Only a few months’ experience in the British fleet market showed that its more substantial Avensis was still no match for its rivals in the crucial area of diesel power.
So all the stops were pulled out to heave a bigger, more powerful D-4D engine under the bonnet of the Japanese firm’s popular fleet car.
Introduced a few months ago, the 2.2-litre turbocharged unit is now set to take a major role in ambitious plans to grow Toyota’s market share – and it is the one powering the latest addition to our long-term fleet. The job of the new engine is to drive Toyota to a stronger position in the upper-medium segment.
That’s a tough call, considering the general trend of downsizing, the greater interest in the sector from the premium brands and the fact that immediate rivals have been either revamped or completely renewed recently.
With 148bhp on offer, the Avensis seems up to the challenge and the 34bhp bonus over the 2.0-litre D-4D adds up to a marked difference with more relaxed cruising and faster acceleration.
We’ll have to see if the greater muscle takes its toll on economy but first impressions are very good, with our car averaging more than 49mpg – better than Toyota’s claimed figure.
Though slightly smaller than most rivals, the Avensis still offers decent passenger space and generous accommodation in the rear.
In T4 trim as tested, its specification lacks headlamp washers – regarded by many as an essential item on hard-working estates, and particularly useful in winter.
But other drivers who spend long periods at the wheel are likely to appreciate the dual-zone climate control, although they might quibble over the provision of a single-slot CD rather than the six-disc changer found in many rivals.
Yet how many of the rivals have satellite navigation, complete with traffic avoidance, as standard?
It’s also significant that this British-built car’s array of safety items includes a sector first driver’s knee airbag – a feature we hope will never be needed, but reassuring nonetheless.
Model: Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D Tourer T4
Price (OTR): £20,645
CO2 emissions (g/km): 156
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £79 a month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 47.1
Test mpg: 49.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,525/32%
HSBC contract hire rate: £417
Expenditure to date: Nil
What we expect
AS its main player in the biggest part of the upper-medium diesel market, the 2.2 D-4D Avensis has a big job to do for Toyota against the combined forces of the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra. This is an attractive yet practical car that now has the benefit of higher power to go with a 24-carat reputation for quality. We expect it to have the makings of a fleet favourite.
The manufacturers’ view
‘THE Avensis has cemented Toyota’s growth in the fleet market. We don’t rest on the standards we have achieved, but try to create an extra dimension that makes the Avensis more desirable, more fuel-efficient and cleaner. That dimension is the 2.2 D-4D engine which offers 229lb-ft of torque, an average 47mpg and CO2 emissions of 156g/km.’
John Pollock, general manager, Toyota Fleet
Specification and options
Total options: £0
Standard price (OTR): £20,645
Price as tested: £20,645