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Toyota Avensis Tourer TR 2.0 D-4D 130

Click to view picture galleryToyotas new Avensis ‘ticks all the
  right boxes
— and in the current
  economic climate that will ensure
  it appeals to as many customers as
  possible
...

ON SALE IN THE UK FROM JANUARY 2009, the British-built new Toyota Avensis range offers more but will sell in fewer numbers than before because the five-door hatchback body style has been dropped from the line-up.

The new Avensis follows the now obligatory path of offering more size, more interior space, more specification, higher quality, better fuel economy, lower exhaust emissions and a greater road presence. Rivals are many, and include the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Honda Accord, Citroen C5, VW Passat, Renault Laguna and the premium Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes Benz C-Class. Even Toyota's own Prius Hybrid and Lexus models now compete for sales in this diminishing market sector.

Designed and engineered in Europe and built in the UK, the all-new third generation Avensis represents to the customer a ten per cent increase in 'added value' — along with the predicted highest trade-in values in its sector. This latter element means very competitive lease, contract hire and purchase plans will be launched in time for the January on-sale date.

The new Avensis, although larger in size — which means better interior space for passengers and with better and more imposing looks — has been slimmed down in the number of derivatives. The new line-up sees five-door Tourer estates, which will marginally be the best selling versions — downsizers from larger SUV/4x4 and MPV people carriers are moving to estate models because they still require five seats and a large load area — and four-door saloons. As already mentioned, the five-door hatchback has been deleted from the line-up because drivers in this class do not see hatchbacks as having the right image.

Prices, following the recent VAT reduction, start at £15,760 and rise to £24,570. The heartland likely best selling model — the 2.0 D-4D 130 TR Tourer — costs £19,235.

With 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines and 2.0 and 2.2-litre diesel units, automatic and manual transmission options (depending on engine type), with T2, TR, T4 and T Spirit specification levels and four-door saloon and five-door Tourer estate models, the new Avensis amply covers all steps of the company car ladder and, despite the recession, businesses still have to change their cars on a three-year cycle as all lease, rental, purchase agreements and residual value ratings run for three years.

Size-wise, the new Avensis is 50mm longer than previous models: the saloon measures 4,605mm and the Tourer 4,765. The new platform also sees the front track increased by 45mm and the rear track by 30mm. In load terms, Tourer variants offer a luggage capacity of 543 to 1,609 litres.

The newcomer has a more substantial look on the road — it appears to be much more of a 'premium' class motor than before. The Tourer version certainly looks the better of the pair, and is definitely the more eye-catching of the two body styles. The interior has hints of Lexus quality: it is neat, and the instruments are logical and generally well positioned — except for the electronic parking brake, which is sited behind the spokes of the steering wheel. The interior is roomy with plenty of headroom front and rear. Overall, it is 'more of the same' from Toyota: conservative in application; hard to criticise; and hard to praise.

As for driving appeal? The reduction in emissions for all engines, with more power and better fuel economy, is praiseworthy and necessary. The main-selling 2.0-litre D-4D turbodiesel engine is certainly the sensible pick of the bunch in every respect from purchase price to running costs, performance and — for business users — Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Around the busy motorways of Milan, on the surrounding mountain routes and in stop-start traffic, the revised engine was responsive, smooth and generally quiet. My test Avensis Tourer with this engine returned a praiseworthy 50mpg and with 136g/km for CO2 emissions this means a road tax rating of Band C and an annual road tax bill of £120.

The ride is set up to be compliant and comfortable (which most real-life users prefer) rather than a harsh and tiring sports configuration. Agility was a word well-used to describe the handling of the new Avensis over the old one. So it's better and it is more involving but still it is on the conservative side.

On the plus side the new Avensis Tourer is British built, has more power, more performance, less running costs and lower emissions. Visually, it's a stylish estate with improved road presence, has a roomy well-equipped cabin with a very good load capacity, is seemingly well made and offers best-in-class residual values. Against? Not much: it lacks flair and verve and projects a safely conservative character but, to use a well worn cliché, the new Avensis ticks all the right boxes — for the majority of buyers anyway. — David Miles

Toyota Avensis Tourer TR 2.0 D-4D 130
| £19,235
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds | Overall test MPG: 50mpg
Power: 124bhp | Torque: 229b ft | CO2 136g/km | Insurance group 6E