Fleet News

Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D

Toyota

Review

TOYOTA’S under-powered diesel engine has seen it losing ground in a key fleet sector for the past year or two. But bosses at the Japanese firm are confident that a more powerful D-4D turbo-diesel engine will allow the Avensis range to exert greater pressure on market leaders in the hotly-contested upper-medium sector when it goes on sale here in July.

Developed to bolster the 2.0-litre D-4D engine family, which has its critics for its lack of performance, the new 2.2-litre unit boasts an output of 148bhp to take the UK-built fleet model from standstill to 62mph in less than 10 seconds and go on to a top speed of 130mph.

But more significantly for business users, the engine’s blend of 47.9mpg combined economy and low emissions brings the Avensis into keener contention with the range of 1.9 to 2.2-litre cars which power this segment.

Toyota GB marketing director Matt Harrison said: ‘Our mix of diesel engines has left us lagging in the fleet sector and it is imperative that we address this imbalance. This new version of the D-4D is the first step in our plans to correct the situation over the next two years.’

Speaking as the higher-powered car made its debut in Germany, Harrison said diesel power formed a major part of the mid-term growth strategy of Toyota and was particularly relevant to the UK market.

He added: ‘Diesel sales have grown 31% since 2002. They now account for 258,000 sales a year and make up 56% of the registrations in the upper-medium segment. But there has been a decline in diesel engine sales below the 120bhp level and all the increase has come from the mid-power engines offering between 121bhp and 150bhp.

‘As a result, Toyota has been competing in only one-third of this market. But this new 2.2 derivative gives us access to 95% of the sector – and making the 2.2-litre an option on T3 trim levels and above, and introducing diesel as an option for the Tourer on all grades, represents a huge opportunity.’

To be offered at a £1,000 premium over the 2.0-litre D-4D, the new unit remains in the same tax band as the smaller engine and is predicted to cost a 40% taxpayer only £6 more per month in company car tax, and add only £3 to a 22% taxpayer’s bill.

Harrison said: ‘With more than two-thirds of upper-medium sales taking place in the fleet sector, cost of ownership is an important consideration and we have a very strong story.

‘We are anticipating an extremely competitive residual value position combined with class-leading running costs. Our initial predictions indicate this data will translate into a typical three-year contract hire rental of £308 per month, compared with the £295 being charged for the existing 2.0-litre D-4D Avensis.’

Harrison believes the 2.2-litre D-4D will account for 35% of Avensis sales during the remainder of this year, contributing to a third extra Avensis sales.

Toyota’s fleet marketing and planning manager Kevin Ledgar added: ‘We have been winning more user-chooser customers over the last two years and I’m expecting this engine to fuel further growth.

‘I also think it puts us in a strong position to capitalise on the surge in orders which will come over the next few months as business motorists realise that time is running out for the 3% company car tax benefit on diesel engines which are Euro IV compliant.’

Developed from the Avensis 2.0-litre direct injection petrol engine, the new unit uses aluminium for light weight but features cast iron cylinder liners for increased wear resistance.

Alloy is also used for the oil cooler and, in a further move to shed weight, both the water and oil pumps have been designed to form part of the engine chain cover.

A similar strategy for the transmission resulted in using the same drive cog for different gears and selecting aluminium for the casing. Specifying the lowest viscosity oil available is also said to have helped trim fuel consumption by 1%.

Using a metal chain drive instead of a timing belt means both labour charges and overall servicing costs up to 60,000 miles are £102 less than for the 2.0-litre D-4D.

According to Toyota, the cost advantage remains when tyre and brake repair and maintenance are factored in.

Behind the wheel

DESPITE extensive work to reduce noise as well as weight, the 2.2-litre D-4D is not the quietest of diesels, either at idle or when pulling away from rest.

But once on the move, the new unit puts in a faultless performance with a wall of torque available from as low as 1,800rpm to provide surging power just where it is needed.

The seamless boost means acceleration from 50mph to 75mph in fifth gear takes only 10.6 seconds to allow swift and safe overtaking manoeuvres.

Ratios in the new six-speed manual transmission are spaced to make the most of the power and top gear is sufficiently long-legged to make 70mph at about 2,300rpm a possibility.

Toyota claims its efforts at weight reduction have lowered the diesel’s traditional penalty of nose-heavy handling characteristics, and the generally nimble feel of the new model bears this out – although as most of our test route involved motorways and main roads, opportunities to exploit the car’s handling were limited.

Driving verdict

WITH sharper acceleration and more relaxed cruising, the 2.2-litre D-4D diesel moves the Avensis to a higher plateau. Its £1,000 extra cost over the existing 2.0-litre unit will be regarded as money well spent by high-mileage company car users.

D4-D fact file
Model: 2.2 D-4D
Engine (cc): 2,231
Max power (bhp/rpm): 148/3,600
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 228/2,000
Max speed (mph): 130
0-62mph (sec): 9.3
Comb fuel economy (mpg): 47.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 156
Transmission: Six-speed manual
On sale: July 1
Prices (OTR): from £18,145

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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