Whether it's the exotic metal like Ferrari,Porsche.Drivers cars like BMW or Audi or even the everyday man's favourites like
Ford or Vauxhall there are many well known,well loved car makers that have a loyal and die hard following.One car
maker,one who has made millions of cars,one who has been constantly rated as making most reliable,cost effective and
durable cars for decades now rarely seems to inspire the same kind of passion from it's owners.Possibly because they
haven't made the same impact in motorsport as many others,possibly because their cars are reliable and sensible to the
point of being bland,the point of being 'white goods'.Afterall it's those little flaws that keepa guy interested :)
The Toyota Avensis was introduced in January 1997 replacing the venerable Carina E,a very popular car that had a long
reputationh as an incredibly capable and reliable motor.Simple,efficient,tough and it can't be stressed enough incredibly
reliable it had become the favourite of taxi drivers the length and breadth of the UK.Carina E's easily racked op mileages
in excess of 250,000 routinely.
In an attempt to appeal to the European market even more production of the new model was moved to Burnaston,Derby
and although it was a completely revamped car it did retain the truly well tested range of engines from the Carina E.
The Avensis T210/220) was a large family car similar in size to the Vauxhall Cavalier/Vectra and Ford Mondeo who were
it's main rivals.It came in three conventional body styles ,a 5 door hatchback,4 door saloon and a 4 door estate model.With
a range of trim levels S,LE,SE,GS,GLS,CDX and SR and with four different engine choices,all 16 valve and fuel injected ~
1.6 litre 4A-FE - 99 bhp
1.8 litre 7A-FE - 109 bhp
2.0 litre 3S-FE - 126 bhp
2.0 litre TD 2C-TE 89 bhp
In the facelift of 2000 there was also a new range of vvt-i (variable valve timing - intelligent) engines on offer but more
of them later.
1.6 litre 3ZZ-FE - 109 bhp
1.8 litre 1ZZ-FE - 129 bhp
2.0 litre D4 1AZ-FE - 148 bhp
2.0 litre D4D 1CD-FTV - 109 bhp
It had solid build quality,a well equipped spacious interior,smooth ride quality and good fuel efficiency although the
performance was fairly unremarkable and it wasn't exactly exciting or fun to drive like a Vauxhall or later model Mondeo
but utterly safe and reliable.With electric windows,air conditioning and a trip computer on the facelift models it was well
1998 Avensis 5-dr 1.6 S 0-62 12.9 seconds 113 mph avg 36.8 mpg - ins grp 9
1999 Avensis 5-dr 1.8 GS 0-62 11.2 seconds 119 mph avg 38.2 mpg - ins grp 11
2002 Avensis 5-dr 1.8 vvti 0-62 10.0 seconds 124 mph avg 38.8 mpg - ins grp 10
2002 Avensis 4-dr 2.0 vvti 0-62 9.1 seconds 130 mph avg 36.7 mpg - ins grp 11
2002 Avensis 5-dr 2.0 D4D 0-62 11.4 seconds 121 mph avg 47.9 mpg - ins grp 9
2002 Avensis 5-dr 2.0 vvti auto 9.9 seconds 127 mpg avg 32.5 mpg - ins grp 11
All models were available with a 5 speed manual gearbox or the option of a 4 speed automatic on all 1.8 or 2.0 models.It
had conventional disc brakes up front and either drums or discs on the back.ABS and hydraulically powered steering was
standard on all models.
It had fully independant Macpherson strut type front suspension with telescopic dampers,coil springs and anti-roll bar
whilst the rear suspension is of an independant dual link strut type with integeral dampers,coil springs and anti-roll bar
making for a steady,safe car.
There are drivers and passenger airbags,side airbags incorporated in the front seats.Curtain airbags are standard
equipment on some models,optional on others along with seatbelt pre-tensioners making the Avensis also a safe vehicle.
My personal experience of owning and driving the Avensis
I'll freely admit it wasn't a car that I bought out of any real choice when I purchased my 2000 W-reg 5-dr 1.8 GS
(pre-facelift) back in January 2012.My previous car,a Subaru Legacy had failed the M.O.T quite badly and I needed a road
legal car as soon as possible for as little money as possible.The Avensis came up with 9 months MOT,a couple of road tax
for £400 and as it was the only real car I could afford at the time I took it for a long test run,gave it a thorough check over
and bought it.
First impressions ~~
It's not particularly good looking car quite bland and indistinct in silver.I soon found out there are a lot of silver Avensis's
on the road but obviously they'd never caught my attention before I bought one.It's a well known phenomenon,that you
begin to see many more cars of a similar make and colour to the one you've just bought but as a car fanatic I am normally
aware of almost all types of car but the Avensis didn't really exist at all before I bought one.
It has a typical 5 dr hatchback shape but with the now modern trend of the steeper raked bonnet line that seems to drop
quite sharply.The bonnet line drops to a angled front end with oddly sort of fat wedge shaped headlight/indicator units
with a radiator grill thats vaguely semicircular with the rounded side at the bottom where it meets the bumper.The front
bumper isn't that deep but has an opening in it to let air into the oil cooler and radiator that ends in two apetures at
either side.In higher spec models they'd be where the foglights are housed but in the GS model the openings are blanked
off with black plastic.The openings don't echo either the shape of the headlights or the grill.There's no sense of harmony
in the styling making it seem clumsey,an after thought.
The rear is not only sitting a bit higher because of the suspension settings on the hatchback in particular but because of
the overall wedge kind of shape it looks heavyish.There's a swage line that runs down the length of the car above the door
handles and along the front wing and typical black plastic mouldings along the side of the doors at the same level as the
black plastic upperpart of the front and rear bumpers,with again an oddly shaped side repeater in the front wing moulding
that doesn't echo or hint at the shape of the headlight,door handles or any other part of the car.
Obviously our opinions about a car's styling is subjective,to many people it's an irrelevance but to others it's a very
important part of what makes a car.To those who consider styling to be of some import then the Avensis won't be the top
of your list.It's an automotive photocopier i.e there's no sense of it being styled just a bland,inoffensive exterior that won't
excite or offend anyone.I will add that the saloon is slightly better looking but not much.Picture a cross between a Renault
Laguna and a Citreon Xantia but with less pleasing aspects of both being highlighted you'd be getting the idea !!!
Inside the car ~~
Ok,so it isn't a looker but things do get better when you open the door and sit behind the wheel.Firstly,you no longer have
to look at it,haha.In a similar way the interior is nothing revolutionary but it is a pleasant place to be.The seats are
comfortable and the driver has a good lumbar support.They're not sports seats but they do seem to hold you nicely,give
you support yet are comfortable at the same time.There's a bar under the front which you lift to let slide it back and
forward and a wheel at the base to tilt the back up or down.The seats are of reasonable hard wearing material too and
between the adjustable steering and seat it's no problem to find a comfortable seating position.In the driving seat the
pluging bonnet lines is actually a bonus when it comes to visibility.
The standard type steering wheel we've come to expect on cars with an airbag has a nicely thick rim which feels nice to
hold.It is also adjustable meaning you can set it high like your driving a bus or have it down near you're knees like I
prefer.lol The instrument layout,again,will be familiar to most with the speedo to the left,revcounter to the right and their
flanked by the smaller temp and fuel gauges either side.The centre of all four dials are on the same line so and in the
space below the smaller gauges sits a panel with the usual array of indicator lights for low
fuel,ignition,abs,airbag,indicators,lights etc.The controls are what you'd expect with a shortish gearlever that's positioned
nicely so you never have to wonder where it is,also the gearknob feels thick and positive like the steering wheel.The
steering column stalks are also robust with the usual twist switch for the lights,forward for full beam,up and down for the
turn indicators on the left and on the right all your wiper controls.With an intermittent setting and a twist switch for to
shorten or lengthen the interval.There's also the usual two speed setting,pull washers,rear wiper with a washer.There is
one feature I do like particularly and that's the washer jets.Unlike most cars where you spray the washers then the wipers
activate 3 times,which is too many times by the third wipe the screens dried out making the wipers squeal n scrape the
last movement,the Avensis only wipes twice.It may be a simple thing but it does make a difference especially at this time
Theres an intergrated dash,centre console which is trimmed in fake carbon fibre effect laminate.With a line of chunky
switches at the top of the panel that have a vaguely wedge shape as of the four switches the hazard flashers closest to
the instrument panels is largest then a blank,the heated rear windscreen,then another blank which would be functional on
higher spec cars.Below are the two airflow vent that can flow cool or warm air depending on the heater or a/c
settings.Under that is a simple slider control for outside/recirculated air and a small button to switch on the air
conditioning.Unusually it had air conditioning and an electric sunroof.It has electric front windows but winders for the rear
Then there are 3 round dial switches.Closest to the driver is fan heater fan speed,the temp mixture,then the airflow
selector then below that the radio apeture below which is a typical DIN size.I fitted a CD/Digital Radio Head unit I had
although the standard speakers in the front passenger door was pretty blown it was easy to fit and sounded ok.Below the
radio was a similar size cubby hole with a opening door then the usual opening behind the gearstick under that.There was
a large stowage bin between the seats with a hinged lid along with two opening cubby holes in the door panels,another in
the dash below the drivers airflow outlets plus a large lockable glovebox.There's certainly no shortage of stowage space
for all the typical junk you taki into your car.
Rear legroom and headroom are ample,the rear seats comfortable and supportive for longer journeys,or so I've been
told.The boot is large and will swallow any amount of luggage,a full weeks supermarket shopping without the slightest
trouble or as in my car a large selection of tools,welder and a big box of valeting products.There's a standard thick
cardboard parcel shelf attatched to fixing points on the rear hatch.
Driving it ~~
The 1.8 GS had the venerable 7A-FE engine which is a thoroughly tried and tested twin cam 16 valve engine but don't let
the twin cam or 16 valves fool you it's no performance motor.In Toyota engine coding F stands for narrow angle economy
DOHC,G for wide angle performance DOHC and E for electonic fuel injection so this being an FE it's the economy
engine.The engine always starts first turn of the key and when cold idles around 1200 rpm but at normal temperature 650
rpm.For a DOHC 16 valve engine it does feel quite flat until over 3000 rpm when it starts to get squarely in it's power
curve.Even then it isn't powerful or that torquey.I find it very similar to an early 1.8 Zetec 16 valve from a Mondeo,a
steady power delivery with very little increases or surprises anywhere but combined with the 5 speed gearbox it's easy
enough to keep it up in the revs if you want to nip along a little faster.You can push it to 5,500 or 6,000 rpm in each gear
to get every last bit of performance out of it but it's not worth it as even at 5,500 rpm plus it's still not making a significant
amount of extra power.If driven normally this is a steady,forgiving and pretty effecient engine that's capable of in excess
of 250 - 300,000 miles if looked after.
The gearchange is quite nice,positive feeling except when you try and change quickly when it gets notchy and less happy
to slide nicely into gear going from 4th to 3rd or up from 2nd to 3rd but,again,for steady everyday driving the actual ratios
in the box are more than adequate and well thought out.
The steering,although power assisted does have a degree of feel to it that is often lacking on a Japanese car which are
often over assisted making the steering very light,feeling almost remote from the front wheels.Being built in the UK,very
much like the Nissan Primera built in Sunderland,the steering is more suited to European tastes although it's not as direct
or 'live' feeling as in a Vauxhall or Ford.All the same it does give confidence when cornering at speed .The car holds the
road well alrhough it's not quite as good when it comes to handling at speed.The combination of higher ride height at the
back and a more 'comfortable' suspension set up makes it unsettled when manouvering at high speeds.Having never
driven a 2.0 SR model I would expect it to be more contolable near the limit of grip.The brakes,however,are excellent
whether just pootling around the town or suddenly having to brake hard they pull you up strong,straight with little
fade,always feel positive and inspire confidence.On my 1.8 GS,it has drum brakes at the rear although it still has ABS.The
handbrake is also positive with little travel in the lever and no wear so far in over 15,000 miles of use.
Pros and cons ~~
This depends very much on your general feeling towards cars and driving in general.The Avensis is a
practical,reliable,spacious,comfortable,efficient car that will NEVER,NEVER let you down,As an example of it's reliability
I'll tell you about the time I was heading home after work which is a 20 mile drive.I was tired and on autopilot which
explains why I never saw my water temperature gauge climb past the red and off the scale.The first I knew was about a
mile from home and the engine began to knock (pre-ignite) badly to the point it wouldn't run.Shaken out of my autopilot
state I suddenly noticed the needle on the gauge at it's highest possible position so I jumped out,opened the bonnet to
find high pressure steam escaping in a stream from a coolant hose.I sat until the needle was under the red then started
her up n drove her the less than a mile home.
It took 4 hours for the engine to cool down enough for me to work on it.It hadn't just overheated,it had literally boiled dry
all it's coolant.I found the problem,a gasket had blown where the coolant hose came from the cylinderhead.There's an
alloy casting and the gasket between it and the head had gone.By now it was nearly 10pm and 20 + miles from town so in
the absence of anything better I made a gasket out of a scabby old bit of kitchen lino I found in the garage.I put it
together,refilled her with coolant/anti-freeze and fired her up.Once I'd bled the air from the coolant she ran
perfectly,didn't leak or overheat one bit and even more miraculously boiling it dry hadn't cracked or warped the head in
the slightest.That was on an engine with nearly 150,000 miles on the clock.I ran it for another 6,000 miles with a lino
gasket and it never missed a beat.That is reliability and durability that few manufacturers could hope to achieve !!!
So like I was saying for steady,safe,easy,trouble free motoring with real peace of mind there are few cars that can
seriously rival the Avensis but if you're like me and you think a car should be enjoyable and fun to drive,should be
responsive and produce plenty of power on tap,that a car should look good and at the least have a character then the you
can live with the Avensis but it will frustrate you with it's characterless,viceless ways.
I remember when I had my mk2 Astra GTE.It was a great car,great performance,fun to drive,responsive and alive.Driving
to work or down the shops was enjoyable in that car but it also had it's issues,it's moods and vices.I realised that just like
the best,exciting girlfriends they come at a price which is that they can be great one minute,tempremental the next.For
me,the best cars are often the same.
The Avensis is a nice,good natured,quiet girlfriend that would be the sensible one to marry but you just know the wild one
with the fiery soul is the one that moves you,the one you want :)
~ ~ Toyota, and one of their main Japanese competitors Nissan, have been the most popular choice of vehicle for the Irish taxi-driving fraternity for about the past 15 years. The main reason for taxi driver’s fondness for vehicles from the land of the Rising Sun is fairly simple to understand. They are reasonably priced, economical to run and maintain, spacious, and last virtually forever without breaking down. For a taxi driver, their trouble free record is one of their most important attributes. Time spent off the road can be irritating and inconvenient for the average motorist; for a taxi driver it’s disastrous, as it means a total loss of income! ~ ~ The latest model of the Toyota Avensis follows admirably in the footsteps of its predecessor. In a previous incarnation, the Avensis was called the “Carina”, and even today you can still see hundreds of this excellent car, and the old model Avensis, on the Dublin taxi ranks. The Avensis took over where the popular Carina left off, and the newest model to hit the showrooms will without a doubt continue to increase Toyota’s considerable share of Irish new car sales. For 16 of the past 17 years Toyota has topped the charts in the family, fleet car, and public service market here in Ireland. ~ ~ But while the old Avensis was/is a favourite buy of taxi drivers and cost conscious motorists alike, one area where Toyota could never boast of being market leaders was in styling. In the past, Toyota cars (with the notable exception of their luxury Lexus marque) have been bland to the point of being positively boring. They simply didn’t turn heads when you were stopped at the traffic lights, or draw admiring glances when parked in the supermarket or company car park. Reliable but non-descript would sum up their cars to a tee. But with the new model Avensis, Toyota is in danger of challenging even Ford’s stylish Mondeo when it comes to good looks. They have take
n the best design features of two of their main competitors, the Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Mondeo, and, in effect, created a “European” version of what was in the past an atypical, bland Japanese saloon car. In recent years the Japanese have cleverly attempted to design their cars to cater for local tastes in different countries and regions. Hence the new “European” style Avensis, which will not, incidentally, be sold on either the Japanese or American markets. (at least not in this guise) The new Avensis has far more “presence” on the road than any of its predecessors, and the back end has been both raised and made far larger, giving the car a far more substantial and bulky feel when driving. ~ ~ The Avensis’s interior has not been ignored either. The new model is 100mm longer, 55mm higher, and has had its wheelbase increased by 70mm. What this means to the customer is more interior space and legroom than most other cars in its class, and a totally cavernous boot (520 litres) which will swallow any amount of luggage without complaint. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The car I tested was the 1.8-litre petrol “Luna” model, which surprised and impressed even this hard-nosed taxi driver with its frugal fuel consumption. The officially quoted figures from Toyota claim a return of 39.1 mpg on a combined cycle. (a mix of urban, rural, and motorway driving) But the car that I drove continually informed me via its on-board computer that I was achieving average consumption figures in the mid-40’s per gallon. This is good news for the economy conscious taxi driver, and indeed for any motorist who doesn’t want to be visiting the local petrol station on too regular a basis. It will also make the Avensis a very attractive proposition for fleet buyers, and no doubt you will be spotting thousands of sales reps belting up and down the highways and byways in their new Avensis
company cars in the months to come. ~ ~ So how does the car handle and perform? Through the gears, the car was lively enough, with a crisp, sure gear change. But I found third and fourth gears a wee bit on the sluggish side, and while adequate enough for day-to-day driving, I wouldn’t want to be caught out in an overtaking manoeuvre, as you’d find it difficult to get out of harms way in a hurry. The engine is the old tried and trusted 1.8-litre, 16V four-cylinder DOHC VVT-I unit, which can develop 129 bhp at 6,000 rpm. I know this is probably double Dutch to all you non-techies out there, but what it all means in reality is that you have an ultra-reliable and economical engine that will take you to a top speed of 124 mph, and from 0 to 60 mph in just a tad over 10 seconds. There are also 1.6-litre and a 2-litre models available in the range, as well as a 2.0-litre turbo diesel. Personally, I think I would like the bit of extra poke offered by the 2.0-litre model. But no doubt the two smaller engines will prove to be the big sellers, especially now that the Irish Government has hit the hard-pressed car driver (yet again!!) by increasing the totally iniquitous Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) for any cars of two litres or over. (Just a wee aside, but the price of a new car here in Ireland is a whopping 32% higher than the average price in the Euro zone. And all down to Government tax. Bloody robbers!!) By the way, although the Avensis is a Japanese car, it is made and assembled in the UK, as all models of the Avensis are built at Toyota’s factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire and most have engines made in Deeside, North Wales. ~ ~ The car corners and handles well enough, and again, while adequate for the average motorist, you wouldn’t want to attempt any Michael Schumaker type cornering. (Not if you value your life, anyways!) One fairly serious criticism would be the level of noise in the interior of the car. The
engine was quiet enough, but the amount of rumble from the tyres when travelling at anything over 45 mph was very intrusive. If you like your sounds then you’ll likely find yourself reaching for the volume control on the stereo at regular intervals. Talking of stereos, the Avensis comes with a radio/CD player fitted as standard. (But this is quickly becoming the norm these days) Air-conditioning is fitted as standard, which may or may not be a big plus, dependant on whether or not the spell of good weather we are now experiencing decides to last through the summer or not! But even if the weather takes a turn for the worse, air-conditioning is a big plus factor when it comes to demisting your car windows. Safety features are excellent, with front, side and curtain airbags fitted as standard, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to help you out if you get into trouble. This leads me to another little niggle I would have with the car. In common with most modern cars these days, the Avensis has an audible warning system to attract your attention if either the driver or front seat passenger omits to put on their seat belt. In my own Nissan Maxima, this is a discrete bleep, which automatically cuts itself off after a short period. But God help you if you forget to buckle up in the Avensis! A deafening siren immediately howls at a decibel level that wouldn’t be out of place on a old tug-boat, and is liable to cause the driver to crash the car out of sheer fright! BIG negatives from the mad cabbie for this so-called safety feature! ~ ~ The interior is functional rather than ostentatious, with the usual amount of hard plastic trim that you find on most Japanese cars. The seats are firm are comfortable, but yet another negative would be the distinct lack of storage space for all the wee bits and pieces that we taxi drivers (and lots of other people) like to carry around with us. (Pens, CD’s, loose change for tolls, etc, etc) You have a
fairly small glovebox, and some storage space in the doors, and that’s your lot. Mind you, you could probably store quite a lot of gear in the massive ashtray in the central console, if you happen to be a non-smoker! And there is a distinct lack of cup-holders and flat space to put down your cuppa or sandwich, which necessitates a fairly hazardous juggling act on your lap, and which could easily see your “Crown Jewels” being badly scalded. (Oh God. The mad cabbie shudders at the thought!) ~ ~ So my final verdict on the new model Avensis. Put it this way, I wouldn’t buy one for myself. While it is without question a well-built, totally reliable and functional vehicle, it simply fails to ignite any spark in the mad cabbie’s heart. Mind you, I have to confess to being a Nissan man through and through. And no other mid-level Japanese car has so far managed to hold a candle to my own much-loved Nissan Maxima. If it’s economical and reliable motoring that you’re after, then you could certainly buy a lot worse than the Avensis. But in its market segment, I personally think that its competitors still hold the edge, with the Nissan Primera, the Ford Mondeo, and the excellent VW Passat all beating the Avensis in terms of both over-all performance and specification, and at a similar (or cheaper) price. That said, a lot of Dublin taxi drivers would disagree strenuously with my assessment, and wouldn’t even consider buying anything other than a Toyota. So the last word from the mad cabbie is simply to drive the new Avensis for yourself, and make your own mind up. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Prices in the Republic of Ireland Avensis 5 door 1.8-litre Luna A/C €28,050 Prices range from €24,250 to €39,830 depending on model. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Prices in the UK From £13,995 to £18,995 depending on model (Source – Parker’s Online)
~~~~~~~~~~~~ Copyright KenJ April 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~