a Superb feels much classier inside, and a Passat feels vastly more premium.
That’s not to say that the materials won’t be very durable, but as a whole the interior looks a bit drab and uninspiring compared to the aforementioned rivals.
Even the infotainment system looks and feels dated; the 8.0in colour screen is too slow to respond, and can be distracting at night as it’s prone to showing a black screen when switching between displays.
The main screen is augmented by a smaller display in front of the driver. This displays additional data clearly enough and is simple to navigate. Some other controls look a little dated, especially the LCD display for the climate control, and the dials to control it feel flimsy.
Even basic Active models get electric heated mirrors, cruise control, air-con and a Bluetooth hands free system. Moving up to Business Edition adds climate control, alloys and sat-nav, among other goodies.