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Published on Friday 31 October 2014 09:05

Ten Second Review

There's never been much wrong with the practical, workaday aspects of Toyota's Mondeo-rivalling Avensis, but neither has there been anything that could be mistaken for style or flair - especially in the case of the rather dour but properly spacious and sensible Tourer estate. So, faced with an image problem and tough competition, what do you do?
Build a smarter looking, more efficient, classier Avensis Tourer and give it some mouthwateringly high-tech options, that's what. All Toyota wants is for you to give it a chance. Has it earned it?


Background

With other brands in the medium range Mondeo-sector, it's reached the point where estate variants sell better than the standard saloon or five-door models. That has yet to happen in Toyota's Avensis line-up, but the brand is hoping that things could change with this revised Tourer model. It features all the hi-tech changes lately made to the current third generation Avensis, a car now established with a reputation for offering only slightly sub-Lexus build quality at Toyota prices.
With the exterior and interior styling handed to Lexus for tidying up and the promise of better efficiency, this car is starting to look a very smart pick in its sector - and it's a practical one in Tourer guise. Cars like this one should be able to fight the traditionalist's corner with some conviction against the invading hoards of trendy compact MPVs.


Driving Experience

Tourer buyers get exactly the same driving dynamics common to the rest of the range. The bar for driving dynamics in this sector is set extremely high and the Avensis has been playing catch up with a fast-moving target. There has been some tweaking of suspension components to offer a sharper drive but you'll look in vain for a sporty model. That said, it benefits from a fundamentally decent setup with wide front and rear tracks and minimal overhangs. The third generation car rides well and body control is good with decently accurate steering, if lacking in feel a little. The latest updates will only improve on that.
Although Toyota offers a 1.8-litre petrol unit for the Avensis, by far the most popular engine in the line up is the 124bhp 2.0 D-4D diesel unit - especially with business users. There's also a 148bhp 2.2-litre D-4D diesel for those in more of a hurry. This serves up a decent slug of grunt between 2,000 and 2,800rpm, making overtaking simple and enabling you to leave the 6-speed gearbox pretty much alone as you waft around on this huge surge of torque. You can also specify this engine with an automatic gearbox.
If it feels faster than comparable rivals, that's because it is: this car is an astonishing nine seconds quicker from rest to 100mph than a comparable Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi. It's the same story with the comparable 145bhp 1.8-litre petrol Valvematic Avensis, a full second and a half quicker to sixty than, say, its 1.8-litre Vauxhall Insignia counterpart. Petrol models are also offered in 1.8 and 2.0 litre guises. Six speed manual boxes come as standard but a minority may wish to opt for the Multidrive S continuously variable transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. It doesn't turn the Avensis into wholly convincing sports saloon though. It needs a little more attitude for that.


Design and Build

As you might expect, the Avensis prioritises space and practicality over swoopy good looks when it comes to the Tourer estate version. Not that it isn't handsome thing from most angles. The biggest compliment you can pay to it is that it doesn't look rehashed. The slimmer headlights, the more aggressive front intakes and the bolder grille give it a more assertive look that it always deserved. At the back, there's a revised bumper and light cluster pairing. Alloy wheel designs have also been revisited.
The Tourer is properly spacious with 543 litres of boot space, extendable to 1609 litres if you activate the neat one-touch folding mechanism and flatten the split-folding rear seats. Take a seat inside and it's not the most eye-catching cabin in the class but we'd wager it'll prove to be one of the most durable. As before, there's plenty of space inside. The generously proportioned cabin features decent front and rear leg room. Quality has been improved right across the board, with better upholstery, dashboard trims, switchgear and door pulls. The front seats have been redesigned for better comfort and support and the amber instrument backlighting on the instrument binnacle is replaced by white lighting.
As you might expect, the Avensis prioritises space and practicality over swoopy good looks when it comes to the Tourer estate version. Not that it isn't handsome thing from most angles. The biggest compliment you can pay to it is that it doesn't look rehashed. The slimmer headlights, the more aggressive front intakes and the bolder grille give it a more assertive look that it always deserved. At the back, there's a revised bumper and light cluster pairing. Alloy wheel designs have also been revisited.
The Tourer is properly spacious with 543 litres of boot space, extendable to 1609 litres if you activate the neat one-touch folding mechanism and flatten the split-folding rear seats. Take a seat inside and it's not the most eye-catching cabin in the class but we'd wager it'll prove to be one of the most durable. As before, there's plenty of space inside. The generously proportioned cabin features decent front and rear leg room. Quality has been improved right across the board, with better upholstery, dashboard trims, switchgear and door pulls. The front seats have been redesigned for better comfort and support and the amber instrument backlighting on the instrument binnacle is replaced by white lighting.


Market and Model

Prices are of course directly comparable to those of obvious rivals like Ford's Mondeo, Vauxhall's Insignia and Renault's Laguna. There's a premium of around £1,000 if you want this Tourer estate over the saloon.
The big news with this improved version we're looking at herel is the integration of Toyota's information and entertainment systems. Toyota Touch, Touch and Go and Touch and Go Plus setups feature a touch screen display that, in its ultimate guise, controls sat nav, Bluetooth, an 11-speaker stereo, rear view camera, text messaging, voice recognition and speed camera warnings.
Otherwise, equipment across the range runs to air conditioning, an MP3-compatible audio system, heated electrically adjustable door mirrors, electric front windows, seven airbags, body coloured door handles and bumpers and a multi-information display. The Tourer model can also be ordered with a panoramic glass roof. Some interesting safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Lights, Adaptive Cruise Control and a sophisticated Pre-Crash system are also offered. Not so long ago this sort of kit was the preserve of high-end luxury cars. Now it's available on an Avensis.


Cost of Ownership

The 2.0-litre D-4D engine most will choose in the Avensis Tourer features emissions of just 119g/km, down significantly from its predecessor's 139g/km showing. This has significant tax implications for both business and private buyers Europe-wide. An all-new turbocharger design and revisions to the combustion chamber have helped achieve these figures. Choose the bigger diesel engine and it's available with either a diesel particulate filter (DPF) or a DPF and NOX Reduction Filter (DPNR).
The Avensis was one of the first Toyotas to benefit from the company's Optimal Drive technology, a package of fuel-saving features that use low-friction, lightweight components and advanced engine technology to cut carbon dioxide emissions and boost power. This has helped cement its reputation as a cost-effective car to run, which is where most sales battles are won and lost in the medium range marketplace. Respected residual experts CAP expect that after the usual three years and 36,000 miles, this Avensis will be worth more than rivals from Vauxhall, Peugeot and Ford, holding on to around 35% of its original value.


Summary

The Toyota Avensis Tourer isn't going to be one of the stronger selling estate cars in the medium range Mondeo segment. Previously, to be frank, that was because it wasn't that good. Today though, this car has cleaned up its act. It's more efficient, better equipped, has a higher feeling of quality inside and out and is still just as practical as ever, without being frumpily box-shaped.
A thinking family's man's choice then. And one you can believe in.
The Toyota Avensis Tourer isn't going to be one of the stronger selling estate cars in the medium range Mondeo segment. Previously, to be frank, that was because it wasn't that good. Today though, this car has cleaned up its act. It's more efficient, better equipped, has a higher feeling of quality inside and out and is still just as practical as ever, without being frumpily box-shaped.



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