New Avensis now a bit of a looker.
Byline: Jonathan Crouch
THE Toyota Avensis has long been the byword for unexciting dependability. So has the latest version acquired a charisma injection? Smarter looking, better built, more efficient and with some mouthwateringly high tech options available, the muchimproved Toyota Avensis strives to shrug off its workaday image. Give it a chance and you might well conclude that it succeeds, even in humble 1.8-litre VVT-i entry-level petrol form.
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. Opting for this 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol model rather than one of the more popular diesel versions means you don't get as much mid-range pulling power, but this variant is still respectably rapid by class standards, taking 9.4 seconds to accelerate from rest to 62mph on the way to a 124mph maximum. Expect those figures to be diminished fractionally if you opt for the MDS automatic gearbox with its steering wheel change paddles.
And on the move? Well, the suspension basics remain much the same, but its elements have been tweaked to improve ride and handling. Steering feel and responsiveness have been improved too.
Toyota has also put more sound insulation into the Avensis, along with fitting thicker rubber seals. The air conditioning has even been made quieter.
The first thing you'll probably notice is that the Avensis has a fresh face. It's not the most sweeping of restyles but there are neater headlight and tail-light pods. Overall vehicle length has been increased by 40mm and the Toyota emblem is set more prominently with a smaller but sharperstyled upper grille.
The grille itself has a chrome trim bar, while the lower grille has been made significantly larger and the fog lamp housings have been pushed out to the extremities of the bumper, making the vehicle appear broader. Revised designs for the alloy wheels and added brightwork on the sill helps the Avensis stand out a bit more.
The cabin has also been treated to some brightening up, with uprated trim finishes and colour schemes. Toyota hasn't done things by halves here, with a redesigned instrument binnacle, the tacho and speedo being separated by a 4.2in colour TFT screen on some models.
The steering wheel, gear lever and switchgear have also been updated. Higher-grade seating fabrics also feature, with a revised front seat design that offers improved comfort.
Build quality is a testament to the workers at the Toyota plant near Derby, this facility routinely achieving some of the best ratings of any Toyota assembly facility. Remember, there's also a Touring Sports estate version on offer if you need a bit more hauling space.
So, the Toyota Avensis is well worth a fresh look - even in this 1.8-litre petrol guise. It's almost like that girl you'd known since you were a kid and thought was a bit of a plain Jane, only to arrive at college with her to find the guys falling over themselves.
Forget the fact that it's an Avensis and you'll see it for what it is; one of the better-looking cars in its class, backed up by superb quality, low running costs and a surprisingly broad dynamic repertoire.
The Toyota Avensis .