- MT Expert
New Avensis marks Toyota´s 40th year of UK sales
The saying was 'The car in front is a Toyota' but as far as the Avensis models went, perhaps they weren't easily recognised from other run of the mill mass produced medium sized cars.
But those who bought them new, and latterly secondhand, rate them highly for the interior space and luggage room they offer, the build quality, good levels of specification and of course their reliability. The downside was their harsh and non-compliant ride comfort, numb steering, road noise intrusion and bland looks.
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All these negative issues Toyota have attempted to redress with the launch on 1 July of their re-engineered 2007 Avensis range. But more of that later.
Toyota sales in the UK started in 1966, the last time England won the World Cup so perhaps it is a good omen that July 2006, just as the current World Cup competition is underway, that Toyota is launching their heavily revised Avensis range.
The British designed and built Toyota Avensis is the flagship model of their range selling in the upper medium sector of the new car market. The outgoing range was first produced at Toyota's Burnaston factory in Derbyshire in 2003 where all Avensis models are built for sale around the world. The Burnaston plant builds up to 285,000 Avensis and Corolla models with one car rolling off the production line every 45 seconds. Around the world Toyota builds a vehicle every 4.2 seconds, every hour of every day giving it an annual global production figure of 7.5 million units making it almost the world's largest automotive manufacturer, just behind GM.
Toyota (GB) sees the Avensis range of saloons, five-door hatchbacks and estates as their pivotal model range in building awareness of their brand as a whole. They say the Avensis, since its launch in 2003, has succeeded in defining the superior quality, refinement and driving pleasure that now runs through all new Toyota model ranges.
Last year in the UK Toyota sold 22,222 Avensis cars with fleet and user chooser customers taking 73% of them. This year with the downturn in the UK's new car market, and with the swap over period between the new and old Avensis models, Toyota (GB) expect to sell 19,500 Avensis units with 9,500 of them being the new 2007 models. The percentage of fleet business for the Avensis so far this year has reduced slightly to around 60 per cent as customers wait for the new range.
In the upper medium sector Toyota (GB) see the Avensis bridging the gap between volume selling models such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra and premium brands such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series and competing against the new VW Passat range./
Traditionally the Avensis five-door Hatchback is the best selling model in the range accounting for 73 per cent of sales with the Tourer (estate) taking 14 per cent and the Saloon 13 per cent. When it comes to sales of engine types, diesel models last year accounted for 54 per cent of sales and so far this year this has increased to almost 60 per cent. The 2.0-litre diesel engine last year was by far the biggest selling diesel unit with nearly 44 per cent of registrations. The best selling petrol unit was the 1.8-litre engine bought by 38 per cent of customers.
For the new 2007 model range Toyota offers three diesel engine options. They are introducing two new diesel units, the 2.0-litre D-4D 130 unit with 124bhp and 300Nm of torque which gives better economy, lower emissions and higher performance over the outgoing D-4D unit.
The second new diesel engine is the T180 with a 2.2-litre D-4D engine producing 175bhp and 400Nm of torque is added to the range. The third diesel engine in the line-up is the current 2.2-litre D-4D 150 unit with 148bhp and 310Nm of torque. All diesel engined models have a 6-speed manual transmission.
The new Avensis range retains its current Euro IV petrol 1.8 and 2.0-litre VVT (variable valve timing) engines and both are available with five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission options. The best selling petrol 1.8-litre unit develops 127bhp with 170Nm of torque. The 2.0-litre unit develops 145bhp and 196Nm of torque.
Overall the new 2007 Avensis models have a restyled front end with new grille and headlamp design, new door mirrors with integrated indicator lamps and new rear light clusters. There are revisions to the suspension and steering systems to improve handling and ride comfort. There are also equipment upgrades across the entire range.
Prices now start at £15,515 and rise to £22,515. The Saloon and Hatchback models are the same price whilst the Tourer costs £1,000 more in each level of specification. Insurance group ratings range from 7E to 12E.
The anticipated best selling model will be the Avensis 2.0 D-4D 130 T3-x diesel priced at £17,515 with a 7E insurance group rating.
So is the new Avensis an improvement? Well at following this week's media first drive event of the new range I still wouldn't say the looks of the new Avensis single it out from the crowd of other blandish cars of a similar type. The use of Lexus style lights and the new Toyota grille certainly sharpen up its image but it still doesn't grab my attention but I would rather see it on my driveway than a Mondeo or Vectra. It looks a quality product, interesting and has a reasonable presence but no more than that.
You need to drive and live with this car to appreciate it. Firstly it is still very roomy for rear seat passengers, a bit tight for headroom in the Hatchback, but overall it will surprise you on its size. Especially when you open the tailgate on the hatch or the boot on the saloon and the Tourer is a good load carrier as well.
The interior finish is really of very high quality and you just know it is going to go on looking good after the first year or so of use has passed. The added specification has produced a small price increase across the board but it feels and more importantly it looks an expensive car.
The ride quality has improved although there is still more road noise than some of its competitors and although the ride is softer and the suspension absorbs the bumps better the ride can be jittery on our well worn road motorway road surfaces. However the steering feel has been improved significantly. The feedback is very good and the cars turns sharply and corners accurately.
The new 2.0-litre D-4D 130 diesel engine replaces a unit which was already a strong performer but this new version is even better. Yes there is evidence of engine clatter, especially when under hard acceleration, but it is responsive. Although the test car, the best selling Hatchback, only showed 38.6mpg on average during my test drive I would expect that figure would improve to nearer the published 51.4mpg. The combination of this torquey engine and the six-speed transmission with well spaced gear ratios made it the most sensible choice for most customers.
Those drivers wanting sportier performance will not be disappointed with the new 2.2-litre T180 diesel engine, the most powerful four-cylinder engine in its segment. This is a real flyer and a true sports diesel, fast, responsive and strong. This unit impressed me, not least of all, with its 36.5mpg fuel consumption during the brief test drive.
There are no less than 47 different Avensis models in the new line-up, enough to meet the requirements of any customer whether they are high mileage company car users or private buyers, all it needs is for more customers to discover exactly what the very good and accomplished Avensis has to offer.
MILESTONES Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D 130 T3-x 5-Door. Price:£17,515. Engine: All aluminium high pressure direct injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder with turbocharger and intercooler, 124bhp, 300Nm of torque from 2,000rpm. Performance: 124mph, 0-62mph 10.6 seconds, 51.4mpg (38.6mpg actual), CO2 146 g/km. VED: Band C. Insurance group: 7E.
For: Better looks improved visual appeal, high build quality, interior finish and space, reliability, improved handling. Against: Not very much in truth â€“ conservative but improved exterior styling, restricted rear headroom in the Hatchback, fidgety ride on occasions.