The Toyota Avensis Touring Sport – or Avensis estate, to most of us – has a big job to do. This third generation is a heavy facelift of a car that has been around since 2009. Since then many of its rivals have been completely replaced, including the Volkswagen Passat, Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo estates, to name the key three. All of them are excellent, too, so the Avensis must really come up with something special.
Key changes to the updated Avensis include new exterior and interior styling, more efficient diesel engines, an upgraded interior and a claimed improvement in refinement. On top of that, all models now get Toyota‘s Safety Sense system as standard, which adds lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic headlight dipping and an emergency braking system. It’s not just a bit of extra chrome, then, but can the changes make the Avensis a worthy adversary to our favourite family wagons?
What’s the 2015 Toyota Avensis Touring Sport 2.0 D-4D like to drive?
Toyota has revised the suspension and steering for this new model, and the changes have made the Avensis better to drive. There’s plenty of grip and the Toyota always feels composed and secure, albeit with a fair amount of bodyroll. The steering is also predictably weighted, and makes easy work of a motorway cruise or a tight car park space, so while the Avensis is never going to trouble a Mondeo, or even the Superb or Passat, for driver satisfaction, it is more than good enough in this respect.
This new 2.0 D-4D diesel engine replaces the old 2.2, and is well sorted in terms of its performance, pulling with adequate gusto from low revs without any ungainly surges in power. Its best work is over with fairly quickly, though, so there’s no point exploring the higher rev ranges where the engine becomes really noisy and coarse-sounding.
In fact, engine noise is always a pervasive background grumble, even on a steady throttle, and there are noticeable vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals, particularly under acceleration. The gearshift is also pretty notchy, if light, and road noise also becomes quite intrusive and boomy at higher speeds or over coarse surfaces. In short, it’s a long way off the refinement of any of the aforementioned rivals.
Sadly, ride comfort is also flawed, and probably not helped by the standard 18in alloy wheels on our Excel-trim test car. Much of the time it’s pliant enough, but hit a mid-corner bump or expansion joint and it thumps and shudders heavily, and even low-speed potholes will unsettle it.
What’s the 2015 Toyota Avensis Touring Sport 2.0 D-4D like inside?
Toyota’s cabins are generally comfortable and well designed, but often lacking in the visual flair and quality feel offered by rivals. Fortunately, the company has done a lot here to improve the Avensis’s previously dour cabin.
New seats and an all-new dashboard, replete with a smart driver’s information display and media system, have lifted the ambience of the cabin significantly.
It feels suitably hardwearing, too, although it’s annoying to find that there are still some particularly low-quality finishes in key places. For example, the door grab handles are made out of a hard, glossy plastic that isn’t particularly tactile and easily attracts greasy marks. Ultimately, a Skoda Superb feels much classier inside, and a VW Passat feels vastly more premium, and both are more user-friendly.
More importantly, though, the Avensis estate offers plenty of easily accessed and comfortable space both front and rear, and the big boot is very practical, being a good shape, with a low load lip, standard underfloor storage and rear seats that fold flat easily. It’ll certainly be a really good family estate, with ample room for a bulky buggy and a dog, although Toyota’s claimed 543-1609 litre boot capacity does look a bit pokey next to the Skoda Superb’s cavernous 660-1990 litres of space.
You’ll find plenty of cubbyholes in the cabin, too, and a large glovebox. It’s pleasing to find a space-saver spare wheel standard across the range, too, instead of an often useless tyre repair kit. Little touches like this can make a car so much easier to live with.
Our top-spec Excel test car comes with all the equipment you could want as standard, but the cheaper Business Edition trim makes much more financial sense to private or company car buyers, since it still comes with an 8.0in touchscreen, rear-view camera, sat-nav, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and automatic lights and wipers.
Should I buy one?
As an ownership proposition, the Avensis Touring Sport is practical, safe, well equipped, and bolstered by a great reputation for reliability and a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
For all that, it is a somewhat joyless car to drive that is neither as comfortable nor as quiet as the majority of its rivals, and even its interior space and practicality are acceptable but nothing special. On top of that, the 2.0 D-4D engine also emits comparably high CO2 emissions for this class, putting it three tax bands higher than the Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150 and making it hard to justify as a company car.
Even private buyers have little incentive to go for the Toyota, since the Skoda in SE Business trim is more than £1000 cheaper, although the Toyota does surpass the Skoda’s standard safety kit. All of this adds up to a car that’s hard to make a case for among so many much more accomplished rivals.
What Car? says…
Skoda Superb Estate
Ford Mondeo Estate