Toyota ‘New’ Avensis – A European Car, Built In Britain
It’s for very good reasons that Toyota is the biggest car manufacturer in the world and that’s because they make well built, well specified and above all hugely reliable cars.
OK, not all cars appeal to all drivers and particularly in the UK, where we are very brand sensitive, but if we look at the reasons we actually need a car, probably nothing comes closer to ticking all the boxes than a Toyota.
No other car manufacturer is working harder than Toyota to champion the green automotive issues and with Toyota, its not just talk either, they truly are putting their money where the mouth is, with a whole string of innovative developments, all aimed at saving us fuel and taking care of the world that we live in and for that, they deserve all of our support.
They also deserve our support for the way they have invested in this country, building many of their cars here in the UK and they have done that since 1992. Toyota invested some £1.85 Billion in their two plants, one in Burnaston in Derbyshire and the other in Deeside in North Wales. In 2008, the Burnaston plant produced 213,404 cars (mostly for export) whilst the Deeside engine plant produced just short of 300,000 engines and that’s pretty impressive.
The latest car to roll out of Burnaston is the new Avensis. It’s the third car to wear the Avensis badge and undoubtedly, it’s the best yet. The first Avensis was launched in 1997 and was a revamp of the infamous Carina and I am sure anyone that rolled out of a pub 15 years ago, straight into the kebab or curry house, will remember the Carina, as chances are that your mini-cab home would probably have been one. You might ask where am I going with this, but fact was, even back 15+ years ago, those drivers that put the most miles on their cars, abused them the most and needed them always to start, knew that the car to last the course and to take the punishment was a Toyota Carina and there were literally thousands of the things ploughing a late night furrow around our towns and cities.
The second generation of Avensis was launched in early 2003 and was a brand new car and it was a car, we liked a lot. This got a freshen up and facelift in early 2006 and that brings us to today, with the launch of the latest generation Toyota Avensis and again it’s an all new car.
Toyota were kind enough to send us a car for a couple of weeks to test and whilst there is no mistaking it is an Avensis, its got more of a Lexus feel about it and whilst it arguably it isn’t perhaps as stylish as some of its rivals such as Mondeo and Insignia, it more than makes up for that by giving a real impression and a sense of quality in both its styling and its build.
Externally, despite being an all-new car, you can instantly tell its an Avensis and like Nissan with the X-Trail and Volkswagen with the new Golf, Toyota decided not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and to stick with much of the styling of the previous model, but to improve and refine it and with that done, this new Avensis really is now the finished item.
Much has been made about the driving dynamics of the Avensis in the past and there have been those (normally the pompous, narcissistic presenters of that famous Sunday night comedy programme) who along with their tame failed racing driver, consistently call it boring to drive, well for one I don’t know what they mean by that as the Avensis never claimed to be a racing car, that’s not what its for and frankly that’s not what the majority of people want from a car, so its clear they don’t understand their audience. The Avensis will get you where you want to go, at the speed you need to get there and it will do it very safely and very very comfortably and it won’t cost you a fortune to do it either. The car is a very good car and I wonder why these people want to use their influence to unfairly hammer a product and in this case, a product that’s made in the UK.
So after just making a huge defence of what the Avensis will do for you, I’m now probably going to surprise you by saying that this new Avensis is a car you can hustle and push into corners and it’s really rewarding when you do that. I tried hard to find the limit on this new car and I have to tell you, it wasn’t the car that said i’ve had enough, it was me, because the Avensis was more than happy to play for a lot longer and play one hell of a lot harder. Yes it’s a heavy car, its not a hot hatch, it’s a great big saloon, but drawing a direct comparison with the cars I have tested recently (and that includes the European Car of the Year 2009) the new Avensis is way up there in its abilities, and as rewarding as any of its competitors and indeed more rewarding than a great deal of them, providing you know how to drive it.
I guess you could compare the Avensis to ‘Nigel Mansell’, in as much as a lot of people said he was a bit dull and a bit boring and in some ways maybe they were right, but when you called on him to do his job, he was fast, consistent and reliable and damn exciting when he needed to be. Well it’s just like that with this new Avensis and when you need to relax and chill (the boring bit), the Avensis takes care of you and helps you do that, but for the times you want to get a bit more racy and a bit more involved, well the car (just like Nigel) is up for that as well and of course reliability & consistency are an absolute given as far as Toyota are concerned, so we needn’t even go there.
So lets slay this boring, non involving tag once and for all, as its becoming like the ‘kings new clothes’ in as much as journalists are thinking ‘well he said this, so I had better agree’ and from that basis, I am beginning to think its not the car that cant deliver, but the journalists themselves that make a living out of writing this tripe.
Rant over and back to the car. The interior of the Avensis is to be fair different to most of its competitors such as Insignia & Mondeo, who have opted for this cocoon style dash that wraps around all over the pace. The Avensis has however chosen to stay very much along traditional conservative lines with a conventional straight dashboard and a really simple layout of the controls, which (apart from the odd exception) are all easy to see, and straight forward to use and despite the high level of equipment, it wasn’t over-buttoned like some of its competitors. We didn’t however like the electronic hand brake (we hate these on all cars – what’s it for?) as it was hidden low on the dash and not easily placed at all. However the handbrake did have one plus, in as much as if you tried to pull away with it on, it released pretty instantly. OK, whilst we are in ‘moaning mode’ we also couldn’t understand why for a car built with in Great Britain, with the European market in mind, didn’t have any odd numbers on the speedometer? A Car for the UK, which does not have 30mph or 50mph or 70mph written on its speedometer, what’s all that about? C’mon Toyota sort that one out.
Our car was the T-Sprit and the spec was huge, with pretty much everything you could ever wish for as standard. The car came with a superb stereo/CD/Satellite Navigation system with touch screen, which did the job properly in every way and it sounded great. A bonus was that Bluetooth was standard and the connection to my mobile was instant each time I got into the car and because of the big colour screen, there were lots of dialling options just by touching the display screen, including downloading all of your phone contacts into the memory of the car (how convenient is that). The call quality was great in the car and people I called said there was very little indication I was talking hands free and that’s not the case with every in car Bluetooth hands free we have used. Taking advantage of the big colour screen, Toyota had also included a rear facing colour camera, which when combined with the parking sensors made parking anywhere a doddle.
The cabin of the Avensis is big and roomy and the driving position was good and it was easy to make yourself comfortable. Vision from the car was fine, but like most of today’s generation of cars, the A pillar was fairly thick, but in the Avensis, there is a small quarter light window (like you tend to get on MPV’s) on the door and that took care of any chances that the A pillar would block your view.
The leather seats in our T-Spirit version were electrically adjustable, with memory and were heated as well, which was a good thing as much of the time we had the car, the temperature was pretty low. The steering column is electrically operated as well which was nice. The glove box is huge and there is a massive storage area in the centre console armrest, (bigger than we’ve seen on anything else) and even that had a trick or two up its sleeve as it had another hidden compartment at the bottom where you could hide your goodies, or like we did, open it up, allowing you to carry a fair size bottle upright in the compartment. Also in the armrest were connections for power and MP3 players or similar.
Our car was the Avensis Tourer and the boot is cavernous with loads of really well though out storage areas and innovative ways of transporting stuff. The Tourer body style is swish and imposing and as our test car was the T-Spirit, it had the dark tinted glass in the side windows, and panoramic glass roof, so it looked pretty moody as well.
Our car had the fantastic 2.2-litre180 engine which is superb. We are really impressed with how quiet the engine is, not just when you’re rolling, but even when you just start it up, there’s no clunky tractor here! Performance wise its one of the best, with hardly any obvious lag that’s normally associated with diesels. In terms of power, it’s mighty impressive too and I have to be honest it was a joy to drive and dare I say it, a lot of fun, when you pushed it hard.
There will be four models in the Avensis line up, starting with the lead-in T2, then TR, T4 and the range topping T-Spirit. Engine wise, there are two petrol options, the 1.8-litre & 2.0-litre (called V-Matic) and three diesels (D-4D), the 2.0-litre 130, a 2.2-litre 150 and the fabulous 2.2-litre 180 (which was in our test car). Body wise, Toyota have done away with the 5dr Hatch as it’s not considered the popular choice of bodystyle in that sector, so just offer the 4dr saloon and Tourer (estate to you and me). Prices range from a touch over £15,000 to a little under £24,000 for the top of the range Tourer.
In terms of CO2, the lowest in the range is 135g/km with the 2.0 D-4D 130ps and its this that will undoubtedly be the car everyone wants, ranging up to just 165g/km for the 2.0 petrol and to demonstrate just how good this is, Vauxhalls new Insignia (European Car of the Year 2009) offers just the one 2.0-litre petrol engine (and whilst its more powerful) it chucks out a massive 209g/km of CO2. You do the sums!
So in summary, we’ve got an up to date modern car that’s built in England by the world’s largest car maker, already renowned for building high quality safe cars and for utilising the latest in green technology, to deliver us more economic and less polluting cars. It’s comfortable; its fun to drive and the standard of specification across the model range is superb. History tells us its going to be mega reliable and that’s its going to hang on to its second hand value, a lot better than a big hunk of its competitors.
The Avensis is a simple and easy to use car that’s good to live with. It’s a car your dad would have liked, but it’s a 21st century version, with all the toys, all the safety features and reliability that your dad could only dream of.
So who’s going to buy the new car? Well I think its going to be the more settled amongst us, the ones that don’t need a posh badge to cover their inadequacies. It will be the kind of person that you could probably trust, yet the same person that would drive the hardest deal if you tried to sell them something. Yes you can get more ‘glitzy’ cars, but quality will always out and that’s a fact and no matter what you’ve driven in the past, if you are in the market for a car of this size, you really must get down to your local Toyota dealer with your sensible head on and try “our Nigel” or should I say ‘Avensis’ for size.
For a quotation on the New Avensis or any other vehicle in the Toyota range, please contact us