Long-term test update – 4 June 2009
It’s not meant to be ironic, but I suppose it is: a picture of the Toyota Avensis, lined up on the grid at Goodwood with the other Wacky Racers, from the feature in the latest July 2009 issue of CAR Magazine. Can you imagine a less *wacky* car to drive to a photoshoot like this? It’s like an accountant turning up in an episode of The Flintstones to talk to Fred about Capital Gains Tax.
But then, there are times when you want your car to be vanilla-flavoured sensible, like when you pick up Stuart Collins the photographer at 5 in the morning to drive down to Goodwood Circuit, and it’s cold and dark outside. Then you want heated seats and a good radio and no fuss, and a tank of diesel with a 436-mile range. So I’m still a fan of the Avensis, even though it rarely gets my pulse racing like Dick Dastardly’s Mean Machine did.
Having said that, there isn’t actually anything WRONG with the way the Toyota drives. I didn’t get a chance to take the Toyota around the circuit at Goodwood, but I know it wouldn’t have disgraced itself if I had. The 2.2 D4-D engine is strong with 250lb ft of torque, it’s reasonably swift (9.2 seconds to 62mph), the controls are all evenly weighted, the steering is surprisingly communicative and direct, and the gearbox is neat and slick. Best of all is the ride – it’s really excellent, firm but absorbing, with brilliant body control and plenty of poise if you want to chuck it into a corner.
What’s missing is that vital, mysterious ingredient – character. I don’t know how a manufacturer can inject that, short of deliberately designing in a few loveable flaws (which doesn’t sound like Toyota’s way). But it means, after almost four months of driving it, the Toyota is like a very effective colleague at work: someone you like to have on your side, someone you can trust in the office… but not someone you’d necessarily want to go for a beer with.
Anyway, I’m borrowing a Mondeo estate in a few weeks to compare, and answer this question: is it just the Toyota, or has the endless drive for convenience, comfort and refinement banished character from this segment entirely? I’ll let you know.
By Mark Walton
Mileage this month
Fuel costs this month
£156 (roof bars)
An easy car to live with, with very little wrong
‘An easy car to live with, very little wrong’ is as good as it gets
Toyota Avensis hello - 29 April 2009
Sharp-eyed readers out there will have spotted that this new Avensis is not the only Toyota currently on our long-term test fleet. It’s like the slightly less interesting cousin to the cool and fascinating Toyota iQ that you’ll also find in these pages – the boring accountant at the iQ’s dinner party, that bloke called Howard in Take That; it’s the Ralf Schumacher of our Toyota long-term line-up.
But don’t worry, I’m here to defend the Toyota Avensis from the many insults thrown at it by people who haven’t actually driven it yet – bloody journalists and their prejudices. And if you haven’t driven this third generation Avensis, then you don’t know that it’s actually refined, well-built, with a high spec, good gearbox and an excellent D4-D turbodiesel engine. It’s also handsome (in estate form at least), it steers well, it has a great stereo, a brilliant touch-screen sat nav system… the list goes on.
So it may not be as interesting as the iQ – or for that matter a BMW or an Alfa – but compared to a Mondeo, the Avensis deserves a bit of recognition, and that’s what I’m here to do.
Our car arrived in March with 1900 miles on the clock. It’s a 2.2 D4-D Tourer in ‘T4’ spec, which means 17-inch alloys, leather trim, cruise control, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights and the same Smart Entry system as our iQ. We also have two options – a sat-nav upgrade including a rear-facing camera (£1470) and Aspen Grey metallic paint (£370). Altogether, CAR’s car stands at £24,400.
I wondered whether giving it an exciting name might help. I was thinking about the ‘Burnaston Rocket’, named after the town where the new Avensis is built, in Derby. Or perhaps ‘Oniwabanshu’ – named after the deadly Ninja sect. But then that’s a bit misleading – what the Avensis does well isn’t scary or thrilling. So I’ve decided to called it Alan instead.
By Mark Walton
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