Launching the new Avensis to fleet customers last week, Toyota GB commercial director Paul Philpott announced the company's new safety strategy. He told an audience of more than 200 fleet customers: 'Toyota is targeting a maximum five stars in the European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests as a benchmark for all its vehicles.'
Renault was the first manufacturer to achieve a five-star rating for occupant protection in Euro NCAP tests with the Laguna, and has since repeated the performance with the Megane and Vel Satis. The only other manufacturers to have secured a maximum rating for occupant protection are Mercedes-Benz with the C-class and E-class, and Saab with the new 9-3.
The Avensis comes with nine airbags fitted as standard and is the first car to be offered in the UK with a driver's knee airbag. The 18-litre bag deploys from a panel beneath the steering column to extend over the knee joints and upper part of the shins. It helps prevent the lower legs from striking the surrounds of the driver's footwell and protects the knees from the steering column, ignition cylinder and other hard objects.
The Avensis also includes a seat-belt reminder for front seat occupants. The initial warning light is accompanied by an audible alert once the car has reached 10mph, and if the seatbelts have not been fastened within 30 seconds, the volume and frequency of the buzzer increases for a further 90 seconds. Manufacturers gain extra points in Euro NCAP tests for visible and audible seatbelt warnings.
Future developments from Toyota will include a radar-based pre-crash safety system which detects vehicles and obstacles ahead, retracts front seatbelts when a potential collision is detected and increases braking pressure as soon as the pedal is pressed.