Customer’s requests for better styling, higher levels in quality and comfort, improved safety and better equipment are the key areas Toyota has been keen to address with the latest generation of the Toyota Avensis Saloon and Touring Sports estate models.
These models now also come with a new five years/100,000-mile warranty instead of the previous three-years/60,000-mile one.
The Avensis first appeared in 1997 and is now built exclusively in the UK. After four generations and 1.7-million global sales, the revised range D-segment upper-medium sized models are on sale with prices starting from £19,010 for the four door Saloons and £20,190 for the five door Touring Sports estates.
Globally around 75% of these D-segment cars and estates of all makes go to fleet and business user-chooser customers and in the UK the main sellers are the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat, Skoda Octavia/Superb and Vauxhall Insignia. Moving up in price and status to premium brands and the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes E-Class saloons and estates are most popular. But it is a fact that the emergence of modern fuel efficient SUVs and Crossovers have taken both retail and business customers out of conventional saloons and estates in most sectors of the market.
In the UK Toyota expects the revised Avensis range to account for 5,300 sales next year with over 80% going to fleet and business users. There will be an anticipated 50-50 sales split in demand between the Saloon and Touring Sports models with diesel models being by far the most popular.
The range now consists of Active, Business Edition, Business Edition Plus and Excel levels of specification. Depending on the specification level chosen there is a choice of three Euro 6 compliant engine options – the 1.8 V-matic 147hp petrol, 1.6 D-4D 112hp turbodiesel and 2.0 D-4D 143hp turbodiesel. The new diesel engines for this generation Avensis are supplied by BMW under their new alliance but Toyota uses their own technology for the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU) software and other associated components. All models have a six-speed manual gearbox but with the 1.8-litre petrol engine there is an automatic transmission option.
I have just sampled the latest Toyota Avensis in its Touring Sports five door estate car form powered by the BMW sourced 2.0-litre, four cylinder D-4D turbodiesel 143hp engine with a six-speed manual gearbox and all wrapped up with Business Edition Plus trim specification and probably one of the most popular versions.
The all important figures for business users, and others, are as follows. The price of this model is £26,135, it will officially return 61.4mpg in the Combined Cycle, the all important CO2 emissions are 120g/km so VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 for Year Two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 22% Benefit-in-Kind tax and the insurance group is 19E.
In reality during my test driving the vehicle returned only 42.8mpg overall, well short of the official figure. The consumption I found was dented considerably by commuting runs bringing it down from 50.2mpg when I covered longer cruising distances. However it is the official EU laboratory figures that currently account for the levels of CO2 taxation and not real-life ones.
The engine with 320Nm of torque from 1,750rpm proved to be responsive but with fifth and sixth gear ratios being ‘long’ it required considerable use of the gearbox to maintain momentum on winding country roads. The long-legged gearing however provided relaxed and hushed cruising on motorways.
A real plus point was the comfortable ride which for the high mileage users will be a major advantage over most of its premium brand German rivals. The estate rides well on its 17-inch alloy wheels and its road manners are polite rather than sporting which for most users will be sufficient. Although it carries a Sports label that is more to do with its styling than driving agility although its styling is not exactly sporting.
The Touring Sports offers lots of interior space thanks to its overall length of 4,820mm and width of 1,810mm. There is reasonable rear seat legroom for three adult passengers and behind the seats is a roomy 543-litre boot which grows to an impressive 1,609-litres when the rear seats are folded down.
When it comes to specification Toyota has been as good as their word with improved safety features and more equipment – again in tune with what high mileage business users need for their day to day travel. The latest Avensis has Toyota Safety Sense which includes pre-collision with autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beam headlights, cornering function lights, LED daytime running lights, lane departure warning, road sign assist, hill start assist. Of course sat-nav is included as are Bluetooth, DAB radio, Touch 2 multimedia functions, rear view camera, parking sensors, dual zone climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, part leather upholstery and a start-stop button. It is the areas of driver support safety functions, useful equipment and ride comfort that impresses most with the latest Avensis and we must not overlook the new five year/100,000-mile warranty introduced to maximise customer confidence in the Toyota brand.
Interior wise all the controls are well laid out and logical but the interior ambience is more functional than inspiring with some of the plastic trim looking low-cost.
In regard to visual exterior appeal, yes the latest Avensis range has received styling updates but there is nothing particularly notable. It’s clean looking and no doubt aero-efficient Overall it’s advantages are more to do with the specification and the space it offers than its kerb-appeal. I’m not convinced it has much ‘lust-factor’.
MILESTONES: Toyota Avensis Touring Sports 5-door estate, 2.0-litre D-4D Business Edition Plus. Price: £26,135. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, BMW sourced turbodiesel, 143hp, 320Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 124mph, 0-62mph 9.8-seconds, 61.4mpg Combined Cycle (42.8mpg average on test), CO2 120g/km, VED road tax £0/£30, BIK company car tax 22%. Insurance group: 19E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,820mm, W 1,810mm, H 1,480mm, boot/load area 543 to 1,609-litres. For: Improved new higher grades of functional and safety specification items, better warranty, low tax costs, interior passenger room, ample load space, comfortable ride. Against: Styling lacks ‘lust-factor’, some low-cost looking interior trim, real-life average fuel economy was well below the official figure.Miles Better News agency