There is no use in beating about the bush. Hats off to Toyota! They really nailed it this time.
Now one of the big sellers from the company that sings about ‘building the best cars in the world’ has added good looks to the already strong list of alluring qualities.
Since the Toyota Avensis was launched at the end of 1997 it has attracted many, many friends in many, many parts, most of whom, we presume, were attracted by fine features that included spaciousness, comfort, a good range of engines, reliability, fuel efficiency and what have you.
The absence of even a faintly striking exterior styling never deterred buyers, 3,368 of whom bought an Avensis in 2010, and 3,566 who did so last year when a replacement model was on the way.
Those strong sales figures put the Avensis on top of the D segment with a healthy 29.5% market share, ahead of good lookers like the VW Passat (26.8%) and the Opel Insignia (17.4%).
Where to from here, you might ask? It will be most interesting to see how this experiment unfolds, and where the best looking Avensis ever ends up this year, although it might be unfair to judge this time in what is going to be a depressed market.
Fresh new look
But with a fresh new look that does actually catch the eye, Toyota are well placed to drive forward strongly with Avensis. To me a good appearance, a nice bit of style, never did anyone or anything any harm.
The Toyota Avensis is that anything now, pleasing on the eye, fresh looking, and a bit of a charmer in terms of appearance. The designers have edged away from safe, safe – not wildly, mind you.
While the overall dimensions of the saloon and Tourer remain the same, the Avensis has been given a make over front and rear. I particularly like the jazzed up front end, which we are told is the new image of Toyota going forward.
I liked the new headlamps that incorporate daytime running lights.
And I particularly liked the rear light clusters that have a touch of a Mercedes – I can’t remember which model - of a few years ago about them. At last, style married with substance.
The new Avensis offers five power train options; three diesel (124bhp 2-litre D-4D turbo, 150bhp 2.2 D-4D with diesel particulate filter and a 2.2 D-Cat automatic) plus two petrol engines (132bhp 1.6-litre Valvematic and 147bhp 1.8-litre Valvematic).
There are four grade levels, Terra, Aura, Strata and Luna. Prices begin at 24,995 Euro.
My drive was in the extensively revised feature engine, the 124bhp 2-litre diesel, which has been givem a new turbocharger that improves the pep in the drive, while at the same time fuel economy has improved and the C02 emissions have been lowered. This unit literally purrs along, and is disarming in terms of the power it can produce.
With improved noise, vibration and harshness suppression you hardly hear this unit ticking over.
Toyota fitted the car with a nicely measured and fluid 6-speed gearbox, which keeps the car on the boil with the minimum of fuss. The 150bhp 2.2 D-Cat is fitted with a 6-speed auto box, while the 1.8 is fitted with Toyota’s Multidrive continuously variable transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shift.
The Toyota Optimal Drive system – advanced technologies maintain the engine working at optimum efficiency – brings all sorts of benefits, including C02 reduction (by 14% to 120g/km) for cheap road tax (160 Euro annually) and improved economy (around 60mpg on the combined cycle).
It was nice to have the Avensis experience again after a few years. The car retains most of the old charms – you need never be afraid of offering a lift to Paul O’Connell or the lads – or be worried about safety aspects (7 airbags; 5-star Euro Ncap rating).
The full monty
My drive was in the top line Luna version which offers the full monty in terms of features, including a 6.1” touch screen, rear camera, dual zone climate control, rain sensor wipers, advanced Bluetooth, automatic phone book access, iPod album cover display and what have you.
Both inside and out the Avensis is a much better, more handsomely packaged car. While it was never an ugly duckling, it is most definitely a handsome swan now!
Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D turbo diesel 31,850 Euro (ex-works).