I have a company car and so have had four Avensis's in the last three years. I apologise if this is a bit of a girl review but I am not interested in technicalities!
I am a sales rep and do a lot of miles...I love my Avensis. I travel around 400-500 miles per week and have never had any problems with back ache even though I am probably middle aged now!
It is very easy to drive and I find it extremely comfortable to do long journeys in. Mine is a turbo and so has plenty of acceleration when needed. I can easily overtake other vehicles even at the top end of the speed limit. A lot of my driving is in cities and it handles that sort of driving well too.
I do have a couple of gripes with it. The latest model I received - 2009 59 registration has an electronic handbrake and it is very easy to think you have pressed it when you haven't . It is located just to the left of the steering wheel and I have pressed it a few times and not realised that I have not pressed it hard enough to engage it, got out of the car and noticed it starting to move. With a manual handbrake you know you've pulled it on. I have now got into the habit of checking the dashboard to see that the handbrake light is illuminated before I turn the engine off but that is a bit of a pain. The only time it is useful is when you have the handbrake on on a hill or something and it actually releases once you press the accelerator so you do not have to bother with taking it off.
The other slight gripe is the width of the car. It is comfortable as I have said before but it is an extremely wide car and can be troublesome parking particularly in public car parks. I have to find somewhere with quite a large space or without a large car parked next to it. I used to have a Ford Galaxy so it's not like I'm not used to parking bigger cars but I do find the Avensis quite difficult in that respect.
Having use of a company car I regularly get to change the car and sometimes have hire cars for weeks on end whilst I'm waiting. Recently my car's lease ran out and whilst I was waiting for a new one I had this car on loan for about 3 months so I got a really good chance to try it out and see what it was like.
Based on looks this car is great. It's looks great on the inside and out and is very stylish. I had a lot of admiring glances when I was driving this car and a lot of comments from friends about how lucky I was to be driving it. Mine was silver and the inside was silver and black. It was just lovely and I really enjoyed driving it based on looks and style.
I'm afraid that is as far as I liked this car. I have to say that although I loved the way this car looked, I found it incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to drive.
Now whilst I appreciate that I am quite short at 5 foot 2 inches I have driven quite a few cars and although there are varying levels of comfort, I don't usually find them as uncomfortable as this one was. I found that even with the seat pulled forward and dropped down, I still had trouble reaching the pedals and found that driving longer distances could give me sore legs.
As a woman I found that the car felt to spacious for me to drive as well. The gear stick and door were too far away for me to comfortably drive and although I managed I would not describe it as a pleasant driving experience.
Another problem I had with this car is that there is hand brake. Instead you have a button that turns the hand brake on automatically. Now, don't get me wrong, this is a great idea and is great when you have a hill start. The problem I had was that the button is located too far down and too far forward to be able to use it without having to lean forward. Which means that every time you stop and want to pull the hand brake on you have to lean forward, which can be a bit of a pain on a long journey.
These may only seem like small things but for me it made driving around town feel awkward and uncomfortable. I also found the brakes quite difficult to get used to. At first they were fine but you would get to a certain point where you want to come to a total stand still and the brakes would really kick in and be quite harsh to stop with. I will say that the fact that I couldn't properly reach the pedals comfortably made this a lot worse for me.
Other things I liked about this car included the menu for the audio and the reversing camera located on the number plate at the back of the car. These were great and I really enjoyed using them. The audio equipment in the car was of a very good quality and I wished I could have taken it with me to the next car.