Toyota Avensis 1.8 Valvematic Tourer (2009) review

Published:15 December 2008

Toyota Avensis Estate CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5
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  • 3 out of 5

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

Do you have a handy mat for kneeling on in the garden? How about an all-in-one slipper for both your feet? Cantilevered ‘easy’ tongs for picking up leaves without bending down? Is the biggest thrill in your day the frisson of fear delivered by virtue of the Daily Mail’s latest doom-mongering?

No? Well then the chances are that you do not own the current Toyota Avensis either. It’s the sort of car owned by people who take food out of its packaging, and decant it into stackable Tupperware.

Uninspired, pedestrian and lacking in almost any ambition, the only notable feature of the old one was that it looked a bit odd, as though somebody had left it on the window sill in the hot sun, and the corners had melted.

But then faithful, dependable Toyota doesn’t really do exciting. It’s just not part of its plan, and it has a point - admittedly one that most CAR readers just won't get. There are a lot of Tupperware stackers out there, which is why it sells such a staggering amount of cars.

But Ford, Mazda and even Vauxhall have managed to take the humble saloon and do something fairly exciting with it. Perhaps the new generation Avensis will give suburbanites their morning thrill, without the need for stories about knife-wielding immigrants.

I love the sight of Anton Du Beke in his jumpsuit on hilarious TV programme ‘The Wall’. Will the Avensis’s aesthetics give me such a thrill?

Probably not.  It seems more time has been spent on the names for the design language than the actual design, with such nuggets as Vibrant Clarity, J-factor, Perfect Imbalance, Freeform Geometrics and Integrated Component Architecture colluding to produce a car that looks rather like a cheap imitation of a Lexus, which of course is no surprise.

The headlights have an edgy, winged appeal while the grille has the chromed, manly strength of it luxurious cousin. But it looks like they’ve fitted the wrong-sized bonnet, with the rim finishing at half-mast somewhere back behind the lights.

The rear, of the saloon in particular, is bland. There’s a badge and some lights but it could be any saloon from the Pacific Rim.

As a design it is singularly unremarkable, perfunctory and delivering no surprises, no flourish and not a jot of joy: a car penned as a means to an end. 

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Toyota Avensis Tourer first drive

You can buy three for the price of two on Ovaltine in Tesco’s. Is the Avensis similarly good value?

Thankfully yes. Although diesel is the ubiquitous choice in this sector, the lowering of the cost of petrol and the improvements made in petrol economy make them worth a look. In the Avensis the 1.8 Valvematic, with intelligent variable valve timing is 10% more efficient than the unit it replaces to the tune of 154g/km, while power is up by 14% to 145bhp taking the 0-62mph time under 10 seconds

A six speed manual T2 at £15,760 looks good value for money too, although the big seller will be the mid range TR, at £17,470.

The 2.0-litre D-4D 130 diesel is the pick of the range. It is smooth and willing and with emissions of only 134g/km its combination of power and efficiency is class-leading, and crucially offers company car drivers, where eight out of ten of these Toyota saloons will end up, a low tax bill.

That is has got to this level is down to something called Toyota Optimal Drive, a suitably techy moniker for piezoelectric injectors which allow even more accurate apportioning of fuel, plus there's also low viscosity oil and a new combustion chamber shape that gives a more efficient burn.

Of course, with 126bhp, the only ball of fire is in those newly remodelled chambers, but for a means of getting to Z from A with as little X-factor as possible it does a fine job. 

My electric blanket has been going strong for years. I assume the Avensis will deliver such trustworthiness.

This is a considerable strength of the Avensis. The last model was superbly reliable and there is no reason this won’t be.

Delivering dependability and low cost is this engine’s forte, and you will apparently spend only 4.2 hours of your life over 60,000 miles waiting for your Avensis to come back from a service – these things matter to Toyota and its customers.

Interior quality is what you would expect: well built but dull. In fact, the only highlight of the interior is the crinkly plastic across doors and dash which looks like fossilised bingo wing skin.

You find yourself becoming rather William Woollard when assessing the Avensis: the controls fall easily to hand, the coin storage compartment is covered in hard wearing material and in some models you don’t even need to put a key in the ignition. What will they think of next? Over to Tony at the RAC Rally.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Toyota Avensis Tourer first drive

When taking the post office manager’s family hostage before looting all the cash, will there be enough space in the boot for them, and then enough getaway ability?

In almost all cases, the estate version of an upper medium saloon is the more handsome, and that’s exactly what happens with the Avensis, where some flared rear shoulders and long, slinky glasshouse finally create a car with a bit of dash about it, while a decent 543 litres of boot space should provide plenty of space for any bound and gagged family.

There’s also a lot of room in the cabin. Although it’s not much bigger than the car it replaces, the Avensis manages to improve on such old fashioned virtues as rear legroom, which is excellent.

Show it a corner though, as with all models in the range, and it rolls like a drunken sailor while the steering is precise enough, but without any communication. The trade off is a high level of ride comfort – hitting its target market entirely.

But at £980 more than the equivalent saloon version the Tourer looks the most sensible of a sensible bunch. Logic surely dictates that in this most logical of car ranges buyers should opt for the one with the most space and adaptability, as well as verging on actually being desirable.

In many ways the Avensis is a very good car indeed. But Toyota is looking to attract buyers who see their car as a burdensome government cash cow or something akin to a fridge or vacuum cleaner, and service them accordingly with something that does the job with a minimum of fuss but little panache, and I fear many will want a bit more spice in their lives than this.

What do you think of the Toyota Avensis Tourer? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say


Price when new: £16,740
On sale in the UK: January 2009
Engine: 1798cc 16v 4cyl Valvematic, 145bhp @ 6400rpm, 133lb ft @ 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 9.7sec 0-62mph, 124mph, 42.8mpg, 154g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1405kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4765/1810/1480


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  • Toyota Avensis Estate CAR review
  • Toyota Avensis Estate CAR review

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper