CarsMotormouth Reviews

Updated Avensis takes aim at Passat and Mondeo

The 'new' Avensis
The 'new' Avensis

IF I told you that you could have a family-sized BMW with a beautifully refined and frugal diesel engine and a modern, high-end interior for only €28k, then I’d be lying. Well, maybe a second-hand one, but you can get all those ingredients in a brand new car — Toyota’s ‘new’ Avensis.

I say ‘new’ as the Avensis isn’t a ground-up replacement, it has simply been improved in all the major areas — and they’ve done a great job.

The biggest leap forward for Toyota’s flagship car is the new engine line-up. The two petrol engines have been updated but will only play a small part in Irish sales. The two new diesels, sourced from BMW, are the real stars of the show. The new 1.6 D4-D (112bhp) and range-topping 2.0 D4-D (143bhp) have replaced the 2.0 and 2.2 D4-D units.

We tested both diesels in the Swiss Alps this week and it’s clear to see why Toyota has decided to use the BMW engine in the latest Avensis — it is excellent. Without doubt, it’s the most refined engine in the segment and is extremely quiet.

I much preferred the 2.0-litre diesel with its 400Nm of torque, which pulled really well and was just as quiet as its smaller brother. I just felt the 1.6 diesel had to be worked harder and I was using the gears more often as the low-down torque felt like the car was struggling a bit. That said, it’s a beautiful cruiser when up to motorway speeds.

Even though the engines will get most of the attention, I was really pleased to see a leap forward in both cabin finish and design, which includes a nice eight-inch touch-screen (not available in entry-level model) that gives the Avensis a high-end feel.

There is a slight flaw though. It sits a little lower than I’d like and the steering wheel covers the left-hand side of the controls (right-hand side in Ireland), making it awkward to navigate the system. It is very user-friendly and the sat nav (€865 as an option) works well.

As well as the technology being updated, Toyota has revised the suspension and steering to make the Avensis a more engaging drive. It has definitely improved from the last version and, in the twisty roads up in Alps, was very competent, even when some of the turns were taken enthusiastically.

It isn’t as dynamic as the Passat or Mondeo, but the Avensis was never built for that reason. One area that Toyota is pushing in the new Avensis is 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.

The styling has improved also, with a much sharper design to both the front and rear. 

The VW Passat and Ford Mondeo had the run of things, being launched at the start of the year, but with the new 152-plate arriving, the timing is perfect for the new Avensis to make inroads.  

There are currently 44,000 Avensis owners in Ireland and they are loyal to the Toyota brand. This new Avensis will definitely appeal to them, and it may well chip away at the big two, especially with impressive new engines.

Paul Keown