Life Motoring

Saturday 18 January 2020

An orgy of refined roominess

Campbell Spray is impressed with the revamped Toyota Avensis which, in both saloon and estate versions, is a far better prospect than previous models

RELAXED DRIVE: The Toyota Avensis estate has been given a comprehensive upgrade and is now a very refined car
RELAXED DRIVE: The Toyota Avensis estate has been given a comprehensive upgrade and is now a very refined car

Campbell Spray

A NUMBER of years ago when I picked up a Toyota Avensis for a test drive, I found some women's underwear stuffed in a pocket at the rear of the driver's seat.

For quite some time I looked at some of my colleagues in a new light of admiration. But there again cars, like their forbears of carriages and litters, have always been convenient places for romance. Although where once we were nimble enough for a Mini, today probably a Hummer is more in order.

When I was driving the new DS5 a few weeks back, my mind kept remembering an original DS which I drove many moons ago and how it so excited my then girlfriend who thought she was a femme fatale in a moody, but passionate, French film.

The Avensis estate which I drove a couple of weeks ago could have hosted a small orgy, but my life is now more picking up packs from Ikea.

The Avensis has been one of the country's top-selling models for years, and even under a massive challenge from established rivals like the VW Passat, Opel Insignia, Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb, it is still leading the Medium Standard (D1) sector. However, some really impressive new competition has come from the Hyundai i40 which is brand new to the market and sold nigh on 600 cars in the first three months of the year compared to 1,872 for the Avensis.

Toyota has given a fairly comprehensive upgrade to the whole Avensis, with some very pleasant styling changes, interior improvements, driving dynamics, much greater fuel efficiency (61.4mpg from 53.3mpg), and a 14 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions to just 120g. This puts the fairly gigantic saloon and estate into Band A with its 2.0 D-4D turbo diesel engine.

However, what struck me about the estate version which I drove was that it has become a much better overall package and does not now lag behind its competitors -- which was an impression, sometimes unfairly, that surrounded the marque recently. OK the top Tourer (estate) comes in at almost €32,000 (nearly €7,000 above the lowest priced saloon), but it really is a very refined car. Despite its size it drives very precisely and, with the help of the excellent reversing camera, is very easy to park. Everything from roof and trunk rails, partition nets, privacy glass, leather upholstery and finishes plus wood pattern touches come in on the Luna grade Tourer.

There has also been significant work on soundproofing, the use of plastics and general tidying up of the cabin. Under the bonnet the power is still good with 0-100km in around 10 seconds and plenty of mid-range torque. The car, fittingly for a big estate, is most at home on motorways but it is a very relaxed drive on all surfaces -- although you do tend to feel potholes, and people who really want an involved drive should stay away. However, grip is never an issue and the car holds its line very well.

Toyota usually calls its mid-life tweaks Minor Change. This time it seems to be avoiding the term where possible. The 2012 Avensis in both saloon and tourer is a far, far better prospect than previous models and can't even be compared with the original Avensis which succeeded the much-loved Carina E.

Last year I drove a couple of Toyota duds. I'm pleased that the first one this year has proved to be a success. I think the Hyundai i40 and Peugeot 508 -- especially the former -- are doing a great pincer movement on the top models and still offer a price advantage. Owning a Toyota Avensis is never going to be a style statement, even if you leave a set of La Perla on the back seat. But any family would be very happy with the latest model. It is very refined indeed.

Sunday Independent

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