'Just' rewards as Toyota re-invents the Avensis
'New' version gets badly-needed overhaul, writes Eddie Cunningham
Everything in motoring these days is 'just' something or other. Emissions are always 'just' 102g/km, prices are starting at 'just' €20,000, price rises are 'just' €200 and interest rates on loan deals are 'just' 3pc.
And Toyota have just (!) revised their Avensis - so it can compete with a plethora of new and revamped competitors in what we have always called the family/fleet market.
In other words, families and companies buy cars like this - such as the Hyundai i40, Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 508, Ford Mondeo, Opel Insignia... the list does go on.
It's a tough market and it has just got tougher because a heavily-revised Avensis is not another car, as such; it is always a serious option for those buying a saloon, hatch or estate of this size.
Not alone that, but they have two new diesel engines under the bonnet (virtually every car bought in this sector is a diesel).
Only they are not just any old engines. They are made by BMW. Yes, the 1.6-litre and 2-litre diesels are BMWs. I had the 1.6-litre; I've driven the other, too (abroad). And just to be clear - because I've had some enquiries - the 1.6-litre replaces the old 2-litre while the new 2-litre takes over from the previous 2.2.
They reckon either of the two would cut your running costs by 20pc over three years/90,000km - say somewhere between €400 and €500 - because they are more frugal and service intervals are now longer as well.
Just (there is no getting away from that word) as importantly they have extensively overhauled the outside and the inside. It is fair to say it had lagged its newer rivals by some distance for some time on both fronts.
I think you'd have to be churlish not to say the look of the front, especially, has improved it a lot. The cabin, in my top-of-range Sol version, was much more smartly laid out, but the dash area was a bit dark for my liking. So choose your colour mixes carefully because such apparently small considerations matter a lot in a car like this where a high proportion of drivers are going to be at the wheel for long spells.
I accept, too, however, that with families especially, you need hard-wearing surfaces and colours that will not show the dirt.
There is no doubt they have improved the front of the cabin greatly, though, if pushed, I'd say it lacks the simpler lines of the Passat or the 508 for that matter. But I liked the way they've added little everyday practicalities - there was great, and discreet, room in the storage box under the arm rest, for example.
They also upgraded suspension, chassis and all those areas that contribute to a car feeling better on the road.
However, I think they may have over-egged the feel of the steering because it could become quite heavy at lower speeds and required more effort when turning or parking.
Indeed, what criticisms I have revolve around slower, stop-start driving in heavy city traffic. Second gear especially appeared to invoke a momentary lapse of propulsion. Yet it was a fluid motor on the longer hauls along the M50 or down to the midlands where I think its quietness was notable -again, a big consideration for lengthy stints at the wheel. The new seats were great for me; I travelled with ease - and emerged with no stiffness in the old back.
The brand's excellent Touch 2 system (on mid-trim Luna upwards) remains an example of how these increasingly intricate interfaces can be kept straightforward and logical. My advice to those whose attempts still befuddle those of us without PhDs - just copy Toyota.
The Avensis has been the biggest seller in its sector 21 times in the last 25 years so my few complaints won't deter many. With so many rivals so fresh now, it badly needed the work they've put in. And it works well.
Considering the quality and quantity of the opposition ranged against them, it is fair to say they needed to smarten up as much as they did - and I reckon they did so 'just' in time.
Facts & figures
Toyota Avensis 1.6-litre diesel Sol saloon; 112bhp, 108g/km (109g/km Sol), €190 road tax. Range from: €25,870 - 1.6-litre petrol; €27,710 - 1.6-litre diesel. Standard spec (Aura) includes Safety Sense, cruise control, 4.2ins TFT display, 16ins alloys, front fogs. Luna adds 17ins alloys, dual-zone climate control, 8ins display (Touch 2), rear camera, dusk sensors, auto wipers, alcantara seat inserts, 4.2ins TFT screen, lane depart alert, auto high beam. Top-trim Sol adds special 17ins alloys, leather seats/alcantara inserts, rear privacy glass.
My side of the road
Not a lot of people understand how to use a roundabout. I've come to the conclusion many times over the years but the level of ignorance startled me this week.
The big danger is the driver who swerves across your bow. Or the one with the permanent indicator. Or the one who switches from inside to outside without indicating. Your views/experiences?