Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Half a size smaller than a Tarago, Grand Carnival or Voyager = a more manageable people mover to maneuver and park. Looks have aged relatively well. At 1,500kg it’s no overweight barge.
Not so good The Avensis is getting on in years, having arrived Down Under in December 2001! The mid life facelift went on sale way back in Dec 2003 (so much for mid life than) however we don’t foresee this Avensis being on sale for much longer. 15 inch steel rims on the GLX grade looked undersized back in 2002 and in 2010 look even more so (the Ultima grade features 16’s but some competitors today come standard with 17 inch wheels).
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Excellent all round visibility; standard cruise control; comfortable front row seats (featuring a cloth / velour combo on both grades) come standard with adjustable armrests; the climate control air conditioning works in typical excellent Toyota fashion and even the third row passengers have individual controls. Access to the third row of seats is made easy with the sliding second row. Wide opening rear doors combined with a relatively high roofline = easy entry and exit. The second and third rows seats fold flat into the floor. O.k. storage with a couple of large storage bins; 6 cupholders around the cabin.
Not so good Interior lacks flair; GLX grade’s plastic/urethane steering wheel looks and feels cheap and adjusts for tilt but not reach (as does the Ultima grade). Ultima features woodgrain look door and dashboard trim however it doesn’t look close to being real and frankly looks out of place in this overly light grey interior. Second row seating is better for two up, as shoulder room is squeezy with three big teens sitting side by side. The third row is best for kids only – legroom is tight, and headroom is also poor. Limited cargo capacity with the 3rd row in use, even with the third row folded flat into the floor the capacity is only o.k. for a vehicle of this size.
Performance

Performance

Good Toyota’s evergreen 2.4L four cylinder petrol produces a respectable 118kW of power and 221Nm of torque. With a light load performance is fine (remembering this is a medium sized People Mover, not a sports car).
Not so good With a full load the Avensis begins to struggle. The 2.4L engine produces roughly 10% less power than the competing Honda Odyssey, yet drinks more fuel (9.2L per 100kms). The aging 4 speed gearbox doesn’t help and unfortunately Toyota doesn’t offer a diesel option here.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Relatively refined ride and handling; driven sensibly body roll and understeer is kept to an expected level; steering is nice and light yet safe and secure.
Not so good Lacks the dynamic flair of the segment leaders (a Honda Odyssey is a far more enjoyable drive); tyres squeal too much under cornering; steering is too remote for driving enthusiasts; would benefit from tighter body control and a firmer ride, loses composure under a full load.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good It’s been on sale here for 8 years so we’d imagine that any possible gremlins have been ironed by now; Toyota’s are rightfully know for their reliability and we don’t expect the Avensis to be any different.
Not so good Safety features are nothing to shout about - the GLX only comes with four airbags (dual front and side), only the Ultima grade comes with the now almost mandatory (in this price range) count of at least six (adding front curtain bags); the second row centre seatbelt is lap only rather than the far safer lap sash variety and no Electronic Stability Control!