The Toyota Avensis is an institution in Ireland. In 2011 it was the third best-selling car overall, significantly ahead of most cars of its size. Here's the 2012 model, boasting a fresh face and a new Band A-busting diesel engine.
Inside & Out: 3.5/5
Somewhat strangely, the new Avensis looks, well, newer now that it's in Ireland. Admittedly the changes are relatively minor, but they're enough to pique people's interest. The front is highly successful, giving the car more presence on the road, while the rear looks a little bulbous to our eyes.
Inside, the Avensis feels of higher quality than before - especially on this top-of-the range Luna model, which boasts lovely leather and Alcantara seats. They brighten up the cabin, which has been revised with more tactile switchgear and a new centre console. We'd like a few more cubbyholes to put bits and pieces on a long drive, but it's a spacious, comfortable car in general.
Ride & Handling: 3/5
A score of three out of five may sound only average, but this car needs to be put into context. There are many alternatives at the same price point that are more interesting to drive. However, the Avensis is, above all else, stable and competent, which is all that really matters to the majority of buyers.
As you'd hope, it's comfortable on the motorway too, though we were surprised with how much road noise is generated by the tyres and suspension, while wind noise is well supressed.
Engine & Transmission: 4/5
The engine hums at a cruise, even if it is more audible around town. It performs well though, with plenty of shove low down and in the mid-range for overtaking. As the numbers above suggest there's little gain in revving the engine, but it pretty much puts the 2.2 diesel option into retirement.
As with all Toyota gearboxes, the six-speed manual unit in the Avensis is slick enough. The gears are quite spaced apart in the hunt for fuel economy - meaning sixth is often too high for anything less than 100km/h or so.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4.5/5
The single most important aspect of this new version of the Toyota Avensis is its 120g/km CO2 figure. That puts it in Band A so it can compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion in terms of efficiency. We averaged 6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg) in about 800 kilometres of mixed driving.
Our pick of the range would be the Strata model, which includes dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, auto lights, electric folding door mirrors, electric windows all-round and the Toyota Touch infotainment system. The Luna model adds luxury touches such as the special upholstery to that, but you pay for it of course.