Steve Sharpe drives Toyota’s big Avensis Sports Tourer
It replaced the Carina, which was showing its age, and since then there have been various face-lifts and refreshes, with new generation models, each one improving on the latter.
But the car market moves quickly and the Avensis found itself up against some serious opposition both traditional – such as Ford and VW – to relative new kids on the block – Hyundai and Skoda.
The most recent update came last year, with this new generation saloon and Sports Tourer, with the company proclaiming a host of improvements inside and out.
Inside there are better materials, an improved standard equipment list and higher levels of insulation to make the ride quieter.
Toyota have also tweaked the steering and suspension for a better drive and played around with the best-selling 2.0-litre D4-D engine, with a new turbocharger and improved economy levels and emission figures of 61.4mpg and 119g/km (120g/km for the Tourer model).
This last improvement is an important one because, as three out of four Avensis models are bought as fleet cars, most will be putting a lot of miles on the clock.
The Avensis – I drove the Sports Tourer version – is an extremely capable, practical and easy car to drive day in, day out.
The emphasis is unashamedly on practicality and comfort.
Tourers are limited when it comes to styling and the Avensis is styled in a fairly utilitarian way.
The front end is sleek, now bearing the Toyota X-appearance prominent on hatchbacks like the Aygo, along with V-shaped headlight styling, but the effect is of a straightforward family estate.
In fact, the predominant impression you get is of sheer size.
This is no compact estate, it’s a proper load carrier – it’s very long with acres of space in the back with even more available with the seats folded down.
There’ll be no complaints from passengers either, with generous amounts of headroom and legspace in the front and rear.
The emphasis inside is, once again, on practicality rather than stylish impact.
However, it’s smart and well put-together, constructed with quality materials. Some new metallic-look inserts lift the interior, and there are attractive two-tone seats too.
An eight-inch multimedia screen, featuring the advanced Toyota Touch 2 system, dominates the dashboard and the switches and knobs are well-placed and easy to use on the move. Things look simple and are easy to operate, and when the skies darken the whole dash is illuminated in a striking pale blue.
It all comes together to ensure a comfortable and pleasant environment to travel in.
The Avensis comes with a choice of a 1.8 litre petrol engine, or a 2-litre or 2.2-litre diesel.
The tweaked 2-litre diesel which powered my test car will be the engine of choice for many, striking a happy compromise between performance and economy.
At 10 seconds from 0-60 it’s no flier but keeping the revs high will bring the best out the Tourer, and reaching motorway speeds is smooth and effortless.
Drop the revs too low, though, and you can find yourself a little lost at low speed, although the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and precise, and will swiftly slip up a gear if needs be.
With many cars being used as company cars, the Avensis is understandably most at home while on the motorway.
It’s comfortable and quiet, as the suspension soaks up bumps and potholes with little fuss and bother.
It means that you can settle back into the big, supportive seats, select your music and watch the miles slip by.
Turn off the slip road and hit the bends and the Avensis will do what it’s supposed to.
It’s a big, long car but it’s handles like a smaller saloon.
Driver involvement isn’t its main quality but the Tourer will cope with corners efficiently and with little drama.
Grip is good and it’s a car which makes you feel fully in control.
Head into town and the story is much the same, with a rear camera to help to cope with the car’s length while parking.
As an all-rounder with a bit of zip, the Avensis is a practical choice for a large estate.
The 2015 revamp increased standard equipment levels as a further incentive for would-be buyers, and the list of equipment compares well with main rivals. There’s a new grade structure, too. Entry-level Active models, which start off at around £19,000, feature what you’d hope for such as air-conditioning, Bluetooth and an auxiliary input socket, while Icon trim gets sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view camera and a digital radio.
Icon Business Edition versions get leather and Alcantara seats while Excel models like the one I drove come with electrically-adjustable heated leather seats, a panoramic glass roof and an upgraded stereo system.
As a complete package the Avensis Tourer is an effortless, practical and smooth family estate.
The 2-litre engine returns good economy levels while the purchase price makes it an attractive proposition, with a five-year warranty thrown in for good measure
An all-rounder with high levels of comfort and ride quality.
It’s a decision for the head rather than the heart, but it’s hard to argue against the Toyota for an all-round cruiser and load carrier that’s reliable,comfortable and easy to live with day to day.
Toyota Avensis Sports Tourer
Engine: 2-litre diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 58.9mpg avg
Price: £29,250 OTR