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First drive: Toyota Avensis – on sale July 1



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The Avensis has had the most subtle of makeovers, which includes new chrome touches and indicator lights on each wing mirror.

Oh, and two new diesel engines: 2.0-litre D-4D and 2.2-litre D-4D 180.

The new 2.0-litre D-4D gives an extra 10bhp over its predecessor, and returns 51.4 mpg instead of the previous 48mpg. It is definitely more refined, but the desirable block is the 2.2-litre D-4D 180.

This engine is exclusively in Toyota’s flagship model, the T180. Its 175bhp unit is, according to Toyota, the most powerful and cleanest engine in its class, and it knocks two seconds off the 2.0-litre’s 0-62mph time.

All the car’s safety features will help the Avensis appeal to company car drivers who want to carry their young families around at weekends. And for those who need it, the Avensis offers loads of space (up to 1,320-litres for the hatchback, up to 1,500-litres with the Tourer).

The interior has a neat layout, quality fittings, trim that is nice to the touch; and the new version doesn’t disappoint. Again, the T180 stands out, with beautiful leather and Alcantara seats that gently hug your thighs.

The sat-nav is a disappointment – it’s a small mono screen that tries to cram too much information on it. Full colour satellite navigation is available as an optional extra (£750 including VAT), but only on the T Spirit and T180, which already have the base system as standard.

Toyota expects to sell 9,500 face-lifted models before the end of this year. The 2.0-litre is its key model, as many fleet companies specify a 2.0-litre cut-off point.

Last year, 22,222 Avensis were sold, of which 16.074 went to the fleet market (6,148 retail). Worldwide, 156,000 examples were sold.

The Avensis is a decent looking car, with a decent drive – but not particularly memorable. This is actually a compliment, as usually there are at least one or two things about a car that really grates. Not so with Toyota’s flagship.

And it looks as though it should cost more than it does, which is always going to go down well with its target audience.

Price: From £17,515
Engine: 2.0-litre D-4D 130 diesel 124bhp, 221lb ft. 2.2-litre D-4D 180 diesel 175bhp, 295lb ft
Performance: 2.0: 0-62mph 10.6sec, top speed 124mph. 2.2: 0-62mph 8.6sec, top speed 137mph
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Efficiency: 2.0: 51.4mpg, 146g/km CO2. 2.2: 46.3mpg, 161g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: Not available
Rivals: Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Laguna, Ford Mondeo
Strengths: Reliability, build quality
Weaknesses: Not a pulse racer
Opportunity: Fleet market
Threat: More excitement from some competitors
USP: Safety and good range of engines

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