Video: Sunday World teams up with CarsIreland to check out the new Toyota Avensis
Toyota has been struggling to topple the mighty Volkswagen Passat off its lofty perch in recent years. The new Passat and Ford’s Mondeo have outshone the Avensis in recent years, and in 2015, it sits in third place in the segment behind the big two.
That may be about to change, as the latest Avensis ups its game and has all the making of being a real contender. The current model made an appearance back in 2009, it was then given a nip and tuck in 2012 and now, the 2015 model has been given a serious makeover to propel it up the segment and into the sights of the big hitters.
Toyota is singing from the rooftops that this ‘new’ Avensis is set for stardom, and it certainly has improved massively than the previous model. But it’s not a ‘new’ car from the ground up, it is an extensive makeover that makes it so much better, but more importantly, feel like a new car instead of just an upgrade.
The styling has given the Avensis a new look that feels more modern, and dare I say it, a little more sporty. Toyota has also done major upgrades under the skin with the biggest change being the diesel engines. Newly-sourced BMW diesel make the Avensis a much better car to drive, with 1.6 D4-D (112bhp) and range-topping 2.0 D4-D (143bhp) replacing the tired old diesels that lacked finesse.
When I initially tested the new Avensis at the European launch a few months ago, I picked the 2.0-litre diesel as my favourite. It has plenty of torque and provides a really smooth drive. I think I’ve changed my mind though. My test car for the week on Irish roads was the 1.6 diesel. I felt you had to work the gears more than the 2.0 on the test route in Switzerland, but it was hilly and undulating, but in reality, it coped really well back home and excelled in all areas.
It has a decent turn of foot and overtaking was a breeze. It is one of the most refined engines I’ve tested this year, and the noise in the cabin is minimal. It is also extremely efficient with almost 900kms clocked up on my weekly test.
Running costs will always be important when families are looking at larger cars, and the Avensis is as good as any. The 1.6 litre, which should be the best seller for Toyota, has a yearly tax rate of just €190 and a combined fuel figure of just 4.2 litres per 100kms. I managed around 5.4l/100kms which is brilliant, given the various motorways and back roads on my daily commute. I never felt the need for any more power, but if you do want a bit more go, then then 2.0-litre diesel with 143bhp and 400Nm of torque is a fine engine.
The diesel engines are definitely the best part of the new Avensis, but Toyota has paid particular attention to the interior, and it now feels much more modern, unlike the Avensis of old. The cabin finish and design, which includes a nice eight-inch touch-screen (not available in entry-level model) gives the Avensis a high-end feel it was always lacking.
The only flaw I could see was the infotainment system sits a little lower than I’d like and the steering wheel covers the right-hand side of the controls, making it awkward to navigate the system. It is very user-friendly and the sat nav (€865 as an option) works well.
One area that Toyota says trumps the rest in in the safety department. Toyota Safety Sense, available in all new Avensis models, offers customers a pre-collision safety system incorporating a forward-collision warning, featuring autonomous emergency braking. The Luna and Sol grades also feature a lane departure alert system, automatic high beam and road-sign assist.
No other manufacturer is offering this as standard, and the costs rise rapidly when added as an option, so Toyota has taken the bold move to add these as standard.
I really liked the new Avensis, even though previous versions never did it for me. Toyota has done a great job with the styling, both interior and exterior, and with refinement levels in both the engine and cabin.
It has now become a real player in the segment and even though the new Passat and Mondeo got the jump on the Avensis by launching at the start of the year, I expect to see strong second half sales for Toyota’s much-loved family car.