‘You have to watch out for the quiet ones’ is how the saying always goes, but why watch out for them? Is it because they listen much more than they speak or perhaps that when others are conversing the quiet ones are busy thinking up diabolical schemes. Whatever the reason it might be sound advice considering it’s the quiet ones that can catch people off guard when they finally make their feelings known. The Toyota Avensis Tourer is a quiet one on NZ roads, it’s been around for a few years but has gone largely unnoticed by many kiwi motorists. For 2009 a new Avensis has arrived but what sort of impact is it set to have on the NZ market? Car and SUV spent a week with the 2009 Avensis to find out.
Designed and engineered by Toyota’s European arm in the U.K the Avensis has been given a full exterior makeover and is no shrinking violet. It has a sleek athletic stance assisted by a raked back windscreen and thin A-pillars. The Avensis’ glasshouse tapers sharply from front backwards and a low roofline helps disguise the vehicle’s generous proportions. It’s handy on hauling duties with a 543-litre capacity when the rear seats are up and a massive 1609 litres with rear seats folded. Front-end styling is anything but boring with a blinging chrome grille sitting between huge halogen headlight clusters. Finishing off the extroverted new look is tinted privacy glass, a high rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels. Overall, it’s an aesthetic that won’t appeal to all and while salient is still more business suit than Hawaiian shirt.
No risks have been taken with cabin design, step inside and you’re greeted with a generic Toyota interior. Dark grey plastics are broken up with touches of silver and brushed metal trim; it’s unfussy and ergonomically excellent. It’s not going to illicit gasps of amazement from visiting passengers but the materials used are quality and it has a feeling of durability. All seating is wide and comfortable and head and legroom is generous throughout. The rear storage area is flush with practical touches including a flat loading floor with rear seats folded and plastic under floor storage for wet or dirty items. There are also adjustable rails with securing points to tie down baggage on long trips and a sliding cover to hide your gear. Although the cabin is conservative in style some useful equipment lays beneath its dark surfaces. Dual zone air conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, Bluetooth phone capability and a six-speaker stereo are all standard fare.
On the road the Avensis is motivated by a 2-litre petrol engine that produces 112kW of power and 196Nm of torque. It has to work hard to generate any sort of performance from what’s quite a heavy vehicle. That said, it’s a smooth and suitably quiet engine that cruises pleasantly. Mated to a CVT automatic gearbox the engine surges under throttle promising a spirited acceleration, but never really delivers. A sport button and sequential manual shift options are available but can only extract marginally more performance from the motor. There are benefits from the Avensis’ relaxed demeanor – the CVT box offers smooth changes and it’s an easy drive for those not interested in tearing around. Additionally, it has an impressive fuel economy of 7-litres per 100km (combined).
The Avensis feels more at home humming along the motorway than on twisty B-roads, but it’s no whale on a roller skate on the twisty stuff. Special attention has been paid to the torsional stiffness and roll rigidity on the new Avensis platform and with fair results. There isn’t excessive body roll during cornering and grip is ample even in wet conditions. It’s not an overtly dynamic machine but is predictable and has a precise steering feel on the bends.
The suspension is tuned for comfort with very little in the way of bumps or dips transferred through to the vehicles occupants. The cabin is a fairly quiet serene environment and makes use of good aerodynamics to diminish wind noise. It also feels well shod with 16-inch tyres making tyre roar audible only on rough surfaces.
The Avensis isn’t shy about offering good safety specification for its intended family use. ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution is on hand. As is stability and traction control. Active front headrests and a full nine-airbag package including driver’s knee airbag are ready to go. Front and rear seatbelt reminders will keep the kids honest and ISO fix points are in place for anchoring children’s car seats.
So is the new Toyota Avensis going to break its silence, rise above previous models and become a D-segment hero? The answer is most likely, no. The Avensis doesn’t have the power, dynamic ability and styling flair to match the Mazda6 or Ford Mondeo wagons. However, Avensis is Latin meaning ‘to carry away’ and that’s something it does very well. Passengers are carried in a comfortable spacious cabin, and luggage receives similarly good treatment. The Avensis is a true quiet achiever and it’s easy-going attitude does make for a drivable and practical vehicle. There is also a genuine feeling of durability and quality to it and being a Toyota mechanical reliability can be expected. If you’re a quiet one yourself and want a practical family wagon that flies under the radar with minimal fuss then the Avensis could be for you.
Price: From $47,990 (manual), $49,990 (CVT/automatic)
What we like:
- Good fit and finish
- Safety credentials
- Practical touches
What we don’t like:
- Tame interior design
- Further handling improvements required
Toyota Avensis Tourer (2009) -Specifications
Engine Model Code 3ZR-FAE Type In-line, 4 cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC Chain Drive with Valvematic and Dual Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i)
Alternator 100 amps
Battery Voltage 12 volts
Bore 80.5 mm
Capacity 1987 cc
Compression 10.0 : 1 Condition
Combined Emission 165 g/km
Test EU Directive 70/220/EEC
Fuel Tank Capacity 60 litres
Fuel Type Premium Recommended Injection
Type Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)
Location Front, Transverse
Maximum Power 112kW at 6200rpm
Maximum Torque 196Nm at 4000rpm
Starter 1.3 kW Stroke 97.6 mm
Vehicle Fuel Economy Information
Fuel Economy Rating 4.5 out of 6 Litres per 100km
Fuel Cost Per Year 2008 cost per year based on price per litre of $1.85 and an average distance of 14,000 km $1,810
Front MacPherson struts with stabiliser bar
Rear Double wishbone with stabiliser bar
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Type 7-Step CVT
Drive Type Front Wheel Drive
Reverse Ratio 1.668
Final Ratio 5.182
Shift Type CVT
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo