SECTOR D-segment PRICE £22,560-£26,825 FUEL 62.8mpg CO2 119g/km
Four years is a long time in the fleet industry, and the Toyota Avensis, launched in 2008 and hardly class-leading then, has been ripe for an overhaul to keep up with competitors for too many of those years.
So the Derbyshire-built car has undergone a midlife facelift, with a raft of styling and engineering changes aimed at re-energising its appeal and the way it drives.
Cosmetically the update is relatively modest. There are no major panel changes to the body, but the car has been given a new grille and restyled bumpers that add marginally to the overall length. The headlamps are narrower with daytime running lights added – LEDs on top T Spirit models – and there are extra touches of chrome. Toyota says the look of the new Avensis introduces the “face” of its next-generation models.
Better driving dynamics and improved ride comfort were the targets of the engineering changes. The car body has been made more rigid with areas of high-tensile steel and extra spot-welding. There is extra insulation to reduce noise and vibration, and to help fuel economy there are aerodynamic tweaks while low rolling resistance tyres are now specified. The electric power steering has been retuned, and both the front and rear suspension have been modified.
The 2.0-litre D-4D engine, the range best-seller, has a new turbocharger to achieve the same power delivery at lower engine revs but with more refinement. There is a revised diesel glow plug and changes to the oil pump and water pump, plus component modifications that have cut 3kg off the weight of the engine. The combined result of this is a 17% improvement in the car’s fuel economy, going from 53.3mpg to 62.8mpg, and a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions, down from 139 to 119g/km in the saloon, 120g/km in the Tourer. The resulting drop in the BiK rate is significant, down from 20 to 13%.
Interior revisions include redesigned front seats to improve comfort and increase lateral support. There are more soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors, and the door grips and switchgear have been made more tactile. All versions benefit from fabric upgrades, and the instrument dial lighting has been changed from amber to white for improved clarity.
This is also the first car to get Toyota’s Touch and Go integrated multimedia and navigation system fitted as standard, with the unit featured in all except the T2 trim level. T Spirit models introduce Touch and Go Plus with voice recognition and email and calendar access on the move.
Although all the changes are worthwhile improvements that have certainly addressed some of the areas where the Avensis needed attention, the update is relatively modest and it is questionable whether the result is radical enough. Toyota’s D-segment model still feels a bit lacklustre compared with the best of the competition. Although the car has now closed the gap on the Mondeo, Insignia and Passat, this midlife facelift is no overtaking manoeuvre.
The car is certainly a little quieter, and the suppleness of the ride is improved, but the steering is still a bit numb and not particularly communicative, and the gearchange is not quite as slick as it ought to be. The handling is secure and the Avensis hangs on to the bends well enough, but it lacks much entertainment and does not have the engaging driver’s car feel of its better rivals.
There is the feelgood factor of the Avensis being British-made and it now boasts much more competitive CO2 levels. But the all-round improvement is modest, and it has the feel of a catch-up job rather than anything to really worry the sector leaders.